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Follow the Rules for a Pitch Perfect Presentation

by Alf Nucifora

Whether one-on-one or in a group selling environment, a successful presentation is a balanced combination of art and science. The art of the presentation addresses the chemistry, nuance, intangibility and often unspoken elements of the pitch. The science resides in following the rules which if applied correctly prevent mistakes and increase the odds of success. In twenty-five years of selling the intangibility of thoughts, ideas and concepts as an operative in the ad agency and marketing consulting fields, I give you a baker's dozen tips which will move you from the losing to the winning column in your next new business solicitation venture.

Tell Them About Them:

The subject may be you, your company or your product, but the object is always the prospect. The prospects only concern? "What's in it for me." As you plan the presentation always ask the question, "So what?" For every statement that you make to the prospect a benefit must be overtly communicated or strongly implied. If it's not, it's most likely nothing more than a self-serving comment aimed more at inflating you or your company's reputation rather than generating and delivering a prized benefit to the prospect.

It's Context, Stupid!:

Remember that context is always more important than content; relevance more important than facts. It goes back to the "So What?" rule. How do these facts, how does this data, how will that information bring relevance and value to the prospect?

It's All Emotion:

Most of what is communicated in the pitch is emotion confidence, enthusiasm, excitement, fear, hesitation, lack of guts, sensitivity, etc. Prospects have remarkable antennae. They sense our strengths and weaknesses, our self-confidence and vulnerability through some radar-like process that hones in on the aura that we emit during the presentation and the sale.

Remember the 3 C's:

We are always selling chemistry (does the prospect like me?); confidence (do they trust me that I will deliver as promised that my advice is sound that I know enough about their need or opportunity to provide a well-reasoned and likely-successful solution?); and conviction (will they go out of their way for me work through the night to get that special report completed in time get that material produced for an important trade show on a ridiculously compressed time schedule?)

Stress the Human Side:

Let them know that we're human, that we laugh, we scratch just like they do. Reduce the tension. We should feel "right" to the prospect. They should feel that working with us will result in good karma not constant dissonance and discord. It's that chemistry thing again.

They're Already a Client:

Deal with the prospect as if he or she is already a client. That should be the tone of the presentation. But remember, there is always a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Don't trip up.

Have an Escape Route:

Always leave a way out when presenting new or rough ideas, particularly if the presentation has been built on limited information and research. Never sail into uncharted waters even if the prospect wants to take you there. If you don't know, say "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you post haste."

Q&A Time:

Remember to always save time for Q&A. It gets the dialog going, the blood flowing, positions you as equals discussing a point rather than the lecturer and the lectured to. It's also an ideal opportunity to fill in the information voids that didn't get covered during the presentation itself.

Ask For the Order:

Say the words, "May I have your business please?" Don't hedge or imply. Be forthright. Let them know that you want the business, that it means a lot to you. It's that conviction thing again.

No Dull Case Histories Please:

Use case histories but relate them to the prospect's business. Avoid unnecessary irrelevance and chest-thumping. Keep them brief; three to five minutes tops, including audio-visual elements. As for format, first, present the results; next, state the situation and make it as dire as possible; third, present the strategy; lastly, talk about the tactics used to achieve the results. What this format does is start with success and continues to reinforce that notion down each layer of the waterfall.

They Don't Always Get It:

State, restate and restate again the relevancy of every key point that you make. You assume that they get it, but they don't. Not always on the first try. After all, you do want them to remember your point of view long after you leave the room.

Final Reminder:

Before finalizing your presentation remember to ask the following questions: What need is the prospect facing on his/her side of the fence? What do you have to offer? And, how do you arrange what you have to offer to match precisely that need that the prospect is facing?

It Ends In Three Questions:

When it's all said and done, the prospect will always be asking three primary questions: Do I like them? (chemistry); Do they understand my business and my needs? (confidence); Will they move my business forward? (confidence and conviction)

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