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Giving a formal sales presentation? Here are tips to make it memorable.
June 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/178504

Want to make your next sales presentation powerful and persuasive? Keep the following tips in mind.

1. Research your customers' key needs. This information is critical to tailoring your presentation. Always try to customize your content to match the needs of your audience. Go to their website, take a tour of their business and talk to some of the company's employees. Try to gain a deeper understanding of what they do--it will make you stand out from competitors, and it will help you uncover ways to tie your product or service in with their overall goals.

2. Get the audience involved. This is very important. Most customers say that more than half the presentations they see are a waste of their time. That's because most of them are generic, boring, standard pitches that explain who the company is, what it sells and why the customer should buy. Next time you walk in to give a formal presentation to a group of people, say something like: "Kim has helped me get familiar with your company and its overall goals (here is where you outline the content you will be presenting), but I'd like to know if there is anything else you would like me to add to this agenda or something you would like me to cover today that would be important to you." Watch what happens--people start to sit up in their seats and pay attention when they're asked for their input. Not only does it show that you can think on your feet, but it also allows you to get additional information to customize your presentation further. It shows you care about what's important to your customer and don't want to waste their time. You'll also get any unseen obstacles out of the way.

3. Use your time wisely. Next time you're waiting in the showroom, lobby or wherever else they make you sit and wait before your presentation (it's inevitable that some of your meetings will be delayed for one reason or another), talk to the receptionist or whoever is working by the front desk. It's amazing what you can find out about the company and what's going on by talking to the people who work there. I've found that receptionists have a lot of valuable information regarding the company, its products and the people you'll be presenting to. Use that information when you're presenting to the group. For example, say "When I was talking with Susan up front, she was telling me about the two new products you just launched and . . . ." Sometimes it also helps break the ice.

4. Set the agenda. Don't just launch into your presentation cold--people like to hear what the agenda consists of and how long you plan on presenting. And always present with enthusiasm: When you're enthusiastic, it usually transfers to the audience. Before you finish up, always review and summarize your key points.

There are plenty of additional pointers that can improve a presentation, such as using testimonial stories from other customers, knowing the competition, focusing on solving problems and so on. But the most valuable lesson I've learned from my own presentations as well as comments from customers is to customize, customize, customize. When you're ready to present and you've gathered all the facts from the customer's point of view, it makes your presentation much more powerful. And presentations developed around your customers' needs tend to be the only ones they agree with.