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  • Guest Post by Terri Sjodin

THe THree Kinds of Presentations all workers should perfect

woman standing pointing to a board,   seated man with laptop watching

Selling can be challenging. But it is a mistake to think that the way to improve your closing ratio is to dump so much information on a listener that the person feels obligated to do business with you. (This is taken from an article from Fast Company- Click here to read the full article).

What we need to acknowledge is that while sales professionals might be seen as helpful when they communicate all this information, this strategy can also undermine their best efforts. Why? It doesn’t efficiently drive decision-making or conversion.

Some speakers find it far easier to deliver an informative presentation rather than a persuasive one. Sharing information simply feels less daunting. A manager, potential customer, friend, or neighborhood group is less likely to say no when listening to someone simply disseminating information. The problem is that they don’t typically say yes, either.

Professionals in need of results are best served when they craft presentations that are both persuasive and informative. Their talks create and identify needs rather than just covering the “standard needs analysis.” They think proactively, not reactively, and design presentations that anticipate buyer objections so they can overcome them before objections become reasons not to buy.

By design, sales professionals have intent and build arguments for why clients should work with them and their companies, and why working together is beneficial to the listener. Crafting a persuasive presentation can be challenging, but it is not impossible. It is a skill you can master.

There are three kinds of presentations: informative, persuasive, and ceremonial.

Informative. An informative presentation is objective. It is unbiased and promotes learning; it is cooperative rather than competitive. In an informative presentation, there is no action for the audience to take. The presenter’s intention is merely to educate. For example, if you’ve been tapped to present the findings of a research paper at a university banquet, your purpose is to inform the audience about the project, its key discoveries, and the results. Informative presentations promote audience understanding and foster cooperation by presenting a subject matter in an unbiased way.

Ceremonial. A ceremonial presentation appeals to values that are cherished by a group, and its intention is to provide a sense of communion with the audience. For example, it could be the toast made at a wedding by the best man or the lifetime achievement award acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. It is appropriate at a social gathering, a celebration, or a memorial.

Persuasive. A persuasive presentation, by design, has a specific intention. The speaker wants the listeners to act based on what they are hearing. This presentation is typically a transactional process and should provide choices to the listeners without duress. For example, if you are a sales professional for a cosmetics company speaking to a group of prospects, you will introduce yourself, explain why your product line is unique compared to your competitor’s, and state how the prospects can benefit and ultimately buy the products directly from you today.

When choosing from these three options, too many business professionals migrate toward the informative presentation any time they are meeting with clients and prospects. Instead of delivering a persuasive talk, they give an informative one. The informative speech or presentation is rarely the salesperson’s best option because the reality is that the data dump syndrome is a common pitfall.

If you want to figure out your listeners’ needs, spend some time thinking about all the problems decision-makers face. They may realize that they could use an offering like yours but lack sufficient motivation to buy it. In the process, if they do decide to buy, will they shop other providers? If so, will they return to you because you are the best fit for them?

In the past, the answer was to provide a grocery list of features and benefits to listeners for why they should work with you and your company. Selling on features and benefits alone is more difficult today, and it’s not compelling. In competitive markets, people purchase what they feel they need or what they really want. Unfortunately, a stand-alone features-and-benefits presentation rarely brings a strong sense of urgency. A presenter must identify listeners’ needs and craft situation-specific arguments to help prospects understand why they should consider buying your offering.

One vital tool for crafting a persuasive presentation is running your arguments through the “so what?” test. The easiest way to explain the “so what?” test is to put it into practice. Take Paul, for example. Paul has great contacts and sells advertising for an impressive and growing online magazine. When meeting with prospects, he likes to underscore that his company is number one in the space. They also have the largest reader base in the market and the lowest ad rates. But those accolades haven’t turned up many clients. Paul’s problem is that simply saying his company is number one doesn’t make it pass the “so what?” test for his clients.

Things that pass the “so what?” test typically focus on matters that keep people up at night. Salespeople often say, “Our company is number one,” “We really care!” “We’re the biggest,” and “We provide a lot of choices.” So what? What does that mean to me?

Quite simply, a speaker’s case, argument, or presentation must answer the following question for the listener: What does this mean to me? Superlatives—best, largest, oldest, newest, most popular—are wonderful in ceremonial speeches. They are less helpful when trying to persuade an audience or trying to convince listeners that they need what you are offering—unless you can prove it! All prospects have their own set of specific needs and preferences. They may not even know that a solution exists until you tell them. Practice using this bridge line: “What this means to you is . . .” You might have some really good ideas that just need to be refined. When you make a statement, ask yourself, “What does this mean for the listener?” If the answer is “not much,” the statement doesn’t pass the “so what?”’ test. The takeaway?

How you finish the statement “What this means to you is . . .” is gold.

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