Ten Steps to Persuasive Sales Presentations
By Diane DiResta

Selling is the life blood of any business and we are all in sales. Are your presentations as professional and persuasive as they could be? Follow these simple guidelines to make your sales presentations sparkle.

1. Start with a hook. Most people are not interested in you or your product. They want to have their problems solved. Begin with an opening statement that gets the listener’s attention. (Increased sales, Higher productivity, Stronger retention, Better morale, High profile/ image). You’ll know you have a hook when the customer starts nodding. Sales presentations must be listener-centered not speaker-centered.

2. Size up the customer. People-reading skills will help you to quickly adjust and adapt to your customer’s style. Many presentations break down because of style or personality differences. How do your customers like to receive information? If they are highly directive take-charge types skip the chatter and get down to business. If they are social, chatty, and image conscious spend time finding common ground and sell status and fun. For a steady, cautious type, do some hand-holding, give them guarantees, and minimize the risks. Analytical types will want you to dot every i and cross every t. Don’t get frustrated. Give them documentation, details, and proof. They can’t make a decision without strong data.

3. Be concrete. Everybody knows what a car or accounting service can do. But if you are presenting a design idea, an architectural concept or a router system, make it concrete.
One technical speaker compared a cardboard cylinder tube to internet bandwidth. He dropped a liter soda bottle down the tube. He likened the bottle to text. He then put a gallon container through the tube but had to push and work it down it down the tube. It took longer. He likened it to graphics which take up more space and take longer to download. People will buy more readily when the product is compared to something they know. Simplicity sells.

4. Pace the customer. Watch for non-verbal communication. Note their eye movements, speaking rate, breathing patterns and words, Watch for abrupt changes. They re giving you a signal that something may not be right. The body doesn’t lie. Once you have a sense of the body language and verbal expressions, mirror them and get in sync. People like others who remind them of themselves. You’ll increase rapport when you keep pace with the customer.

5. Get excited! Nobody buys from a dispassionate seller. If you don’t believe in your product, no one else will. People buy based on emotion, not on logic. (They use logic to justify their purchase.) An informal study was conducted by a management training company to determine the characteristics of their top sales people. It came down to two qualities: eye contact and enthusiasm. Look at customers directly and get excited about what you are selling.

6. Sell benefits, not features. People are thinking WIIFM. What’s in it for me?”
Somebody once said, “Advertising has often been criticized because it sells a benefit rather than a product. Well I can only tell you that, in my experience, people don’t want fertilizer. They want green leaves. No one really wants stock certificates, they want capital gains.”
Don’t assume the customer knows the benefits. To be persuasive you must translate each feature into a benefit. To distinguish a feature from a benefit ask “So what?” The answer to “So What?” is the benefit.

7. Build the relationship. The sales cycle takes longer than it used to. They may not buy the first time or the second time. By providing courteous service and staying in touch, the customer will develop trust. Trust is one of the most important qualities in selling. Send flyers, cards, make phone calls. Stay in touch to connect rather than to sell.
Relationship building may mean sacrificing short term profits for long term gains.

8. Be flexible. The more options you create for your customer the greater the chance for a sale. Be a problem solver. Can’t pay your price? Offer creative financing, a volume discount, a lower introductory offer. Or recommend different levels of service and ask which parts you should eliminate to fit into the price range. Don’t argue or tell customers they are wrong. Instead, provide new information. When you educate your customers, they can more easily change their minds in light of new data. Let them save face.

9. Ask questions and listen, listen, listen.
DON’T let this be your definition:
Conversation, n.: A vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener. (from TFTD-L)

The skill most lacking in sales professionals today is listening. Sell, don’t tell. Customers don’t appreciate being told what to do. By asking questions you will uncover the true needs. The more needs you can uncover, the more motivated the customer will be to solve the problem. By listening instead of talking, you will build empathy and trust. Listening builds relationships. Too many people talk themselves out of a sale.

10.End with an action step. People remember the last thing they hear. So don’t say thank you for your time. Let them know what you expect. You may not close the deal on the first meeting so advance the sale with the next step. “I’ll give you a cost estimate. Go home and look it over. I will call you on Wednesday to work out the best plan for you.” An action step has two parts: a what and a when. If you tell them what you want without a time frame, you’ll have no commitment.

To deliver persuasive sales presentations:
1. Start with a hook
2. Size up the customer
3. Be concrete
4. Pace the customer
5. Show enthusiasm
6. Sell benefits
7. Build the relationship
8. Be flexible
9. Ask questions and listen
10. End with an action step

Author's Bio: 

Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses. For a free newsletter and audio course visit www.direesta.com