Hone Your Sales Presentation Skills

Tips to help you make the most of your presentations
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you deliver an in-person sales presentation, you have a unique opportunity to appeal to your prospect on a number of levels at once. Your physical appearance, your choice of words, your general demeanor and your level of enthusiasm all play a part in whether you come across as powerful and persuasive or weak and ineffective. No two sales presentations will be (or should be) alike, but there are some elements common to all successful presentations. Follow these pointers to make the most of your next presentation:

Be enthusiastic
You can't persuade anyone if you aren't persuaded yourself. Believe in what you are offering and communicate that confidence with your enthusiasm. This doesn't necessarily mean talking fast or loudly. It means being lively and punchy as you make your points and ask your questions.

Keep it simple
Don't try to dazzle your audience with jargon or fancy words. People are rarely impressed by language that they don't readily understand. More often they'll be confused, irritated, or bored. Say what you mean as clearly and concisely as possible. Be yourself and speak with the vocabulary you normally use.

Keep checking in
Remember that a powerful and successful presentation will be interactive. As you work your way through your presentation, constantly monitor the communication process, "Is this clear, so far?" "These are the items most important to you, is that right?"

Make eye contact
When you meet someone's eye, you are much more likely to win his or her confidence and trust. Remember that a presentation is like a conversation. Keep eye contact with everyone in the room and don't focus on only one or two people you think may be key. You don't necessarily know who the major player will be or how much input others will have in the decision-making process. And it never pays to alienate anyone in your audience.

Put yourself in your listener's shoes
Make your presentation interesting and informative, and be sensitive to the amount of time you are taking. Picture yourself on the other side of the table and ask, "what would I want to be hearing and seeing right about now?" Remember that for your customer, there is nothing inherently interesting about you or what you are selling. You have got to make him care by answering the questions he'll be asking himself: "So what?" "What's in it for me?" and "How do I benefit?"

Be well rehearsed
Don't think you can create a successful presentation on the fly. Plan your presentations carefully and run through them several times in advance to polish your techniques and build your confidence. Check your timing. If you're using slides and charts, make sure they're in the right order. Try and anticipate questions or issues that your prospect might raise, and prepare answers to them in advance.

Dress for success
In this day and age of the casual office, it's sometimes hard to figure out what's appropriate to wear. You should be dressed at least as formally as the people you will be meeting with. It's always better to err on the side of being overdressed. When in doubt, dress conservatively in traditional business attire.

Exit gracefully
Whether or not you think you've been successful, be gracious and leave the door open for further communication. Always conclude by thanking your prospects for their time.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved

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