Presentation skills are important in business. When selling a product or service you must be confident and prepared. Weak presentation skills will leave your competition with an advantage.
I recently sat through a series of formal sales presentation where three vendors were trying to earn the businesses for a project. As a board member and part of the decision making committee of the group involved, we felt it best to interview several companies to make sure were were making an educated decision. There were three who made the short list to present, all of whom wanted to be hired to complete the project. It was amazing to me how similar, and yet different each positioned themselves... and how they varied in their skill level of delivering a presentation.
Here are seven points that everyone should remember pitching a group of decision makers:
1. Do not stand and do a formal presentation (projector, screen, handouts, etc....) to a small group if you are not comfortable as a public speaker. Your nervousness will be magnified in an intimate setting.
Make sure you know how to operate your projector and computer. It just looks bad if you need your potential client to help get you PowerPoint to project on the screen. Also, remember to plug in your computer, as if the battery shuts down in the middle of the middle of your pitch, it will disrupt the flow of your presentation.
Sometimes with a small group you will be better served sitting around and having a casual conversation.
2. Never explain your costs of doing business to your clients. They do not care about your expenses. The client cares about themselves. They want to know what you will provide for them and the fee they will pay. Educating them on the economics of your business is not why they are in the room. Doing this will work against you when it comes time for them to make a decision.
Assume your client knows you have expenses, and stay focused on the value you bring to them.
3. It the prospective client changes direction and jumps ahead and to ask questions, do not dismiss them by telling them that you will have that answer for them later in the presentation. Answer them when they bring up a topic. Even if they are asking for price. I realize that a sales professional does not want to talk about price before they have established value, but if the client wants an immediate price discussion, you have most likely lost control of your presentation anyway. Give them what they want. If you will not work with them in the presentation, they will assume you will be difficult all along.
Clients are the boss. Not you.... even during a sales presentation. Show them your flexibility up front.
(often being uncomfortable as a speaker leads to these types of things, as you are scared to get off the Power Point flow. Don't be scared to allow you presentation to be a conversation. After all, you are the expert!)
4. Sales training courses teach us to compliment the prospect. It is common when a question is asked to hear well trained professionals respond with "That is an excellent question" or "I am really glad you asked that". This is good advice, as it can show the other person that you think they are smart. However, do NOT do this every time they inquire about something. It will suddenly become patronizing and canned if you overuse this technique. Because this is taught so often to people in EVERY industry, this technique is also recognized by the client as a "trick"...so do over use giving compliments.
5. Dress professionally when you are trying to earn someones business. In today's casual society we forget the old rules of making a good impression and "Dress for Success". You need to know in advance what you clients will be wearing and what is appropriate for their industry. Select clothing that is just a little nicer than what you expect them to be wearing. Too fancy and you will look and feel out of place, but too casual will remove your look of professionalism.
6. Keep it short and do not run over you allotted time. If your prospect is talking with several of your competitors, they will start to understand the basics of you industry very quickly. Spending too much time in education will bore them quickly. It will also shorten the time you have to make you case.
Running over the agreed upon time frame will make you look like an amateur. Respect their schedule even if you have to leave out part of your presentation. Not showing every prepared slide is not a crime.
7. Have something unique and useful to offer the client. Regardless of if you win the business or not, leave the prospect with a fresh idea about how they can best accomplish their task. Show them that you are willing to think out of the box and that you have their best interest at heart, no matter who is awarded the contract.
All things being equal, most people would want to select the vendor that has shown creativity. If you hold back your creative ideas, you may never get the business. Share freely and you will make a better impression.
If you are nervous about making presentations, remember that speaking is a learned skill. It takes practice. Do not let your fear stop you from getting more experience. If you lose a deal, find out what the competition did to be selected and learn for next time. Develop your presentation skills and you will find more success.
Have a great day.