Irrespective of how eloquently you speak, how effectively you use visual aids or how persuasively you use body language, none of these skills really cut the mustard in a sales pitch unless you actually close the sale. This month's presentation tip looks at how you can deliver a sales pitch that not only wows prospective clients with your delivery skills, but also has them filling in a PO before you leave the building.

Ban Canned Presentations
You've heard it a thousand times before, but it's true – you really can't re-use a generic sales presentation if you want to deliver an effective pitch. The problem with using a canned presentation is that the focus is on you – your company, your product, your features and your benefits. To really connect with a prospect, you have to make it about them – their problems, their needs, their company and their situation. No matter how amazing your product is, no one's going to buy it unless it's relevant to their business.

Dig for the Dirt
OK, we've established that you need to tailor your pitch for the situation, now how do you go about it? Get on the phone (or e-mail) and start asking your potential customers questions. What are their needs? What problems do they hope to solve with your product? Is there any background information that you could use? What other solutions are they considering? Ask about anything and everything that might be relevant. Remember, most people will only give you a broad overview of the situation. You have to really dig if you hope to uncover the reason why your product/service is the solution to their problem.

Tailor the Pitch for the Customer
Once you have this information, it's time to create your presentation. Take their problem and turn it into an objective that identifies a mutual goal for you and your customer. Achieving this objective should be the central theme of your presentation. For example, if you're selling meeting productivity software, investigate the current state of meetings in the organization. If their major problem is meetings that drag on forever, your pitch should focus on trying to impose strict time limits on meetings. Once you identify a central objective, the rest of your presentation should focus on how the organization can benefit if they achieve this objective and how your product can help them do so.

Tell a Story
A great way to really make your presentation resonate with the audience is to integrate a story into your pitch. People love real-life stories, so tell them a story about a client who had similar problems and the measures they took to overcome those obstacles (including how your product managed to save the day).

Your story should be exciting, emotive (yes, it is possible even if you're selling software or manufacturing components) and relevant to the current scenario. For example, if you're selling educational software, you could tell the story of an inner-city school who installed your software and the following year, eleven members of the graduating class received full scholarships to Harvard (you get the point). Or if you're selling engineering components, tell the story of a competing firm who purchased your wrench system and increased production speed by 68%, and became the market leader in the category.

Just make sure your story is relevant to the audience – otherwise it sounds like you're bragging about past successes instead of entertaining a future customer.

Wrap It Up
Bottom line – all this effort is futile if you don't walk away with the sale. Recap the highlights of your presentation, and then ask for the close. Try not to leave the presentation without some sort of commitment from the prospect. This is probably the closest you're going to get to the customer, so make the most of the good will you've established over the course of your presentation.

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.



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