Presenting to customers and prospects? It’s amazing how much more effective sales presenting is when you open up conversations where everyone participates.

Sales presentations are remarkable opportunities to collaborate, discuss, answer questions and trouble shoot problems. Only one gigantic obstacle exists.

Many sales professionals do all the talking.

Sellers have a worldwide reputation of talking more than listening. This is a poor recipe for interactive conversation, don’t you think?

Just try it out at home. Imagine a conversation at the kitchen table with your wife. Here’s how it would go:

You: “talktalktalktalktalk.”
Her: “You never let me get a word in edgewise.”
You: “And another thing. Talk, talktalktalktlk, talk!”
Her: “You just don’t listen.”
You: “But this is really important. Talktalktalktalk. See?”
Her: “Hey, I have to go. I’m meeting a friend who is a good listener.”

This isn’t going to help your marriage, is it? Of course not. Well, it’s not going to help your sales either.

Good news is: you can open up conversations at work and at home—and you’ll be happier in both parts of your life. Use these 5 tips to get going:

1. Start with an open attitude
While your ‘attitude’ may not show on your slides, script or notes…your audience is seeing, hearing and feeling it. Start with an attitude of openness.

Many pro sales presenters have a phrase to remind them of this before entering into a conversation. “Let’s go see what happens.” “Open to possibilities.” “Open mind opens doors.”

Find a phrase that works for you. Write it in your notes. Repeat it before going into a client meeting.

2. Ask questions first
While you have a lot of data, benefits, facts and statistics to share…hold off. Ask questions first. By asking questions at the outset, you signal that you’re interested in your client’s experience, concerns and comments.

3. Listen to answers
This is a critical piece of the puzzle. Listen to what people say. Listening is an art and a science. Allow people to finish their thoughts and sentences. Encourage people to expand on what they have to say. An open and encouraging attitude while listening is tangible. People can feel when you are authentically listening…and when you’re feeling impatient.

If you’re formulating your response while your client is speaking, people can tell. This shows in your body language, expression and eye contact.

4. Weave your answers to theirs
After asking questions and listening to answers, present your response. Use some of your client’s words, experiences and examples in your response.

By weaving their comments into your answers, you further show that you are listening, problem solving and trouble-shooting together.

Hint: don’t do this on automatic. Cursory comments such as repeatedly saying your client’s name, quickly glossing over an important issue are very dangerous. Your goal is to build open communication—not create a false impression of openness.

5. Check for clarification
In a give-and-take conversation, there’s a constant back and forth. The seller is not talking non-stop without pausing to take a breath. Instead, practice checking for clarification.

This can be as simple as making eye contact, pausing and asking practical questions.

Here are a few questions to ask so you know you’re on track:

“How does that sound to you?”
“Does this match what you’re imagining?
“What else would complete this picture?”

If you’re getting concerned looks, frowns or grimaces, explore the reasons.
“You aren’t looking too happy about that…tell me why.”
“I see you’re frowning…what’s on your mind?”
“Hmmm…what are you feeling about that?”

Adapt these questions to match your client, topic and situation. The more you focus on the flow of the conversation, the faster you’ll get to the heart of issues. This is a quick way to open up true dialogue, expose hidden issues and resolve obstacles to moving forward.

As expert sales presenters will tell you, sales conversations open up opportunities.

Author's Bio: 

Milly Sonneman is a recognized expert in visual language. She is the co-director of Presentation Storyboarding, a leading presentation training firm, and author of the popular guides: Beyond Words and Rainmaker Stories available on Amazon. Milly helps business professionals give winning presentations, through Email Marketing skills trainings at Presentation Storyboarding. You can find out more about our courses or contact Milly through our website at: