New Sales Speak: The 9 Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Overview

"New Sales Speak is the first book on the vital marriage of persuasive selling techniques and crucial speaking skills."
-Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times bestseller Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

"An incredible book on sales effectiveness! You can learn how to release your brakes and step on your accelerator toward higher sales."
-Brian Tracy, Brian Tracy International

"Terri Sjodin is one of the country's top sales trainers, and her book, New Sales ...

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Overview

"New Sales Speak is the first book on the vital marriage of persuasive selling techniques and crucial speaking skills."
-Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times bestseller Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

"An incredible book on sales effectiveness! You can learn how to release your brakes and step on your accelerator toward higher sales."
-Brian Tracy, Brian Tracy International

"Terri Sjodin is one of the country's top sales trainers, and her book, New Sales Speak, is a must-read for anyone in sales or sales management. Now, the Second Edition is here and it's even bigger and better! I highly recommend it."
-Roger Dawson, author of Secrets of Power Negotiating

"This book gives you real-world knowledge that you can apply every day. The new chapter on elevator speeches alone is worth the investment."
-Eric Worre, cofounder, Better Life Media

Written for anyone who gives presentations, New Sales Speak, Second Edition identifies the nine most common mistakes people make when presenting and shows you how to avoid them. Inside, you'll learn how to: Build and deliver a presentation that is persuasive rather than just informative Make the best use of your allotted time and craft interest-generating elevator speeches Just say "No!" to boring PowerPoint presentations Transform fear into energy-and more!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471755654
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/27/2006
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 719,469
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

TERRI SJODIN is a full-time professional speaker and business trainer who gives presentations to thousands of people annually. While an undergraduate at San Diego State University, she was picked as the sixth best college persuasive public speaker in the country. Terri is one of the most successful young speakers in the field today. At thirty-five, she has been called one of the youngest female professional speakers ever to receive the CSP designation by the National Speakers Association. Terri is a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows. Her articles have appeared in countless publications, including Mademoiselle, Entrepreneur Magazine, Selling Power, Business Monthly, Executive Excellence, Small Business, as well as many others.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Sales Speak - Selling, Speaking, and the Partnership Between the Two

There is an adaptation to a line from Shakespeare that says, All the world is a stage, and sales professionals play to the most discriminating audiences of all-their customers. What other group do you know that gets to pay for the performance after the show? Meanwhile, based on how you are speaking, your customers are deciding whether they even like you-a decision that could determine whether you get paid at all!

Everybody Sells Something

The process of living requires all individuals to sell at some point, in their careers. We must sell ourselves to get our first job, entrepreneurs have to sell themselves to investors, CEOs sell their company strengths prior to an initial public offering, community residents sell their ideas to the city council. Teachers sell their students on the value of becoming educated and learning new material. A butcher persuades a customer to select a certain cut of choice meat. In each case, we are giving persuasive talks, though we may not be aware of it. For those of us who make our living in sales, nearly 75 percent of our time is spent communicating. Do we think of ourselves as public speakers? Certainly not! We would rather tame snakes than stand in front of our peers to give a presentation. Surveys show that public speaking is our single most feared activity.

Yet, how do we spend most of our days? In public speaking activities-we just don't like to think we do. We depend on our speaking skills to share our messages clearly and with credibility, whether we are speaking on the telephone, in a one-on-one meeting, or to a small group.

The Importance of Presentation Skills

Consider the following: Your public speaking and delivery skills are an immediate demonstration of executive ability within a company and may very well be the number-one reason why most business transactions are won or lost. In spite of that, people tend to minimize the importance of their presentation skills. Some will say, "Oh come on Terri, you know I've been speaking since I was in grade schoolit's not that big a deal." Or they will say, "You know, I took a public speaking course when I was in college-I feel pretty good about it." Some people may even have had limited practice giving talks with their local business organization. While all these experiences are relevant and perfectly valid, what they don't do is take us to new heights.

The marketplace has changed, and, compared to the previous decade, the new millennium and beyond already are proving to be a new ballgame for the sales professional. It is a highly competitive market, and people are not apt to listen to sales presentations for entertainment. Decision makers are shopping harder than ever. You can bet they are checking up to five different suppliers before they make a decision. What they may actually be shopping for, however, is the right salesperson making the best case. What they often are looking for more than for the lowest price is the best overall package, whether that package is you, a product, service, philosophy, or idea.

Only a salesperson can lead them into making an informed decision. The salesperson who has the most charismatic and believable presentation, the best argument supported by the strongest facts, is the one who will be perceived as offering the greatest value. People will spend more money to work with those they like and will reject working with those they don't like, regardless of cost.

Why Is Giving Out Information Appealing?

It is the perception of value that counts. The client has to perceive your presentation as effective, your product or service as worthwhile. Just providing information makes you just like your competitor, and it doesn't mean that you are selling. There is no sense of urgency in an informative presentation. You may feel comfortable giving such an informative talk, but ask yourself, why? The reason you feel comfortable is because you never hear the word no when all you do is disseminate information.

Can We Learn to Speak Persuasively?

Persuasive public speaking is a learned activity. It is the application of formal principles of effective public speaking and debate strategy to the sales presentation. It is a new marriage between the strict principles found in the speech departments of our nation's college classrooms and the fascinating kaleidoscopic world of professional sales. It is a way to compete in the new millennium and to ensure ourselves of being...
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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Sales Speak: Selling, Speaking, and the Partnership Between the Two
Mistake Number 1: Winging It
Mistake Number 2: Being Too Informative versus Persuasive
Mistake Number 3: Misusing the Allotted Time
Mistake Number 4: Providing Inadequate Support
Mistake Number 5: Failing to Close the Sale
Mistake Number 6: Being Boring, Boring, Boring
Mistake Number 7: Relying Too Much on Visual Aids
Mistake Number 8: Distracting Gestures and Body Language
Mistake Number 9: Wearing Inappropriate Dress
How to Do a Self-Evaluation
Final Thoughts
Bibliography
Index
How to Contact the Author
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Sales Speak:

Selling, Speaking, and the Partnership Between the Two

What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

—Johann van Goethe

There is an adaptation to a line from Shakespeare that says, All the world is a stage, and sales professionals play to the most discriminating audiences of all—their customers. What other group do you know that gets to pay for the performance after the show? Meanwhile, based on how you are speaking, your customers are deciding whether they even like you—a decision that could determine whether you get paid at all!

Everybody Sells Something

The process of living requires all individuals to sell at some point in their careers. We must sell ourselves to get our first job, entrepreneurs have to sell themselves to investors, CEOs sell their company strengths prior to an initial public offering, community residents sell their ideas to the city council. Teachers sell their students on the value of becoming educated and learning new material. A butcher persuades a customer to select a certain cut of choice meat. In each case, we are giving persuasive talks, though we may not be aware of it. For those of us who make our living in sales, nearly 75 percent of our time is spent communicating. Do we think of ourselves as public speakers? Certainly not! We would rather tame snakes than stand in front of our peers to give a presentation. Surveys show that public speaking is our single most feared activity.

Yet, how do we spendmost of our days? In public speaking activities—we just don't like to think we do. We depend on our speaking skills to share our messages clearly and with credibility, whether we are speaking on the telephone, in a one-on-one meeting, or to a small group.

The Importance of Presentation Skills

Consider the following: Your public speaking and delivery skills are an immediate demonstration of executive ability within a company and may very well be the number-one reason why most business transactions are won or lost. In spite of that, people tend to minimize the importance of their presentation skills. Some will say, "Oh come on Terri, you know I've been speaking since I was in grade school—it's not that big a deal." Or they will say, "You know, I took a public speaking course when I was in college—I feel pretty good about it." Some people may even have had limited practice giving talks with their local business organization. While all these experiences are relevant and perfectly valid, what they don't do is take us to new heights.

The marketplace has changed, and, compared to the previous decade, the new millennium and beyond already are proving to be a new ballgame for the sales professional. It is a highly competitive market, and people are not apt to listen to sales presentations for entertainment. Decision makers are shopping harder than ever. You can bet they are checking up to five different suppliers before they make a decision. What they may actually be shopping for, however, is the right salesperson making the best case. What they often are looking for more than for the lowest price is the best overall package, whether that package is you, a product, service, philosophy, or idea.

Only a salesperson can lead them into making an informed decision. The salesperson who has the most charismatic and believable presentation, the best argument supported by the strongest facts, is the one who will be perceived as offering the greatest value. People will spend more money to work with those they like and will reject working with those they don't like, regardless of cost.

Why Is Giving Out Information Appealing?

It is the perception of value that counts. The client has to perceive your presentation as effective, your product or service as worthwhile. Just providing information makes you just like your competitor, and it doesn't mean that you are selling. There is no sense of urgency in an informative presentation. You may feel comfortable giving such an informative talk, but ask yourself, why? The reason you feel comfortable is because you never hear the word no when all you do is disseminate information.

Can We Learn to Speak Persuasively?

Persuasive public speaking is a learned activity. It is the application of formal principles of effective public speaking and debate strategy to the sales presentation. It is a new marriage between the strict principles found in the speech departments of our nation's college classrooms and the fascinating kaleidoscopic world of professional sales. It is a way to compete in the new millennium and to ensure ourselves of being on top of every element within our control, as we address our peers with ideas that need their decisions. It is the combination necessary to ensure our presentation has both excellent content and outstanding delivery. It is a way to make what we say credible and, most important, to make ourselves unique. We will address this subject specifically in Chapter 3.

Informal surveys that we have conducted show that anytime you undertake a prospecting call, you have approximately 30 seconds to make an impression. That's not much time. And whenever you give a one-on-one presentation, you generally have no more than five minutes to make a good impression. That's still very little time. Most of the time we are giving a presentation, people are determining whether or not they like us. It seems as though initially it has absolutely nothing to do with our professional knowledge.

I know we often choose to believe it's not true, but every day, people will make a decision whether they want to work with us based on our public speaking and presentation skills. Are we sharp? Are we articulate? Does our message draw them in? Do they feel compelled to listen to us as a result of that message? Or are they completely bored?

What Is the Three-to-Five-Company Rule?

When talking with a prospective client, you may safely assume yours is not the only game in town. For you to get to first base, the prospect must notice you and listen to what you have to say. For you to reach home plate, the client must perceive you and your product or service as outshining that of your competitor once the prospect has completed his or her value quest.

There definitely is competition out there—you know it, and so do your prospects. They will exploit it because competition works to their advantage. The serious prospect often will consider between three and five companies before making a final selection. We call this the Three-to-Five-Company Rule. If yours is the first presentation heard, the prospect may resist making a buying decision until having had enough time to scout the market. If yours is the last presentation, the prospect will compare every detail of what you say against what he or she has been told by all the other salespeople from different companies. In either case, your presentation will be critically evaluated. And so will you. I always try to determine if my prospective clients are working with someone else. If I can't tell, I assume that they are. Doing so forces me to be even more persuasive and competitive than I would be otherwise.

Is the Focus on You or Your Product?

People say to me, "Terri, I can 'walk the walk,' but how do I 'talk the talk'?" I always see that question as a sign that someone is on the right track to becoming part of the top 20 percent of producers. This individual realizes that the difference between being highly successful and merely average lies in his or her own actions and not with the product or company they represent.

Let me give you an example from the real estate industry. It illustrates the considerable weight a salesperson has in influencing a prospect's selection. Suppose you want to sell your house. Employing the Three-to-Five-Company Rule, you call several brokers to see who should get the listing. All are nationwide companies with referral services. Brokers from each company visit your house and describe their services to obtain your listing. Each asks for a 6 percent commission and offers to list your home in the Multiple Listing Service. An agent who sold your neighbor's house brought all the salespeople and brokers from his office through the house on a caravan. Naturally, you want the same thing. All three brokers assure you they will provide you with the identical service. Will they keep your house open Saturdays and Sundays, you ask? No problem.

The third broker leaves after finishing his presentation. You sit down and begin to figure out which company has the best program. What are the differences? You realize after struggling with the question, there are no differences! Each is identical. Each agent knew how to walk the walk and presented the features and benefits his or her company offers. There is one small difference, however. Each offer was made by a different person. So what are you going to do? Typically, you are going to pick the person you like the best. The person who you felt would work the hardest for you—and the person who built the best case. This happens over and over every day of the year. People pick the product based on who is selling it. People buy people. (If you haven't already done so, be sure to read Dale Carnegie's classic work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which first addressed this topic.)

Your Presentation Reflects Who You Are

Now you say, "Well, Terri, I am what I am, and I can't change that. Either people like me or they don't." I am not advocating that you try to be someone you are not. You should always be true to yourself. People are going to like you based on what you say and do. In your role as a salesperson, that evaluation will be made based on your presentation. Do you want that presentation to sound lifeless, hesitant, and boring? Or do you want that presentation to sound enthusiastic, passionate, organized, and persuasive? When you are giving it, your presentation is you. It may be the only part of you that a prospect remembers—or forgets. Top sales professionals give memorable presentations. They not only know how to walk the walk, they know how to talk the talk.

If you are a sales professional, you understand that the selling process doesn't begin with your formal presentation. It starts much earlier when you are trying to get in the door of the prospective client. Knowing effective ways to explain how you can be of service to the company can get you a critical appointment with the manager.

Getting in the Door

I was working for the Achievement Group in 1987 representing professional speakers widely known for their ability to clearly communicate new and effective sales techniques. My job was to sell these speakers to corporate clients who needed to train and motivate their sales professionals.

The White Rose

My first territory included a large residential real estate organization. Headed by a man named Jim Emery, it was a highly successful group with nine offices, each having more than 50 agents. My goal was to deliver a group presentation to their sales staff. Management policy, however, prevented outside salespeople from giving presentations during staff meetings. The implied closed-door approach frustrated me, particularly for a sales organization, and it also stimulated my competitive imagination. I kept asking myself how I could possibly go around this barrier, but my colleagues were no help—they continued to discourage me.

When I asked other, more experienced sales professionals from the Achievement Group team what they would suggest I do, they responded: "Forget it, Terri, you will never get in there. It is a closed office. Move on to the next account." I questioned what the difference is between a closed office and an open office (I have never entered an office that was posted: "Open to vendors and solicitors—come on in!") The answer is, there is no difference, except for the amount of time and creativity it takes to get through the door!

There Is Only One Way In

I followed up anyway with phone calls and mailings, but nothing happened. I changed my strategy and began meeting with each manager separately, but every one of them said the same thing: If I wanted to get into the offices, I would have to have permission from Jim Emery. So I turned my attention toward getting an appointment with him. No such luck—he had a very good secretary, one who had been trained to screen calls from salespeople.

The more rejection I got, the more determined I became to get inside their organization. I was beginning to realize just how difficult it was. I surmised that few, if any, training sales agents had given presentations to these people. If I could get inside, I knew it would be a great account.

Finding an Angle

The movie Wall Street gave me the inspiration I needed. In the movie, the lead character, played by Charlie Sheen, delivers a box of imported cigars to his prospect on his birthday. I decided I could come up with one of the "creative solutions" characterized in the film. I decided to buy a long-stemmed white rose and resolved to deliver it to Jim Emery in person. I felt a white rose was appropriate because it symbolized integrity (in addition to the fact that I was poor and my company didn't provide salespeople with expense accounts).

The only appropriate place that I could think to approach him was in the parking lot outside his office. So at 5:30 A.M. I took up sentry duty next to his parking stall, which was clearly marked with his name on it. After I had waited about an hour and a half, a car pulled up. The driver was obviously the man I had come to find. "Excuse me, are you Jim Emery?" I asked timidly, but somewhat reassured by the fact that I had on my best suit.

"Yes, I'm Jim. Who wants to know?"

"Just some young gal who needs about ten minutes of your time," I replied.

"What is she selling?" he asked, cutting to the chase.

"I don't suppose she is selling anything," I said, deferring the obvious. "I think she just needs to deliver this flower."

The laughter that crossed his lips was a great relief. He opened the card that I had included with my gift. It read: "Mr. Emery, please just give me ten minutes of your time. I definitely believe I have something that will be of interest to you."

"I don't have ten minutes," he said. "You have two minutes as we walk from this car to that door." Every debating technique I had learned in college sprang to readiness. I came up with more reasons in two minutes for why he would be at risk if he didn't meet with me than I had used in the last three months with all my other clients. My debate background and degree in speech communication paid off. I knew instinctively how to build my presentation and deliver it.

"Okay," he said. "I'll give you your ten minutes. Come back tomorrow at nine o'clock." I kept to his schedule and delivered my presentation in ten minutes. However, our meeting lasted one and a half hours. What exceeded my most exaggerated hopes was his sending a letter of recommendation to each of his managers telling them why they should let me make a presentation at their staff meeting. He was, by this time, convinced that it was essential for his agents to hear the story I had to tell. If they would adopt the sales posture I was promoting, he could be quite certain that his organization would be enriched.

Why Did It Work?

On another level, though, his cooperation came down to something more basic and more personal. I believe it was a direct result of my giving him the rose and doing so before anyone else was up and working that morning. It wasn't an expensive perk. It was just a simple thing that made him think that I believed he was special and that I was willing to be creative and work harder to earn his business. There is a big difference between buying business and earning business. Creative thinking can make a big difference in your gaining access to people. Once you have grabbed their attention, you can support your position by delivering a solid, professional persuasive presentation.

Getting in the door is the first part, but what you do after you get inside is equally important. This is where many people suffer from common shortcomings that adversely affect their results. The goal of this book is to provide you with the nine biggest sales presentation mistakes and show you how to avoid them so you can generate the best possible outcome for all your presentation opportunities.

When you become discouraged, I hope you will think of the white rose story, or one of the other stories I will share with you later in the book. I hope you will practice your public speaking skills with passion, and I hope you will develop the habit of presenting your ideas in a logical way formulated to generate action in what is unquestionably a competitive marketplace. Make a commitment! Miracles don't happen with an explosion and flash of light. They start out like a small snowball rolling downhill. Little changes become magnified over time. Today is the best time to start your personal journey toward what truly can be a miraculous future. To deliver dynamic presentations, we must learn to combine hustle with polish, persuasion, and uniqueness.

Applying the 80/20 Rule

Let's talk a little about what is near and dear to most of us—the bottom line. Whenever I begin to explain to people how important it is to them to enhance their presentation skills, someone always brings it up. They will say, "Okay. Let's just say that public speaking skills are as important as you say. How is that going to affect my bottom line?" And the simplest way for me to show you how it affects your bottom line is to get you to reflect on the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/ 20 Rule.

The Pareto Principle was developed by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. Pareto first identified the wealthiest people in England in order to determine what common denominators they shared. Ultimately, what he found was that the top 20 percent of the people in the country owned, controlled, or were responsible for 80 percent of the wealth. Through research and analysis, he began to realize that the distribution of wealth across populations is invariably unbalanced—but it is also mathematically predictable. He found that this imbalance was repeated consistently regardless of the time period or the country. The book, The 80/20 Principle, The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch, provides an easy-to-understand overview of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule. Koch, an entrepreneur and investor, is a strong advocate of the 80/20 Rule's being used by everyone in their daily lives. He suggests it can help individuals and groups achieve much more and enhance personal effectiveness and happiness, and it can multiply the profitability of corporations and organizations.

When researchers such as Koch began to confirm the truth in Pareto's findings, people began to use Pareto's theories measuring and predicting success in countless areas—not only in business and economics but in other areas where resources are allocated disproportionately. These might include people, goods, time, skills, and, yes—even sales. According to Koch, "Most studies find that the top 20 percent of salespeople generate between 70 and 80 percent of sales."

So, when you hear an irritated coworker complain, "Why is it that the top producers always get whatever they want?" it is because they are the ones who are bringing in the business and contributing most to the bottom line. It naturally follows that the people who bring in the business and generate revenues are the ones who have the most power, especially in a sales environment.

Since it is the top 20 percent of sales professionals who will generate more than three-fourths of the results in an organization, perhaps we should look more closely at the characteristics of this elite group of individuals. What is it that makes them so much more productive than the 80 percent who are attempting—but apparently failing—to achieve the same thing?

Dare to Dream

Those in training and development have always wanted to know: What is it that the top producers in the upper 20 percent are doing that the bottom 80 percent are not? And if there were something significantly different, can we pull it from the top 20 percent and insert it into the bottom 80 percent to make a difference where it counts? The answer is a resounding yes.

I am reminded of the movie, Rudy, about the life of Rudy Ruettiger, the Notre Dame football player who spent his entire college career hoping to play a single game. His final moment of glory serves as testament to the fact that Rudy fulfilled his boyhood dream. Although Rudy had few innate talents when it came to football (a fact of which he was reminded during grueling practice sessions) his heart and soul cried out to be among the famous Fighting Irish. Rudy played only one game, but he never quit the team, nor was he cut. He was tenacious and persistent. Many young people who get discouraged when they don't see enough action simply give up, but not Rudy. Today, because of his determination, he can truthfully say that he played football for Notre Dame.

Rudy is now a successful motivational speaker whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. For years Rudy wanted to make a movie about his kooky football record because he thought it would be inspirational to others. The response from Hollywood: "You must be kidding!" Once again he didn't give up but kept knocking on doors until one finally opened. Eventually, his dream of producing a movie came true. The best part is that the film received great reviews. Rudy Ruettiger's life is a success because he was willing to do what most other people will not do: Keep going when everyone else says, "Give up, it's hopeless—you're dreaming!" Remember never to let other people's limitations on you serve in place of your own goals.

Three Characteristics of Top Sales Professionals

In my opinion, there are three major characteristics that typify top sales professionals. They are (1) the psychological difference—all believe they can be top producers, (2) great listening skills—all are expert listeners, and (3) excellent presentation skills. If I were to list a fourth characteristic it would be a good sense of timing, the ability to be in the right place at the right time to spot opportunities. However, I also believe there is no such thing as luck. As the old saying goes, "Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity."

Psychological Difference

Let's take a look at the primary characteristic, one we know from our first class in sales—the psychological difference. I want you to know that I believe in the so-called psychological difference, and I think that everybody should have a psychological edge. In the early days of my selling career, I associated the psychological difference with being motivated. Before going to work I often would say to myself, "I need to get motivated. I need to get myself charged up. I need a little kick in the pants to really get me fired up for the day." Then I would think, "I know what I need to do, I need to get myself a couple of those motivational tapes!"

My first audiocassette program was by Dr. Denis Waitley, called The Psychology of Winning. It's a great audio package about making things happen and how to motivate yourself. And I thought, Wow, this is just great. Then I said, "You know, the other thing I am going to do is write down my positive affirmations. I'm going to put them on a card and I'm going to remind myself of what I need to do everyday." I kept telling myself that this was going to change me—this was what I needed.

I took out my 3x5 cards and I stuck them on my bathroom mirror where I could read them every day. And I would say while I put on my mascara, "I'm good! I can make this happen! Today is the best day of the rest of my life!" And I was really fired up. And I thought, "This will be the thing that will push me past the brink of success."

At the end of 30 days, I figured I had given it a pretty good test. Unfortunately, I may have left the house a slightly happier person, but it didn't really have any effect on my production. Needless to say, this wasn't the only factor that contributed to the psychological difference. I think the best way for me to explain what people really mean by psychological difference is to share with you the story of a colleague of mine. Mitch Gaylord is one of the people with whom I have the pleasure of working. You may be familiar with his name, which people associate with gymnastics. He was an Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics for the United States. Now Mitch works a lot with young people presenting programs on goal setting, motivation, and inspiration. A while back he called me on the phone and said, "Terri, I would really like to work with you for a bit before I go and have a videotape shot." I said, "Sure, no problem, Mitch." He came over and we were sitting across from each other and I was looking at him and thinking how impressed I was by his many accomplishments. So I asked him outright, "Mitch, what is it like to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics? I can't even imagine what it would feel like."

He said, "Terri, by the time you get to that final round, every single competitor who is on the floor is capable of scoring a perfect 10. It's not about who is capable, but who is going to pull it off at game time when the pressure is really on, and who will do it with the greatest consistency."

There's no question in my mind that every single one of you reading this is equally capable of scoring a perfect 10 presentation, but the question is how we can teach you to do it when the heat is really turned up at game time.

Denis Waitley addresses the psychological edge winners have in believing they can reach the ambitious goals they set for themselves. They know they can do it, so they try harder. If you think you can't do something, why waste your time even trying? Most people just compromise themselves by trying halfheartedly. That way, when they fail, they have an excuse for their poor performance. Besides, trying harder translates into more work. Here's a fact: People who are lazy rarely make it to the top. Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don't want to do.

The Power in Listening

The second factor that separates the top producer from the average or status quo is listening-communication skills. A colleague of mine once shared an insight about Donald Trump, a man known to be respected by his competitors and revered by his associates for, among other things, his ability to listen. Trump has an amazing talent for sitting down in a one-on-one discussion and asking probing questions that draw out material he uses later in arguments supporting his presentations. This is one of the key reasons why he is such an effective competitor.

I have many clients who come to my training programs because they are concerned about their speaking skills. They realize that if they can improve their presentations they will be more effective sales professionals. Almost no one, however, worries about their listening skills, at least not until they see themselves on videotape and realize they need help. You may have heard the quotation from writer Ambrose Bierce, who once said, "A bore is a person who talks when you wish him to listen." Listening is an active process that requires intense thought. We need to listen to our clients and prospects as well as to ourselves.

When we tape participants in a sales training role-play session, they often say, "Now I understand what the customer's question was!" The comment usually comes after they realize they didn't answer the prospect's question, or they responded with an answer that would send any rational person across the street into the waiting arms of the competition. Often we don't hear what our clients are saying, or we select an answer that is inappropriate because we really don't understand the question. Our mouths take charge after our brain shuts down. We just don't take the time to listen. If we slip into auto-pilot and respond mechanically, I guarantee it does not impress our audience.

There is a joke about a famous psychiatrist who is approached at a cocktail party by a solicitous guest. "My dear doctor," he begins. "How can you stand to listen to people's problems all day long? It must be dreadfully depressing." Somewhat taken aback by the man's provocative question, but determined not to be easily annoyed, the psychiatrist quips: "Listen? Who listens?"

Let Me Forget About What You Said

How many of you have ever worked with a client or prospect that said, "I'd like to think about it"? Let me explain what happens when they begin to "think about it." On average, prospects will retain only half of what we tell them. You may have delivered the most dazzling presentation of your life, but the moment you walk out the door your listeners will lose varying amounts of the information you just shared with them. In fact, within the first 10 minutes they will start to lose information. To begin with, they retained only 50 percent of what you told them. Within the first 10 minutes, they can lose up to 10 percent. By the time they go home, spend some time with their family, play with the kids, they can lose another 10 percent. The following day (barring any unforeseen crises like a speeding or parking ticket), they could lose another 10 percent. So by the time you make your follow-up call and say, "Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, this is Terri Sjodin—I just wanted to follow up with you regarding the presentation I made the other day . . ." they may have already forgotten nearly three-fourths of everything you told them! So they say, "Oh my dear, we have been so busy, we haven't even had a chance to think about it." The entire time that we believed our prospects have been thinking about our proposal, in reality they have been literally forgetting about it!

The irony with respect to listening is while we may not do it very well, we spend lots of time trying. As business professionals, we spend nearly three-fourths of our working time communicating, and 40 percent of that is in listening, according to Madelyn Burley-Allen, author of Listening: The Forgotten Skill. The rest we divide between speaking, reading, and writing, with speaking representing about a third of our efforts. Reading represents about 15 percent and writing less than 10 percent of our time devoted to communicating. When more than a third of our entire working time is spent listening to others, doesn't it make sense we should examine our listening habits even before we polish our speaking skills?

Burley-Allen cites the example of a manager who was curious about the amount of time he spent just in listening so he asked his secretary to keep track of his time on the telephone just listening. He was shocked to find the company was paying him nearly 40 percent of his salary, or $18,000, for this function alone. However, on average, people are only about 25 percent effective as listeners. If the manager's listening skills were at only 25 percent efficiency, his employer would be paying him some $13,500 for time he spends listening ineffectively.

We can help improve our clients' retention by creating a presentation worth listening to and by improving our own listening skills. After all, listening as a method of taking in information is relied upon much more than reading and writing combined. We can help our prospects remember our presentation by influencing whether they understand it in the first place—a big factor in how much of it they remember. Improving our own listening skills also will help us overcome our prospects' objections and give us better control over the sales situation.

Are You Tuning Out Objections?

Imagine a situation in which the prospect is trying to wrest control of the sales call. Imagine yourself trying to maintain control to close the sale. Now think of yourself engaged in these activities: focusing the conversation on the points you want to make, listening to the client's comments, responding to them, presenting your argument—listening, responding, presenting.

Now imagine yourself in a similar situation with a difficult prospect, only instead of engaging the person, you are ignoring what they are saying, choosing instead to recite the list of features and benefits of your product. This is a situation more common than you might imagine; through videotape playback and workshop drills, we find that people frequently tune out their prospects' questions and also their objections. Burley-Allen calls this Level 2 listening—hearing the words but not really the deeper meanings of what is said.

In which of these two situations are you going to have the greatest chance for success? The first one, of course, because you are exercising control over the presentation and continuing to guide the prospect toward the best possible outcome. To some extent, every prospect is difficult, and every transaction requires expert listening skills to connect with the client and close the sale.

Three Dimensions to Listening

There are three dimensions to listening that account for how well we hear what the prospect says. The first is empathy, the second is information processing, and the third is critical listening.

Empathy

Empathy means that we listen from the heart. We avoid prejudging the prospect's statements. Have you heard the phrase, "buyers are liars"? It is a cynical comment you will want to ignore. The buyer may well employ counterfeit objections but also will have legitimate concerns. Your job is to decipher which of his or her stated concerns are bogus and which are real. To discount all the prospect's objections without determining the facts is to act without empathy. Listen for the buyer's true concerns. Be empathic.

Information Processing

The second dimension of listening is information processing. It means objectively collecting and categorizing facts from the prospect, then prioritizing what you hear. There are separate activities associated with information processing. To be an information processor you must:

  1. Recognize the central idea.
  2. Identify the main points.
  3. Recall the details.
  4. Summarize.
  5. Draw references.
  6. Ask insightful questions.

In my workshops, I usually ask salespeople, "What is the goal of your presentation?" They sometimes look at me as though they don't know what I'm talking about. "What do you mean?" they ask. Well, what is the point of your presentation? What do you want to happen as a result of this presentation to your clients? Do you really know what the single, overriding message is that you are trying to get across? If you aren't clear on what your central idea is, your prospective client isn't going to know either. You may have been working in your field for 20 years, you may have all the supporting figures in your head to prove a long string of claims, but if you can't share your message in a way that makes people understand the main points, you will be spinning your wheels.

If your clients cannot recognize the central idea of your message, if they cannot identify the main points, recall important details, summarize the information, and ask insightful questions, then you have to wonder, "How effective was I?" Try putting yourself in the role of one of your clients and see if you can apply the above criteria to your presentation. Then try it on feedback from your next customer. Be aware of yourself as a deliverer of information.

Critical Listening

A listener will critically evaluate your presentation, including every claim in it, whether you pay attention to what you are saying or whether you put your mouth on automatic and flip the "on" switch. What happens, though, when your prospect asks a question? Are you going to respond in a way that reinforces your message and continues moving him or her toward the close? Or are you going to confuse the prospect with a response that isn't really related to the question asked? Remember, the customer is testing your credibility. Are both you and what you say believable? In order to use the excellent opportunity a question offers, you will need to develop and employ critical listening skills. Remember that your prospects will be listening to you from a critical standpoint as well.

Effective listening not only involves paying attention to others—it involves tuning in to ourselves. If you heard your own presentation and you wanted to evaluate it for credibility, how would you do it? Here are the five keys to assessing the third listening dimension, critical listening:

  1. Recall the main claims.
  2. Identify the premise.
  3. Evaluate the evidence.
  4. Be objective, not defensive.
  5. Ask how credible is the speaker.

Since your listeners will critically evaluate your presentation by performing these steps, doesn't it make sense for you to do the same evaluation of your presentation before delivering it? I am reminded of a question by Hal Becker in his book, Can I Have Five Minutes of Your Time?, in which he asks readers, "Did you ever talk yourself out of a sale? Did you go on and on until it was too late? Did you ever LISTEN yourself out of a sale? NEVER!"

In practice, many of your prospects will not be good critical listeners. They will jump to conclusions based on personal experiences that may have little or nothing to do with what you have been telling them. If you are a good critical listener, you can recognize these misinterpretations when the prospect poses a question. You will be applying your critical listening skills to the feedback you get.

The important thing is for your prospect to hear the right message and not make a decision based on incorrect assumptions. It is crucial, therefore, to be objective in evaluating your client's questions and comments. You can clarify and reinforce your points on the way to guiding the prospect toward the close.

Persuasive Presentation Skills

The third factor that separates the top producer from the average person is persuasive presentation skills. Top producers have a phenomenal delivery. There's something about them that is charismatic—people say it is the person's polish. But polish comes from practice, and charisma comes from certainty. It's owning the material in your mind, spirit, and presence.

The Absence of Dazzling, Persuasive Presentation Skills

To appreciate just how important public speaking skills are today, think of the 1992 presidential election in which Independent Ross Perot attracted a large number of voters who were disillusioned with the two traditional parties. In spite of his independent status, Perot posed an intriguing challenge to both incumbent Republican President George Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. A factor in the campaign, however, was a series of debates between the leading candidates and another involving their vice-presidential running-mates. Unfortunately for Perot, his selection for vice president was not a dazzling public speaker.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale is a highly respected Vietnam War hero and an accomplished military executive. But he is not a strong presenter. Viewers who saw the debates will never forget the point at which Stockdale began fiddling with his hearing aid, stopping the talks dead and creating the impression, albeit erroneous, that he may be too old to run for the nation's second-highest office. Polls taken afterward showed that imperfections in Stockdale's style and delivery gave undecided voters the reason they needed to discount the Perot ticket altogether. Instead they moved on to the task of deciding between the two major candidates. If Stockdale had possessed the public speaking skills of Colin Powell or Ronald Reagan, is it possible the outcome of the election would have been altogether different?

The interesting thing to remember is that Stockdale's sterling qualifications earned him a chance at high office, but they were not the deciding factor. He had to demonstrate in person to voters that he was qualified and convince them they would be making the right choice if they relied on him and his running-mate.

We might think of the debates as a sort of national public job interview. That idea suggests to me that any job applicant who thinks a resume alone, without benefit of a convincing oral presentation, will secure a corporate position is apt to be looking for work for quite some time.

Everyone Remembers a Great Speaker

Everybody loves to hear great speakers. What is more important is that we remember them. When we think of great presenters we think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan—all were considered great speakers and communicators. When they spoke they used no visual aids, no handouts, no brochures. They were just individual men standing before thousands of people and able to move the masses on what often were perceived as unpopular issues. But they did it—how? Through the art of the delivery. You always remember the great speaker, even if the individual is not such an admirable person. Take Stalin, for example. Or even two-term president Bill Clinton. In all honesty, if Clinton had had the public speaking skills of Stockdale when he was going through his problems with Monica Lewinsky, does anyone really think he would have survived his second term?

But we are moved as a country by the individual with great delivery. Also, we often tend to remember another type of presentation—the poor presentation. Yet whom do we forget? It's the average speaker, the one who is just fair. Remember that if you look back on your presentation and think it was just okay, or it was fine, then you may have just delivered the most forgettable presentation possible. That's why every single presentation that you deliver has to be the best one you have inside you.

Among all the people who may read this book, I have one particular reader in mind: the goal-setter who wants to be the best salesperson possible. My compliments go to you for wanting to achieve a level of personal fulfillment through attaining excellence. Striving to become a great salesperson means aiming to be a great public speaker and presenter. Achieving that takes having a psychological difference, sharp listening skills, and the ability to give a persuasive presentation.

Overview

  • Everybody sells something, whether it is a product, a service, a philosophy, an idea, or even oneself on a job interview.
  • Training in public speaking and advanced presentation skills is an important component in self-development and will also help ensure greater success within a selling environment.
  • The Three-to-Five-Company rule reminds us that we constantly must be aware that most buyers or decision makers will consider between three and five competitors during the same period that they are considering us.
  • People buy people, and your presentation reflects who you are.
  • Tenacity, creativity, time, and perseverance—combined with a dazzling presentation—spell "fierce competitor" in today's market.
  • There is a big difference between earning business and buying business.
  • The three simple characteristics of top producers are (1) the psychological difference, (2) great listening skills, and (3) excellent presentation skills.
  • We always remember a great speaker, but we also remember someone else—the terrible speaker. Who are we most likely to forget? The person who gives an average presentation—the one that was just fine.

Next: Now that we have given you a general overview of how important it is to develop strong presentation skills, in the next chapter we will look at one of the most common mistakes people make in giving a talk—winging it.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2001

    Well done.....A Lot of Great Selling Tips

    I ordered this book from BN.com a few weeks ago and read it on my last sales trip. I actually used some of Sjodin's tips on a call at an account. Her presentation ideas are superb and even for an old sales 'dog' like me, I picked up some great ideas. The book is well worth the investment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2001

    Close more Sales , Make more Money

    As a professional sales person with over 25 years of experience I am always interested in learning what others think about the sales process. I must say that this book did give me ideas and insights that made an impact on my sales success. Knowing what mistakes we are making and taking action to correct them is something I have seem many salespeople fail to do. Ms. Sjodin makes this an easy read and provides the insight needed for any sales person who wants to get better to do so. If you sell and you want to sell more or if you don't currently sell but want to start selling this book should be the first one you read.

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