If you sound scripted or slick, your audience will begin to distrust you or your message. In these difficult and uncertain times, the ability to build and communicate trust is absolutely critical.
Once upon a time...
We all loved those words as children because we knew we were going to hear a story. Last night, I attended an excellent program - Harnessing the Power of Story to Lead Change.
The speaker, Judy Rosemarin, asked the audience "What is your 'humaway' story?" Just like we leave a theater and start humming the theme song, a message tends to stick in the minds of the listeners when we tell stories. The best public speakers are storytellers.
Some speakers are known for their signature stories. The audience loves to hear the same story over and over because it resonates with them. Stories build trust, create emotional impact, and improve retention. Stories are not just for public speakers but stories serve as a leadership tool. They can help you deliver bad news and lessen the blow.
Judy recounted a situation where a company was going to downsize. The leader began his presentation by telling a story about pruning a tree. Branches needed to be trimmed in order for it to grow. When he finished his story, he transitioned to the pruning of the organization. While people were not happy about the loss in headcount, they understood the big picture.
In networking meetings, people deliver their elevator pitch. This is a statement or a snippet. A more powerful way to introduce your company is with a success story. Stories create a safe haven and create an intimacy. When two people meet they can share themselves through their stories. As Ms. Rosemarin explained, "The shortest distance between two people is a story."
I was in line for a sample sale on Fifth Avenue in New York. While I was waiting to get into the showroom, a woman came up to me and asked if she could talk to me about a new product. She began by holding a small purple bottle in her hand. She told me the company was launched a year ago and the founder was a modern day Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City). She pontificated about the founder's fashion background, her love of New York City and a desire to combine beauty products and fashion. As I listened I noticed the young woman was wearing shades and I couldn't see her eyes. This created a disconnect for me. Although it was sunny we were standing in the shade. I couldn't connect with her.
She talked about the product creams that were made from pearls and silk and were an all-in-one cosmetic. As the blathering continued, a mild ennui enveloped me. I wondered when she would get to the point. I didn't know what she wanted from me. Finally the verbal vomiting came to a halt. She asked "Would you like to be on our mailing list?" My knee jerk response? "No. Not without a sample."
She had to be kidding. What possible benefit could I derive from that offer? It wasn't even an offer. It was a taking.
So what was wrong with this presentation?
There was no connection. She should have removed her shades to make contact. We connect through the eyes. The presentation was speaker-centered- not listener-centered. Asking me a couple of questions about my skin care needs would have been a lot more effective. And she should have given out samples and then talked about results. At the very least, she could have opened the bottle she was holding and poured a few drops on my hand. This woman went on too long about the founder. Who cares? Do you buy Revlon because you like Charles Revson? If your goal is to build a database you need to entice people with an offer that they care about. There wasn't even a card with a website address.
I always say, "Life is a presentation and everyone is a public speaker." I guess the presenter forgot about that.
So what do you think is the biggest mistake in sales presentations?
- Selling features instead of benefits?
- Talking too much and not listening?
- Not knowing the product?
In a recent presentation, Ron Karr, of Karr Associates, Inc. and author of Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way, asked the audience, "What are you selling?" People responded by calling out their products and services. Ron went on to say that one of the biggest mistakes in sales is selling the "how" instead of the "what". "You're selling outcomes", declared Ron. He challenged the audience to get clear about the outcomes their audience or clients receive from them. The outcome he presents to his audience is to "sell more in less time." He went on to explain, "Most people spend 70% of their time talking about what they do when they should be spending 60% of their time in first impressions and qualifying.
As with all presentations, it first begins with mindset. How do you think of yourself in relation to your audience? Are you an expert? A peer? A trusted adviser? Ron recommended that people begin to position themselves as a resource. Selling is self-focused but a resource is customer-focused.
Whether you're selling a product, or giving a status update, good presenters live by WIIFM-What's in it for me? They know that the audience cares only about one thing-their own self interests. In other words, it's all about outcomes.