The Secret to Successful Sales Presentations: Leave Nothing to Chance

Matthew Paine

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As I pack my bag for a sales trip, I load what I consider to be essentials:

  • Advil, Excedrin and allergy medication for on-the-road aches, pains and congestion;
  • Extra shoelaces in black, brown and white (for my running shoes);
  • Black shoe polish to give my dress shoes an extra sparkle;
  • Buttons and sewing kit for quick apparel repairs;
  • The remote I will use to advance the slides and extra batteries to power it; and
  • Cords, plugs and adaptors for every conceivable outlet and connection.

Consider me obsessive to be carrying around a traveling CVS store? I’d rather think of it as being prepared for anything.

Matt Paine GWG
Matthew Paine

For me, preparation and practice are the most important aspects of the sales process. The two disciplines go hand-in-hand: practicing a task over and over is an essential part of the preparation that gives you the confidence to focus on the task ahead.

Practice may not make perfect. Perfection, in my opinion, is a life-long pursuit that will never be achieved but something I am always striving to achieve. But, practice prepares you and allows you to anticipate and avoid mistakes that can sabotage a great presentation.

In my preparation, I apply the philosophy that “the bus that kills you is the one you don’t see.” I want to anticipate any issue I may face whether it’s an unusual connector for a projector, a dimly lit room or a tear in my pants. Often, those little issues can become nagging distractions that can throw you off your game. Some people may think of this as a distraction in itself, but I don’t look at it that way. Going over every element prior to my presentation from equipment and room logistics to my introduction to the close of the actual presentation means there are no surprises and distractions.

Practice is the flipside to this strategy. I believe in taking the approach the pros use: while amateurs practice to get it right, the pros continue to practice to not get it wrong. The key word in the last sentence is continue. Consider the pro football player who practices and studies films for hours each day during the season, all for what can be less than 10 minutes of playing time a week. They work that hard to be unconsciously competent at the incredible physical tasks they perform in each game. When your reputation is on the line, as it is in every interaction you have, you don’t ever want to leave anything to chance.

Consider me obsessive to be carrying around a traveling CVS store? I’d rather think of it as being prepared for anything.

Matthew Paine

It pains me to watch “experts” in our industry present information to audiences and stumble during their presentations or simply give a poor performance. Your clients deserve your “A” game every time. Any time you aren’t giving your best, you are doing an injustice to yourself and your clients. You need to ask yourself: Why do you continue NOT to practice your presentations regularly? Why do you NOT take the time to prepare and practice your client meetings regularly?

Here are some preparation and practice tips for you to consider that can keep you on your game:

  • Set aside time to rehearse that won’t interfere with your business routine. I rehearse my presentations when I’m out running. If you’re not a runner, the car is a great place to practice. It’s a contained space that, during drive time, can be a perfect environment to work out the kinks of a presentation and pitch.
  • Practice in front of people who don’t know the subject matter and take their feedback seriously. This forces you to move away from the jargon and acronyms so many use as a way to sound smarter than they really are.
  • Record your practice sessions on your phone and play them back to find the places you can make improvements. Think about how you come across when you’re presenting – you should project energy and confidence in presentation. That is enhanced by smiling, making eye contact with your listeners, and varying your pace to emphasize important points. Keep the length of your presentation to the most important actionable information and use extra time for questions and answers.
  • Clear your schedule 15-20 minutes prior to a meeting and don’t overbook yourself with back-to-back meetings that can sap your energy. It’s better to have five great meetings per day than eight mediocre meetings.
  • Try to never walk into a room cold, not knowing what the sight lines look like, how it sounds and how close the audience is to you. If it’s a conference, check out other presenters to see what works and, as important, what doesn’t.
  • Over-research your audience and think through your responses to all the ways the conversation can go.
  • Always arrive early to a meeting and follow the UCLA coach John Wooden direction: Be quick, but don’t hurry.

In the end, the equation is this: full preparation plus practice equals confidence. The more confident you are in your presentation, the more effective your presentation will be and the easier it will be to make the sale. That’s the best return on investment for your time and energy you can make. So, get started!

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