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Parroting the Script
Fear of Presenting is real as it gets. It’s Sales Presentation showtime. It should be a show – but it drives you crazy in fear and anxiety; sweat gets more intense and visible, and clothes feel tighter. Your slides now look insufficient to get the job done.
Fear of speaking in public is no stranger to any of us, but sales professionals tend to fear it a level higher. Speaking in front of prospects and stakeholders can have fantastic or disastrous financial results. We feel exposed, judged, rated, and responsible for the outcome.
To cope with that fear, we cower behind the slides that we parrot without much consideration to what’s going on around us.
That comes at a hefty cost: ephemeral satisfaction and inability to expand our influential energy through emotional connection and conversation. We dedicate so much energy to work around the fear that we miss the present moment, hinder our potential, and set low standards for ourselves.
The prospect sees badly-repressed fear and pitch parroting as stiffness, and lack of authority and expertise by the salesperson. Cue in the absence of trust, killing the sales process.
Instead of presenting to your prospects, have a conversation with them.
Taking responsibility for the situation and assuming an active role, engaging, being assertive, and asking questions, and coming up with answers.
Diving into that change headfirst is overwhelming and may take some time or never happen. Unless that instead of trying to change our behavior, we change the rules of the game.
If instead of presenting we have a conversation, then the parts are at the same level and there is lots less scrutiny to each other, like in any peers talk. A salesperson who is at ease with his client can give off a remarkable impression of an expert who is helping them to make a well-informed decision.
Consider everyone in the room as a character in a story that you walk along with. Your job is to uncover the highlights and go with it, managing micro-outcomes towards success. Instead of presenting, ask more questions, and talk less (yep, shut up.)
Mark and his Fear
Mark was going through one of the roughest patches. He had recently changed jobs, and now presenting to prospects was a vital part of the sales process. And a colossal fear of his.
Mark is an excellent Sales Professional with many years of experience; one of his traits is being assertive while not imposing. During our call, he used his gift to ask me deep questions and elaborate on those, drawing conclusions and taking notes. During that same call, he sold me on several ideas and ways I could improve too. It was a fantastic interaction, plenty of trading and learning for both.
In the end, he asked me for a takeaway, one piece of advice that would help him overcome his fear of presenting. So I wondered aloud, why don’t you make your presentations more like this conversation and less like presentations?
After a one-month learning curve and trial and errors, Mark has been presenting conversationally since 2015 with amazing results.
Renata and Her Sales Trainees
Renata, a client and friend in Italy, manages a team of 150 salespeople whose job is to present to high-ticket executives in a very formal setup. She had hit a serious wall trying to train her team on how to perform in these situations. Especially when training less experienced team members.
Because of the complexity of this particular sales process, I couldn’t be of much help over the phone, so we agreed on flying me out to run an onsite workshop with a handful of the most troubled trainees. My goal was to identify ways to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed when presenting.
During the workshop, I asked them to present to me as if I was a prospect. It was a painful struggle.
After this first session, we went through the workshop, teaching them simple yet useful tools to gain confidence, manage their body, and to ask the right questions to the prospect.
The change was visible in the team, and we all felt great about the results. Yet, I wasn’t satisfied and asked them to present to me once more.
This time, though, I decided to be an active prospect and started challenging them with questions and follow-ups. I was set to take them out of “presenting mode” at all costs, interrupting and forcing them to have a conversation with me and among them by asking questions that needed consensus. I dismissed the “presenting struggle” completely, hijacked the presentation, and turned it into an intense exchange. And they forgot that they were presenting. And we had an incredibly productive meeting.
Renata decided to roll-out the same training to the entire sales force, including the CRO and his close team. Her team has been presenting conversationally for a year now.
Putting together different metrics, (that I can’t share here,) we discovered that by implementing the Conversational Method, revenue increased by 27% and the sales cycle length got reduced by half.
The next time that you gather your sales team to talk about how they present in their sales process (you do it often, don’t you?) try a conversational approach. A good way to start is by, instead of presenting, asking the prospect: Thank you for your time, how can we make the most out of it? Role-playing this among salespeople is a great starting point.
The expedient of giving people some easy-to-learn tools to overcome fear and present with confidence is simple. With fun and smart training, they can learn to ask questions and use the answers to Build the Prospect’s Dream. Your bottom line will see the impact quick.
I would love to hear about your experience presenting in sales situations. I am eager for feedback and real-life stories that can prove my ideas right or wrong. Please, share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you want to get in touch with me directly, buy me lunch, or drop me a line on LinkedIn or Here and we can make your salespeople thrive in presentation skills. If you want to read more of my takes on Business Storytelling and Conversational Presenting, follow my Blog.
Prior sketches by Catru