Pitch Perfect: Six Sales Presentation Techniques That Eliminates Nerves
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It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before a sales presentation. Whether this is your big moment, or just another opportunity to pitch, most people will feel some level of anxiety before speaking in public. In fact, it’s been shown that as much as 75% of the population struggles with glossophobia (a fear of public speaking) to a certain degree, so there’s no reason for you to feel alone. But when it gets beyond butterflies -to the point where you’re unable to do your job- it’s time to consider whether you’re using all the sales presentation techniques at your disposal to tackle those nerves, and get ahead in your career. Here’s a primer.
1. Know your material
For many people, nerves will present themselves because they simply feel underprepared for the presentation itself. You might have heard the old adage “practice makes perfect,” and it’s perfectly true. The more you practice, the less you have to worry about, and the more confident you will appear. Knowing your material doesn’t just mean knowing which slide comes next (though this is important). It also means understanding your offering- this is essential. Plenty of salespeople don’t fully understand how the product they are selling actually works. This is something they can work around, but salespeople must understand the problem it solves for their customers. Buyers say only 54% of salespeople they meet with can clearly explain how their solution impacts the buyer’s business- which leads us on to point two.
2. Research your audience
Being prepared isn’t just about knowing your material. It’s also about knowing who is going to be in the room with you, and then adapting your material to suit their interests. Most B2B sales these days involve upwards of five decision makers, meaning you need to cater to a variety of buying influences. This is one of the reasons we don’t recommend having a script -because you’re unlikely to cover everything- but you do need to be able to answer questions as they come up. Knowing who’s going to be in the room with you will help you anticipate those questions, and prepare answers. Reach out ahead of the meeting, and ask for these kinds of details, so that you can prepare accordingly.
3. Have a map (rather than a plan)
One of our top sales presentation techniques is to think of our sales collateral as a kind of map to walk the customer around the product. A map gives you the lay of the land, without dictating a direction. Imagine you’re a guide at an art gallery, taking people on a tour. You may have a preferred route and a typical “script,” but, ultimately, you’ll be led by the questions your group asks, and the specific interests they express. The guides who can cater to a visitor’s curiosity are the best kind- and likewise, the salespeople who can adapt in the same way deliver the best sales presentations. Again, this requires you to be familiar enough with your product to be able to offer this kind of personalized experience without having an anxiety attack. It also helps if you have a sales presentation tool that can deliver the flexibility required.
4. Check on the tech
Different presentation scenarios will have different tech requirements. You could be using someone else’s computer, interfacing your hardware with someone else’s projector, monitor or Smart TV, or even sharing your screen directly to your customers’ monitors or tablets. Every situation has its pros and cons– and any one of them can throw you off your game, if you’re not prepared. Find out in advance what the capability is, and always use your own tech where possible. With the software available these days, tablets are an increasingly popular choice for delivering sales presentations, and rightly so. No more laser pointers and clicky mouses- just swipe and tap for optimum control of your slide deck. If you do have to use the in-house setup, request time before your presentation to practice. There’s absolutely no shame in wanting to be prepared.
5. Find your center
Some people tackle nerves by burning energy at the gym. Some people prefer a less sweaty path to find their center. If you’re not a gym bunny, but you don’t want to try full-on meditation, try some gentle mindfulness exercises. A popular (and easy) trick is the “54321” mindfulness technique. If you’re feeling anxiety bordering on panic right before a meeting, it’s a good one to settle your nerves. You simply identify:
5. Five things you can see. 4. Four things you can hear. 3. Three things you can feel. 2. Two things you can smell. 1. One thing you can taste.
It’s enough to bring you to the present, hopefully bringing the anxiety tornado whirling through your brain to a quick stop.
6. Try to remember: you're a human, talking to other humans
There are all kinds of reasons we can be anxious about standing in front of a room and speaking. We might be selfconscious about our appearance, be worried we’ll say the wrong thing, have a fear of being “found out” (hey there, old friend, imposter syndrome), or be scared about tripping over or embarrassing ourselves in some other new and painful way. These are all normal fears, probably shared by at least some, if not all, of the people you are standing in front of. Our best tip to improve your sales presentation technique is to remember that you are a human speaking to other humans.
What that means in practice is: your prospect is a person. They don’t want you to embarrass yourself, either. They want to solve whatever challenge it is you’re here to solve. Speak to that need. T
alk like a normal person having a conversation, not like someone who ate a product catalog for dinner, and a thesaurus for dessert. If there’s a way to say it in plain language, do it.
Make your presentation a dialogue. Actively listen to your prospect’s pain points, so that you can understand their emotional motivations for buying. Focus on the relationship, rather than the deal. Relationships can last a lifetime. Deals rarely do.