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Making Presentations to a "C Level" Audience

Find out how to present your product or service to the prospects who inhabit your "common" zone.

In our continuing series on the art of presentations, we'll show you how to deliver presentations that address those individuals in your "common" or "C" zone, the zone that most of your prospects are in. And if you haven't yet read last month's column, do it now. It contains critical insights into the pre-presentation work that must go into every "C" level presentation!

The Presentation: Getting in the Zone
Imagine there's an invisible 18-inch barrier surrounding your body. Actually, you probably don't have to imagine too hard because there almost certainly is an invisible 18- inch barrier around your body. This is your "confidential" zone. Here in the United States, this is the area most people hold as essentially private, a space only to be occupied by one's spouse, one's significant other, one's closest relatives (children for instance), and one's domestic pets (pit-bulls and pythons excluded). Here's a critical point: Barreling thoughtlessly into another's personal zone is generally tantamount to a physical challenge! That's not a great idea if you're trying to make sure this "C level" person feels he or she is in control of the relationship.

There are three other zones you should be aware of. The zone that's between 18 and 32 inches from your body is known as the "individual" zone, the region where most Americans are comfortable with social or business interaction that involves people they know casually. The zone that's next, the one that's between 32 and 44 inches, represents the "sociable" zone for Americans. This is the ideal distance between a prospect sitting at his or her desk and a visitor. There's another region outside these three zones. It's known as the "common" zone, one we'll refer to as the "C" zone, and it's the region in which we Americans are comfortable with (or at least occasionally prepared to accept) announcements of unexpected entrances from others.

Here's another critical point: You must always ask for permission to move from the "common" zone into any one of the other zones, and it's always best to move only one zone at a time. Suppose you have a presentation to give a C-level prospect, and suppose she is the only one who will initially be attending. Just before you enter her office (the common zone), say "May I come in?" or something darn close. You must--I repeat, must--enter the zones one at a time. That means standing until you receive an invitation to sit. It also means asking (for instance), "Is this seat okay?" Do not take up residence in any new zone without gaining permission to do so--and never breach the personal zone.

I've watched many a well-researched presentation collapse because the selling party:

  • took a seat without being invited to do so.
  • treated the prospect's desk as though it were his or her own (by, for instance, placing some object on it without asking permission.)
  • "hemmed in" the C level by breaching the personal space.

Don't let it happen to you!

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. After a period of getting acquainted, you may find it necessary to stand during your meeting/presentation--let's say at a flip chart or dry-erase board. Hand your prospect a marker and say, "Why don't you join me?" If he or she declines, you can hand give them a hand-out with a place for them to take notes. If your invitation is accepted, you have just entered into his or individual zone--with permission--and that's exactly where you want to be.

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Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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