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It’s every sales pro’s worst nightmare. You’ve worked so hard to get this group of decision makers in a room with you and now...well, it’s all gone wrong! Maybe you were too nervous or flustered, maybe your technology let you down, or maybe you just pitched the whole thing wrong - whatever the reason, you’re in trouble!
When sales presentations go wrong, the most common response is to just get to the end slide as quickly as possible and take your leave. But doing so is not going to help your sales figures. Read on to learn how to fix an awful sales presentation and actually turn it around.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Rule one comes down to preparation: never be too reliant on technology. Even the most expensive tech or software can sometimes let you down. So always come prepared with a back-up plan so that if it’s just going to be you and no slides/videos/images/demos, you’ve still got something meaningful and persuasive to say.
Take a Pause and Breathe
Please understand that “bravely” soldiering on ‘til the end of your slide deck will win you no friends. Taking a pause is not giving up, in fact, it’s the best thing you can do when your sales pitch takes a nosedive. Take a sip of water, breathe and consider for a moment where it’s all gone wrong. If it’s the technology or the nerves that’s thrown you off your game, give yourself a strong talking to and get a hold of yourself. If it’s something more major, like you misjudged what the company wanted or you’re boring them to death, you’ve got to get creative and think on your feet. Remember, it’s ok not to go through every slide in your deck. Slow down and stick to what’s important: how your product will add value to their business.
Address The Audience Directly
No, not to apologise or make an excuse. No-one wants to hear you say “I’m sorry, but my laptop just gave out,” or “I apologise that this is a little long but there’s so much to cover.” You might think that apologising will warm the audience to you but, in fact, what it actually does is create an even more negative, awkward atmosphere. It also positions you as a victim rather than the confident and assured professional from whom they’d be willing to buy. What you should do instead is address the audience to ask them a question. If they’re falling asleep in their chairs, you need to grab their attention and get them involved. Say something like, “I’d just like to take a moment to hear your thoughts: what’s one question you came here with that you’d really like to hear the answer to today?” By doing this, not only do you deflect from the disaster that might be occurring up on the podium, you’re giving yourself a chance to restart and refocus on what’s important.
Go Off Script with an Anecdote
Another way to turn around an awful presentation is to look up from your notes and tell an off-script anecdote. Not only do anecdotes help you build rapport with the audience, they are so much more engaging than reading off a slideshow. Try a real-life example of how your product has helped another business in a similar situation or use an analogy to relate the situation they are into something you’ve personally experienced. Take your time and try to relax. Doing so will create a more personal connection between you and your audience and get them on your side.
Refocus on Them and Not on Your Product
The most important thing to remember when giving a sales presentation is it should be all about them: their business, their business pain, the solution they need. The reason that you are there at all is that you have something that could potentially change their world for the better. If you’re overly nervous, think of your presentation in terms of providing them with a solution: you’re there to help them and improve their business. If what you’re saying is not resonating, always refocus back on them. People love to talk about themselves, so ask a question like “What’s the biggest challenge you face in the day to day running of your business?” or “What’s one thing that would make your life easier?” If you spend the remainder of your presentation in conversation with them about their business and the solutions that your product can provide, that’s a ginormous win!
It’s disheartening and disappointing when sales presentations don’t go to plan but you always have the chance to leave a positive impression through your resourcefulness. And remember, if things get left out, that’s just another reason for you to follow-up! Learn how to improve your presentation skills with CPSA’s Professional Selling training.
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