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Giving Champion Presentations

Follow these tips to make all your presentations and demonstrations winners.

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from How to Master the Art of Sellingfrom Warner Books.

The fun part of selling for most people is the demonstration or presentation of the product or service. This is where you get to engage your prospective client in all the wonderful things it can do for them.

Unfortunately, too many salespeople spend way too much time on this part of the selling cycle. They insist on demonstrating every feature--especially features that are fun for them. However, those features may not be of interest to the client at all. That's when sales are lost. Clients realize you're not listening. You don't really understand what they want and need and they'll shop elsewhere as soon as you take a breath in your monologue.

It's more wise to invest the bulk of your time in qualifying and determining the needs of the client than in demonstrating something that might turn them off--even if it is the coolest feature on the planet.

As important as demonstrating your product is (and it's very important), if you do it with the wrong people because you didn't qualify properly, it's all for nothing.

If you're going to get your points across to your potential client, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Tell them what you're going to tell them. This is your introduction.
  2. Tell them what you're there to tell them. This is your presentation.
  3. Tell them what you just told them. This is your summary.

That's the outline of all successful speeches, presentations and demonstrations. In other words, we use repetition. We don't say exactly the same thing three times, of course. In the first five minutes, we're introducing our new ideas. In the second ten minutes, we're covering our points in depth and relating them to our listeners' interests and needs. In the last two minutes, we're drawing conclusions from our points and indicating the direction that things should take.

Champions never tire of phrases that work, strategies that sell, and ideas that make sense to their buyers and money for them. Champions discard things in their presentations when they stop working, and not before. And Champions never forget that they're working with people who don't know their specialty as well as they do: They're always courteous and deferential about their superior knowledge in the narrow area of their expertise. So Champions work happily with lines they've said 10,000 times. They are forever finding slight variations of phrasing and timing that enhance their effectiveness. They revel in the fact that they know their lines so well that they don't have to think about them, but can concentrate wholly on their customers and the unique aspects of the situation they're working with at the moment. There's no question about it, one of the keys to the Champion's greater skill at presenting or demonstrating lies in the ability and willingness to use repetition effectively to reinforce every point. The Champion doesn't mind repeating the sales points because they lead to repeated sales to the same type of clientele.

So think in terms of tell, tell, tell.

While you're telling, you must keep your clients mentally and physically involved in the presentation. How? By asking involvement questions that will keep them thinking about how they'll use your offering once they own it. Pay attention to the answers; nothing destroys rapport like asking the same question twice.

Give him simple things to do. Let him figure something out or run the machine you're demonstrating. Have your client take something from you. Don't ask, "Would you please hold this?" because the client may say he doesn't want to. Say just one word: "Here." The client's automatic reflex will cause him to take whatever you hand him, and then he's involved.

Once they have it (the remote control for the machine you're demonstrating, a copy of your proposal, the owner's manual, whatever will help you most), the process of emotional involvement in your offering is well under way.

Now, you have 17 minutes to wrap it up. You may smile with disbelief, but hear me out. Regardless of what your product or service is, when you get to the nitty-gritty, cut through it in less than that limit. You can do it if you'll rigorously chop off unnecessary detail, if you'll streamline what you have to say, if you'll eliminate anything you're not positive is contributing to the close.

To become a Champion, you have to polish your performance and practice it against the clock until you can do an effective presentation or demonstration within the seventeen minute limit of maximum client concentration. It may be a stiff challenge, but meeting it will do wonders for your closing ability. You'll keep their attention and find that most people will make decisions quicker because they were able to stay focused on everything you did and said in that concise presentation.

Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as "the builder of sales champions." For the past 30 years, he's provided superior sales training through his company, Tom Hopkins International.

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