Make a strong sales presentation

By Brad Douglas, Shipley Associates

You can learn to create interest in your sales plan presentation. In the age of "Wow!" marketing and advertising, it's important to make your presentation unique and audience focused. Although a strong sales plan presentation won't ensure sales success, it builds credibility and support to help you reach sales objectives and quotas. The following techniques can help:

  • Deliver your presentation with power.
  • Design your message based on your listeners' needs and expectations.
  • Use the State-Support-Summarize (S-S-S) formula to move your listeners to action.

Deliver with power

Research confirms that listeners process information based on both verbal and nonverbal messages. To present a strong message, you must focus on both of these aspects of communication. The following data indicates the power of nonverbal messages:

  • Visual    Gestures, movement, and expression make up 55% of your message.
  • Vocal    How you say the words makes up 38% of your message.
  • Verbal    Your actual word choice makes up just 7% of your message.

As you see, 93% of the content of a presentation is conveyed nonverbally through visual and vocal elements of the presentation.

Visual communication

Gestures can have a huge impact on presentation success.

Avoid the following gestures.

Woman with hands behind back Man with hands crossed below belt Man with hands in pockets
Parade Rest Fig Leaf Hands in Pockets

Try the following gestures.

Man with left palm up Woman with palms crossed above waist Man with left palm vertical, right hand in pocket
All of Us We Are Gathered Open Hand

Vocal communication

How you present your sales plan is the second most critical strategy for ensuring that your presentation has an impact on listeners. Key aspects of your vocal approach include:

  • Boosting the volume    Often a sales presenter speaks too softly. Most listeners won't put a lot of effort into straining to hear the presenter. Speak loudly enough so that everyone can hear your message.
  • Varying the pace    One of the most powerful yet overlooked sales presentation tools is silence. A pause can be very powerful. In fact, the lack of appropriate pauses is the single largest cause of "uh"s and "um"s. Hint: When practicing your sales plan presentation, have someone tap a water glass each time you say an "uh" or an "um" so that you become aware of how often you use these interjections. (You might go crazy, but you'll stop doing it.)
  • Varying your pitch    Avoid monotone delivery by adding up and down intonations to your presentation. Begin speaking in your normal vocal range and return to it often, but don't let it be the constant pitch of your presentation. Hint: Although it might be a bit painful for you to hear, record your sales plan presentation when practicing it, and then listen to the recording, paying special attention to your vocal pitch throughout.

Verbal communication

Choose your words carefully, and avoid the temptation to include fluff in your sales plan presentation. Although the verbal aspect of a presentation has the least impact, it can turn off a listener surprisingly quickly. Here are a few tips for making your words work for you rather than against you:

  • Use the active voice    You can make your sales plan presentation more credible by using the active voice rather than the passive voice. For example:
    • Active: "We missed our goal by 15% ..."
    • Passive: "Our goal was missed by 15% ..."

Using the active voice communicates your point much more effectively.

  • Use lists    Listeners retain your message better if you organize the content into lists or key points.
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon    One trap to avoid is the overuse of acronyms and jargon. Your audience might perceive such terms as fluff or buzzwords and as a smokescreen for your real sales message.

Design the presentation for your listeners

While preparing your sales plan presentation, consider three key elements of the message:

  • What do you want your audience to do?
  • What do you want your audience to know?
  • How do you want your audience to feel?

If you keep these elements in mind, your message will be both listener focused and persuasive.

Here's how to address those three crucial elements:

  • Do    Many sales plan presentations are intended to persuade management to support some type of initiative, such as creating growth, expanding into new markets, or improving solution-delivery quality. Make sure that your audience has no doubt about what you want them to do as a result of your presentation.
  • Know    Any sales plan presentation contains elements that are merely informational. Make sure your audience knows what they need to remember from your presentation. Make the main points clear, and provide adequate supporting information.
  • Feel    The tone of your presentation is critical but often overlooked. Too often, sales plan presentations convey an unintentional sense of arrogance — the "look what I accomplished" syndrome. At other times, presentations can sound whiny — providing excuses for why goals and objectives cannot be or have not been met. Your goal should be to create a feeling throughout your talk that matches the "do" and "know" objectives.

Use the S-S-S formula to move listeners to action

As you design your presentation, develop both a strong opening and a powerful closing. After your opening, preview your main points and then provide enough specific information to support your message.

The following S-S-S formula helps your listeners retain important information and prompts them to act:

  • State    State your main points clearly and concisely.
  • Support    Provide enough supporting information to address your listeners' needs adequately.
  • Summarize    Summarize each main point of your message.

Strong presentations lead to success

A sales presentation plan should be well thought out with a balance of hard data and persuasion. You should be creative within the guidelines of your organization's culture and style. Using both verbal and nonverbal techniques while focusing on what you want the listeners to do, know, and feel helps ensure a successful outcome.

About the author     Brad Douglas is Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Shipley Associates, a professional services company focusing on sales and business development consulting, training, and process improvement.

Applies to:
PowerPoint 2003