Shallow breathing? Sweaty palms? Shaky hands? If you experience these symptoms when you give a presentation or perhaps just get a little nervous, these top 10 tips for giving a great sales presentation will help you improve your presentation skills and overcome your fear of public speaking.
1. Know your audience
One of the best ways to improve your presentation skills is to prepare beforehand. Find out as much as you can about your audience before you arrive for the presentation. What departments do they represent? Are they likely to be supportive of your proposal or against it? What are their key issues?
If you already have a contact in the business, they should be able to provide this background information. After all, if they are sponsoring your presentation, it is in their interests for it to be successful.
2. Tailor your sales presentation to your audience
Armed with the appropriate background information, pick out pieces of your presentation to highlight to your audience. You should take the opportunity to relate particular product/service benefits to the needs of an individual in the audience.
Individuals in the audience are likely to be far more engaged with your presentation if it is relevant to them.
3. Familiarise yourself with your presentation
- a. Don’t read out what is on a slide for your audience – they they can do that for themselves! Instead, put each point into your own words and elaborate where necessary (with an example) to reinforce the point.
- b. If using printed handouts, be able to refer to a specific page without having to check.
- c. Check your sales presentation materials for typos and factual errors – and then check again!
- d. Prepare answers to the questions and objections you think you will receive during the presentation.
4. Arrive early for your presentation
- a. Plan your journey and find out where to park.
- b. Allow enough time to sign-in at reception and walk to the meeting room.
- c. Ensure that you know how all the presentation equipment works. There is nothing worse than spending the first 10 minutes of a sales presentation trying to get a projector working that you are not familiar with, whilst the audience watches you ‘corpse’!
- d. Try to meet any friendly contacts in advance of your presentation and make small talk. This will relax you and give you the opportunity to find out the ‘latest news’ on your customer.
5. Use relevant presentation aids
- a. Keep PowerPoint slides to a minimum and edit the presentation in advance to ensure that you only show relevant slides.
- b. Vary the sales aids during the presentation by using a flip chart or whiteboard to make a particular point…but rehearse it first!
6. Opening the presentation
- a. Introduce yourself and tell the audience briefly about your relevant experience.
- b. Explain the aim of your sales presentation and check with the audience that this is what they are expecting and if they would like information on any other sales topics.
- c. Consider using humour (self-deprecating is always safe) if appropriate to the occasion, but avoid the usual pitfalls such as politics or religion. Humour can help to relax both the audience and you.
7. During the presentation
- a. If practical, move around the room – don’t stand rigidly behind a lectern.
- b. Maintain eye contact with your audience. Focus on individuals around the room but take care not to ‘stare’ at the same individual.
- c. Adopt a nice open stance with relaxed hands.
- d. Vary the tone of your voice and the speed at which you talk.
- e. Watch your audience for signs of unease or disinterest. If you notice signs that your audience are agitated or bored, ask them if they have a concern or a question.
8. Take questions at the end of your presentation
- a. Thank the audience for giving you the opportunity to present to them.
- b. Ask the audience if there is anything you have missed or anything they would disagree with.
- c. If appropriate, check what happens next or if there is anything more that you can do.
9. Leave behind presentation/promotional materials
Consider leaving your audience with some presentation/promotional materials, such as a copy of your slides along with your contact information and hand it to them as they leave the room.
10. Request feedback
Ask your sponsor how they thought the presentation went and for any feedback they might have for you. This is one of the most effective tips for improving your presentation skills.
About the author
Richard Claessens is an experienced sales professional and a Director of Ontrac Training. He has sold a diverse selection of products over the last 35 years including machine tools, directory advertising, websites and business services and managed salespeople at all levels. In his spare time he volunteers as a qualified athletics coach at his local Club.