Form (the who and the how of sales presentations) and content (the what and the why of the product) are not as distinct as they appear. What is discussed at a meeting or presentation is only as valuable as the credibility assigned to the presenter and to their information. This is where how and who come into play. With everything else basically equal, or close, people buy from people they have confidence in and with whom they want to do business.
You bring certain basic skills to the game of selling to a group. You have to relate to your audience; to their needs, to their desires, and to their open and hidden agendas. You listen to your audience, observe them, question them, confirm what you are told, and deal with any objections.
You need all of these skills for successful sales presentations. First, though, you need presence. When selling to a group, you are on stage. Presence is the ability to move and influence your audience. Presence is the ability to make every member of an audience feel that you are speaking to them. Presence can also be described as seeming to enjoy being there, as if you might want to make the presentation even if the sale had been made at the start.
You don’t have to show the presence or the charisma (to use another term) of a major politician — of a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Ronald Reagan, or a John F. Kennedy. We all have at least some charisma, some presence, just maybe not to the extent of a Roosevelt. Fortunately, that level is not required to be extremely successful in selling to groups. For most of us, the degree of “presence” and charisma needed to be a powerful speaker to hundreds (or millions) far exceeds what it takes to sell to a group of two to 30 clients.
The idea of presence is captured in the description both salespeople and clients use to describe a great presentation — “I was on,” or conversely, to describe a poor presentation — “I was off.” The keys to being “on” are to be your one-on-one self, to be prepared, to have mastered the fundamentals and nuances of selling to a group, and to seem comfortable before a group and able to make them comfortable with you.
A high degree of client comfort is necessary, especially for big-ticket items. The decision-makers are in essence choosing a partner to stand beside them. They are placing their trust in you. You have to make them want to trust you.
Some people have “presence” (stage presence) naturally. For those who get “thrown off” when facing a group, the first step to having “presence” with a group is to realize that your one-on-one self is your best bet. Once you understand this, you can do certain things to help your one-on-one self-emerge before a group.
- Prepare fully and carefully. Nervousness before a group is much easier to overcome if you know there is substance backing you up.
- Consider bringing one or two trusted associates for moral support. Give them something to do at the meeting so it does not look like you are playing the “numbers game” with the client.
- Remind yourself that you probably would not have been invited to give the presentation unless the potential client was at least open-minded about your product. The client can be convinced.
- Tell yourself that you can be successful. Realistically, the worst-case scenario for a bad presentation is that you won’t get the sales. It is not life or death.
- Breathe deeply a few times, but do not sigh, and step out of range of a microphone so it does not sound like you are sighing.
- Dress appropriately for the presentation. Don’t dress too casually, but also, don’t dress too formally. Your initial research should give you an idea of what to wear.
- When the presentation begins, start making eye contact with as many different members of the audience as possible. This will add at least some of the person-to-person intimacy of one-to-one selling. This technique can also be used to monitor how the presentation is going.
- Be careful with your body language. Avoid such obvious errors as folding your arms over your chest, which projects being unreceptive to feedback. Do not show negative reactions on your face. It will be detected. Do not look at your watch, as it will make you look bored. If you must keep time during the presentation, have an associate do it and signal you.
- Move around if you can. This adds life to your presentation and also helps decrease the psychological distance between presenter and audience.
- Do not speak in a monotone voice. Put life in your voice. Monotones work if you are Clint Eastwood but not in presentations.
With these in mind, careful preparation and adjusting and up-scaling your one-on-one skills can help you to be effective in selling to a group. If you offer a good solution and believe in what you offer and your ability to offer it, you will have presence and should be successful.