Sales Presentations

5 Ways to Keep Your Sales Team Focused on Improving their Presentation Skills

Last week I received a call from a sales manager whose team we worked with last year. He wanted a presentation skills “refresher” for his salespeople because their presentations were getting “sloppy” again. These were the same salespeople who did extremely well during our training class one year ago, but over the months they had gradually slid back into old habits. Granted, they were still “pretty good” in terms of their skills. But the manager wanted them to be great again.

While this is certainly frustrating for the sales manager, it is understandable. After all, salespeople have a lot to balance between prospecting, selling, client follow-up, and all the other things they must do in a day. With so much on their plate, they often let things like speech preparation slide to the back burner. Unfortunately, the result is that their presentations don’t always hit the mark, and they may look ill-prepared in front of prospects and clients.

From the manager’s standpoint, though, he’s not happy. He wants his team to shine. He’s invested time and money to train them, and he knows they have aptitude and skills to deliver successful presentations to their customers. And while he knows that doing things like prospecting and client support are important, he also wants them to find the time to keep their presentation skills up-to-date so they communicate effectively and consistently deliver high quality presentations.

We talk a lot about Continuous Learning in our programs, but it requires more than simply filling out a worksheet. Salespeople have the best intentions, especially in a training class, but they need help to realize their goals and it’s often the sales manager who can provide that level of support. So what can a sales manager do to stir things up, enlist everyone’s commitment, and keep the team motivated so they can perform at a high level?

Here are five tips for keeping your sales team focused on improving their presentation skills:

  1. Plan for continuous learning: Part of the challenge of continuous learning is staying focused. It’s easy to set goals but it’s difficult to follow through and actually achieve them. That’s why support and accountability are important. I recommend having everyone on your team create a three-month presentation skills action plan. Set aside time during staff meetings so everyone can share their action plan with the team, get feedback from others, and then refine the action plan as needed.
  2. Pair up for progress: The buddy system works. Have people pair up and commit to working with a partner for the duration of the action plan. Encourage the “pairs” to find creative ways to help and challenge each other. For example, they can listen to each other on phone calls and give feedback, or they can practice the same skill for one week and make it a point to catch each other doing it well.
  3. Use audio and video: We have more than enough technology options to keep us on track. For example, encourage salespeople to use their cell phone, tablet, or video camera for video/audio feedback. During playback, have them analyze themselves. How do they sound? Clear, organized, and passionate … or boring, monotonous, and rambling? Watching short clips of yourself as you prepare or present will give you good feedback on your body language and facial expression. Another idea is to have them transcribe their calls or use a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking to have their voice presentation turned into text. This is a great way for them to analyze their vocal skills, count their fillers (“um,” “ahh,” etc.), and check their vocabulary and word choice.
  4. Develop a resource file: Collect effective hooks, touch points, (stories, metaphors, examples, facts, statistics, humorous comments, etc.) and final thoughts that everyone on your team can use. This is a great way to “share the wealth” and ensure consistency.
  5. Use regular staff meetings: Take advantage of regular staff meetings for giving formal feedback. For example, use your status meeting every Monday, your bi-monthly presentations, or your all-hands meetings as a platform for skill development. Have people take turns giving a presentation at the meeting and getting feedback on their presentation from others. Use audio or video to record the presentations.

No matter how busy people are, continuous learning is possible. When everyone works together for the betterment of the team, staying focused on improving your presentation skills is possible … and relatively simple. Even better, when this philosophy becomes part of your company’s culture, new hires will be up-to-speed much quicker. So implement these 5 strategies today and watch your sales team’s presentation skills (and closing ratios) soar.

How to Torture a Telemarketer

Listening to my husband on the phone with a telemarketer is like watching a cat play with a mouse. You know the outcome is inevitable, and you can clearly see the mouse dangling limp in the mouth of the satisfied cat. But the process—the swatting back and forth, the jabs, the pokes, the pins to the ground and the final capture—is yet to come. The cat could just pounced on the mouse and kill it in one swift blow. But no. The cat likes to show off, to have fun, to prey. In the same way, when a telemarketer calls, you could act swiftly by closing down the call with such statements as, “It’s not a good time,” “We’re in the middle of dinner,” or “I’m not interested in what you are selling.” Or you could just hang up. In fact, many people do just that when they are irritated by disruptive telemarketers who always manage to call at the most inopportune time. But not my husband. He doesn’t hang up. He is more like the cat. Just as many people enjoy cocktail hour before dinner, we enjoy our little ritual called Torture the Telemarketer.

I can always tell when there’s a telemarketer on the line, as my husband holds the phone in a sort of dangling way and listens intently to the pitch. And while he listens with such interest, they think they have the sale. But this is really just the first swat.

Then he repeats back what he has heard the telemarketer say, but in two seconds rather than a minute, and it sounds something like this, “So, if I understand you correctly, you want me to re-sign up for a service I’ve been extremely dissatisfied with for the last two years. Is that correct?” Dead silence on the other end of the phone. The jab.\

“And because you’re making a ‘special offer’ I should be pleased? Is that right?” I can hear the discomfort across the room and the caller scramble to recover. Does the telemarketer want to continue the call or hang up? Though their instinct may be shouting, “danger” they are well trained and plunge forward on automatic pilot. The poke.

Then my husband delivers the final tortured tutorial.

“Did you ever think of asking me if this was a good time for this call? Did you think of asking for permission to have this conversation? Do you have any idea of what is important to me? Do you know what I want?” The pin to the ground.

Then…the final capture:

“Let me take down your phone number so I can give you a call at home during your dinner and ask you a series of meaningless questions and talk to you at a speed you can hardly understand and try to sell you something you don’t want. What do you think about that? Now, would you like to start over or should we end this call now?”

The telemarketer’s response is always the same: “Have a good evening sir.” Click

And my husband is the only person on the planet who is actually offended when the telemarketer hangs up on him!

While you may think there’s nothing you can learn from a telemarketer, the fact is that they are giving a presentation via phone. So here is some advice for telemarketers (and everyone else for that matter):

  • Before giving your pitch, ask permission. A simple, “Is this a good time to talk?” is courteous way to begin.
  • Ask a few meaningful questions to uncover the customer’s needs and listen carefully to their responses.
  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves, as any selling situation can be stressful.
  • Speak slowly and if reading a script practice until it sounds natural.
  • Take “no” gracefully. Don’t be pushy and keep trying to sell, sell, sell once the person has given you a clear answer.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Although people may be annoyed to get a sales pitch when they didn’t initiate one, in the end they are rejecting your product or service, not you as a person.

Above all else, don’t call our house during dinner…unless, of course, you want to end up like the poor mouse dangling from the mouth of the hungry cat. Meow!