When conversing with a customer, make sure you always drive the sale forward.
By Julie Hansen
What comes to mind when you hear the word presentation?
For many it conjures up the image of a salesperson holding court in front of a group, typically with a slide deck and limited audience participation. But this formal monologue is simply one type of presentation style in a broad spectrum of ways to communicate with potential customers. In fact, it’s a style waning in popularity and effectiveness.
So what is in style? Say “hello” to the “conversational” presentation.
Perhaps, like the majority of salespeople today, you’re in front of customers in less formal circumstances—whether it’s in their homes, on a worksite, or at a coffee shop. You may prefer to call these more informal events facing a customer conversations—a two-way exchange more fluid than a straight-on presentation.
However, if you aren’t prepared to talk about your solution in an engaging and impactful way, and manage your time and their questions, you are not likely to drive the sale forward.
If you want results from your conversations, you can benefit from applying some of these key tools.
Build a structure
Whether you call your valuable face time with customers a presentation or a conversation, winging it is dangerous. Even professional improvisers have a plan.
The most effective conversational presentation strikes a balance between planned structure and free-flowing conversation. Without some structure, it’s difficult to maintain control over the conversation and make a cohesive point. Suddenly we’ve run out of time and we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do—which doesn’t benefit us or our prospective customer.
A minimal structure includes putting thought into how you are going to open and close your conversation, and what topics you will cover in between. Based on your sale objectives, it can also be helpful to structure your conversation around a persuasive presentation.
Describe a particular situation (the current state a customer may find themself in). Examine a complication that could arise (the consequences if they don’t address a problem). Offer a resolution (the solution your product or service can provide).
Building a flexible but proven structure will help you keep the conversation on track, keep your customer listening and engaged, and allow you to cover topics of interest to the customer—ultimately increasing your chances of making a successful sale.
Questions are a sign of a healthy conversational presentation. They typically indicate interest, promote interaction, and give you insight into a person’s thinking.
Provide an agenda
In a conversational presentation, an agenda doesn’t have to be as formal as PowerPoint slides or even a sheet of paper. It can be done verbally—for example: “Today I thought we’d talk about how you’re currently using your rigs, what changes you expect to see in the future, and then take a look at the pros and cons of buying new vs. used. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
This makes your customer comfortable right off the bat by knowing what topics you are planning to cover. It’s also a good “test balloon” to see if you are on the right track. After all, when is the best time to know if your plan is off track? As soon as possible! Getting agreement on your agenda upfront allows you to be more responsive and adjust on the fly.
Highlight key points
In a conversation it’s easy for key points like value statements, competitive differences, or benefits to get buried or go left unsaid. In a conversational presentation, you’re prepared to speak about your key message in a conversational yet impactful way by using effective presentation skills. These include:
- Making sure you have your customer’s attention before you say something important.
- Pausing afterwards to give your customer time to let what you’ve said sink in before rushing to the next subject.
- Summarizing the benefits at the end to help your customer remember them when they go to make a buying decision.
Questions are a sign of a healthy conversational presentation. They typically indicate interest, promote interaction, and give you insight into a person’s thinking. But the inability to manage questions effectively can cause many conversations to go deep into the weeds, eat up time, and even leave customers more confused.
To be an effective salesperson, you must have a strategy for handling questions, even in the most informal of presentations. For example, which type of questions do you answer immediately and which do you “park” for later?
A good strategy helps salespeople evaluate questions on the spot and answer or defer questions based on select criteria like relevance, complexity, and priority. It also leaves the customer feeling like they have been heard and makes the best use of everyone’s time.
Just like people, presentations come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t limit yourself when so much is on the line by thinking “it’s just a conversation.” Leverage the skills, tools, and mindset of a presenter to have your memorable conversational presentations produce results!
Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.actingforsales.com