5 Sales Role-Play Tips for Success from the Theater

Sales Role-play

Sales Reps hate to role-play. But you knew that, right?  Done well, role-play can be an exceptionally powerful tool in helping sales reps master communication skills and navigate many  changes in products, customers, and competition they continually face.  Unfortunately, approaching it with a gallows-like resolve as most sales reps do, limits the opportunity to get the real transformative benefits that role-play can produce.  What Sales Role-play Tips can help? Look no farther than your local theater.  Stages across the world consistently churn out winning performances using role-play as their primary tool.  Applying a few fundamentals from the theater to your sales role-play will greatly increase your sales reps’ understanding and confidence in the process and provide them with valuable insights they can apply immediately in the field. 5 Sales Role-play Tips for Success from the Theater: Clarify expectations.  Making sure everyone is clear about the goal of the role-play is key.  Keep Read More

Presentation Myths Busted

7 Presentation Myths – Busted! Get the Facts Before Your Presentation

A lot of advice on giving a presentation has been floating around since fax machines and uninformed buyers roamed the Earth.  Some of these presentation myths are urban legends, and some have simply reached their expiration date. Regardless of their source, these practices are capable of derailing your presentation, damaging your credibility, and causing your audience to tune out.

Like the popular television show Myth Busters, (No, your microwave will not blow up if you microwave a metal bowl!) I set out to “Bust” or “Confirm” some of the more common presentation myths I hear today.

7 Presentation Myths Busted

1.  All presentations should follow the 10-20-30 Rule  BUSTED

This widely quoted advice from Guy Kawasaki states that no presentation should use more than 10 slides, last longer than 20 minutes or use less than a 30 pt type.  In my experience, bad presentations can have three slides or 103 slides. They can be 10 minutes long or an hour. While this “rule” is rooted in selective facts (average attention span of about 20 minutes) it doesn’t take into account that you can actually “reset” that attention span to keep audience engagement high. Good news for presenters with more complex solutions!

Ultimately it is not the number of slides or minutes that determine whether a presentation is good or bad.  It’s the quality of those slides (All bullet points? Stock images?), how they’re presented (are you reading them to your audience? Are you interacting with them?) and whether that presentation is structured to align with audience attention spans.

Read more about maintaining attention in your presentation here.

2.  Never turn your back on your audience BUSTED

Of course you don’t want to have your back to your audience for an extended period of time, but a strict adherence to this old wives tale leads to all sorts of unnatural behavior.  I’ve seen presenters do weird cha-cha movements across the stage to avoid baring their back.  Or conversely, presenters remain tethered to their laptop or podium like a dog on a chain. If your movement is purposeful (i.e., to get somewhere), take the most direct route possible and be sure your back is not to your audience when you’re delivering a key message.

3.  The first 2-3 minutes of your presentation are the most important.  CONFIRMED

Research and Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen, agree with me here.  People form first impressions very quickly (7-15 seconds!), and those first impressions determine how people listen to you and perceive you.  Therefore it’s absolutely critical that you get your opening right.  According to The Charisma Myth: ‘CEO’s and HR pros admit they’ll decide whether to hire someone in the first few seconds.”  Spending a little extra time on your opening to make sure it truly reflects your message and your prospect’s best interests, has a major impact on the outcome of your presentation.

4.  Start your presentation by telling your audience about yourself and your company.  BUSTED

If #3 is true then #4 must be false.  Talking about yourself is not the highest and best use of those first few minutes. Start with something of interest to your prospect, like an insight into the problem you’re there to solve, or a preview of a potential benefit your solution delivers.  Get rid of the company overview.  It is highly unlikely that you and your company are a complete mystery to your audience.  Studies show that B2B buyers do up to 2/3 of their research before even contacting a company.  Don’t use those valuable first few minutes regurgitating what your audience likely already knows!

5.  Too much practice will make you appear phony.  BUSTED

Of all the presentation myths, this is perhaps the silliest. Presentations are one of the few crafts where practice is given a bad rap.  Imagine telling Michael Phelps to spend less time in the pool!  Proper practice gives you the skills and the confidence you need to focus on your audience during your presentation. What makes presenters appear phony is not practice, but “poor practice.”  If you practice any skill incorrectly you will simply reinforce already ineffective behaviors. Want to ensure your practice correctly and improve dramatically?  Practice with an experienced coach.

6.  Never read from your slides BUSTED

Blasphemy, I know!  But hear me out:  While most of the time you should NOT be reading your slides, there is an important exception to this rule.  If your slide has a short  (1-2 sentences) quote, statistic or key statement on it, go ahead and read it along with your audience. They’ll be reading it anyway. And this practice keeps you from the temptation to jump ahead and talk about something else while your audience is still reading from the slide.

7.  Close with Q&A.  BUSTED

When you save Q&A for the end of your presentation you relinquish control of how (and when) your presentation ends.  What if you get a question you can’t answer or one that incites negative discussion? Or, what if an audience member keeps the rest of the group hostage with a barrage of questions? Instead of leaving your audience with a strong, closing message that inspires them to move on to the next step, they remember the negative experience.

Take control of your closing and end the party on time with this method.

Don’t let these and other Presentation Myths keep you from getting your message across to your prospects.  Make the most of those hard-won customer-facing moments by getting my monthly Presentation Spotlight Newsletter with critical tips and tactics!

A Wake-up Call for Presenters from The Ig Nobel Prize

Wake up call for presenters

Imagine being just two minutes into your presentation and someone in your audience announces, “Please stop, I’m bored.” This is precisely what happens each year at the Ig Nobel’s ceremony at Harvard.  This much-anticipated awards ceremony honors the most unusual achievements in science, medicine and technology.  2016 winners included a Japanese team whose study concluded that “things look different when viewed from between your legs,” and a German team who discovered that “if you have an itch on one side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the opposite side of your body.” (I can’t wait to try this one out!) The Ig Nobel Prize is put on by the Annals of Improbable Research to spur curiosity and help people decide for themselves what’s important and what’s not.  A decision that audiences do all the time during any presentation. Like most things about Read More

Presentation Power Tools: Time to break the PowerPoint habit?

Presentation Power Tools, Alternatives to PowerPoint

This is part of my Presentation Power Tools Series.  Stay tuned as I I test drive some of the hottest new tools for creating and delivering powerful presentations and demos! Habits are tough to break.  Like a lot of salespeople, I’ve had a long, love/hate relationship with PowerPoint. Despite the many frustrations — limited graphics and designs, clunky files, and a propensity toward text boxes and bullet points —  it’s been the vehicle of choice for presenters for the past few decades.  And while features have been added over the years, like cloud access and better collaboration tools, PowerPoint’s inventor summed up both the tool’s strength and it’s fatal flaw in one sentence: “PowerPoint itself has probably changed less than the world around it has changed in twenty-five years.” Robert Gaskin, PowerPoint inventor Let’s face it, a heck of a lot has changed in the world around us, especially when Read More

Bad Presentation Advice…and What to do Instead (Part 1)

bad presentation advice

Part of what I do as a presentation coach often involves helping salespeople unlearn bad presentation advice they’ve adopted over the years.  Some of this advice is simply dated, handed down from a time when prospects relied on salespeople to provide them with all their information, or when attention spans were greater than that of a goldfish.  Some of it is advice rooted in good intentions but morphed over the years into more of an “old wives tale” than good advice. Bad advice is not only ineffective, but it can do real damage to a presenter’s credibility and cause audience tune out. Both of which can lower your chances of success.  I’ve compiled a list of  the top offenders I still hear being bandied about in sales and provide some alternatives for what to do instead. Bad Presentation Advice …and What to do Instead “Never turn your back on your Read More

The 2 Secret Sales Weapons You Already Have (and aren’t using!)

Secret weapons

Question:  Two actors are auditioning for one role.  Both are equally qualified and both read from the same script. Yet only one actor wins the role while the other goes home empty handed. Why? Answer:  You may have answered something like:  “the winning actor brought personality to the role, he had charisma, he made the audience feel the lines.”  But whatever your answer was, I bet it didn’t have anything to do with the words he used! This is not unlike what happens in a sales presentation or demo. Many vendor presentations use the same words and even scripts as their competitors.  Things get blurry for our customers — especially as differences between products and services get smaller and buying cycles lengthen.  So while a well-crafted message is a critical component of your presentation, don’t rely on your content to do all the heavy lifting by overlooking the tools right Read More

5 Minute Presentation Tips (Audio): How to Avoid Drowning your Prospect in Features

How to avoid feature spray in your presentation

Got 5 minutes?  Find out 5 ways to avoid drowning your prospect in features in your presentation or demo by listening to this quick MP3 recording: How to Avoid Drowning your Prospect in Features – in less than 5 Minutes! Click on link below to listen to the recording: 5 Ways to Avoid Drowning your Prospect in Features (MP3)   You might find the following posts helpful as well: How to Highlight Value in your Presentation or Demo The Anatomy of a Boring Presentation Sales

Audience Engagement: The Holy Grail of Sales Presentations

Holy Grail of Sales Presentations

 It can feel like a “win” just to be able to get in front of busy decision-makers to present your product or solution today. But in sales, that’s just the beginning. In order to move prospects to take action, you need to do more than get an audience and talk through your slides.  You need to engage and interact with that audience .  There’s a lot of chatter about audience “engagement”, but what does it really mean? Here’s a good definition: Engagement: emotional involvement or commitment I’m sure you have a strong logical case for why your prospect should buy your solution.  I bet your competitor does too.  But research shows that most purchases are made on emotion and justified by logic.  Emotion trumps logic, which is why we should all be unwavering in our quest for audience engagement. Audience Engagement: The Holy Grail of Sales Presentations Not only are Read More

Applying the KISS Principle to your presentation

KISS Principle

There’s a disturbing trend among many presenters to pack in as much information as possible in to a presentation or demo, especially as solutions get more complex and face time with prospects more condensed. While it seems like you may be maximizing your allotted time, the effects of too much information can be just as deadly as too little information.  Applying the KISS principle to your presentation (keep it simple stupid) is as important today as it’s ever been. Research shows that most people can remember about three things – and that may be pushing it. Like you, your prospect is bombarded with information on a daily basis.  In fact, the average adult receives about 3000 messages per day!  But of course you have more than three things you want to get across, so what’s the answer? Most presentations try to emphasize too many points, which often has the effect Read More

3 Powerful Ways to Sell Against the Status Quo in your Presentation

challenge the status quo

Your presentation goes well, your business audience is receptive and impressed with your capabilities, and then . . . nothing.  The deal stalls. Surprise! You lost out to your biggest competitor, the Status Quo. As organizations become more risk adverse, solutions more complex and decisions impact a variety of areas, not taking action or staying with the status quo, i.e., “the way things are now,” – no matter how flawed that may be – is a choice more and more prospects are making. Salespeople who don’t recognize the powerful draw of “doing nothing” and develop a plan for how to sell against the status quo  in their presentation or demo are often caught off guard and fail miserably against this formidable foe. Change is difficult for many people.  In fact, there are 205,000 books on change. Number one? Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. (Chip and Dan Heath) Read More