Engaging an audience is hard. But it’s easier to do it at the start of your sales presentation than it is halfway through. So we’ve put together a list of five ways to open your presentation that should grab their attention straight off and hopefully retain it for the entirety of your (not too long!) pitch.
1. Open with a story
Storytelling is such an important part of sales. Great stories literally change your brain activity, helping people think more creatively. Imagine how that might affect how receptive someone is to your ideas - it’s game changing.
It doesn’t have to be a real story. It could be entirely fictional. But it should be relevant to your customer and their experience. So for example you could paint a picture of a situation very like theirs, using the story to define their need. Or you could be a bit less literal and use an analogous situation with, say, animals as the characters, to make your audience work a bit harder to make the connection with their situation and your offering.
Two tips for this approach. First, whatever scenario you choose, don’t resolve the situation right away. Give your audience a reason to stay engaged and listen out for the close. And second, your story doesn’t have to be funny in order to be engaging. Too many salespeople attempt to open with a joke and when it doesn’t work (as it so often doesn’t) not only have they lost their audience, but their confidence is undermined, making the rest of the presentation total torture for all concerned.
2. Ask an open ended question
Like storytelling, asking your audience a question is a great way to get them thinking. The key to this is: make it an open ended question. Questions that have your audience querying the status quo can help them uncover their motivations for buying – and it’s always good practice to let the customer do their own discovery.
‘How do you feel about’, ‘When did you last’, ‘What is important’ – these are the kinds of questions that help a customer attach emotion to the problems they’re experiencing and thus the solutions you’re offering. And emotions are a great motivator.
Top tips: Avoid closed questions eliciting a yes or no response. If you get the wrong answer, you’re stuffed. Also, make it obvious you don’t expect answers to be given out loud. You don’t want to begin your presentation by making people feel under pressure.
3. Bottom Line on Top
This is a methodology whereby you open with what your solution is going to cost and then you spend the rest of the presentation proving the value. The idea is that by cutting to the chase on price your customers can listen to the rest of your pitch without the sort of mental wince that I associate with waiting to be clonked on the head by cost. It also means you can justify the price by linking it with the cost of doing nothing and in describing the features and benefits of your solution you are effectively saying ‘it’s worth the price tag’. And of course there’s always the chance the cost will be much less than they expected, in which case you can hopefully close the deal more quickly!
Top tip: I think the success of this approach comes down to tone. You need to be confident in your valuation and in describing all the assets that make this price competitive, otherwise you’re going to sound defensive, which is hugely off-putting to the customer.
4. Shock and awe
‘Did you know that between 70 - 80% of sales collateral goes unused? Some figures put it at as much as 90%. That’s 90% of your time, totally wasted.’
Using statistics that shock and/or awe can make your audience sit up and pay attention right from the outset. It’s a common tactic, so it’s important that your facts are a bit out of the ordinary, otherwise your customer might have already heard it from one of your competitors. And it’s probably unnecessary to remind you that the ‘truth bomb’ you deliver should be relevant to your audience and your business – so just announcing ‘Did you know, there are more fake flamingos in the world than real flamingos’ is probably not going to help you sell your SaaS solution.
Top tip: the internet is full of statistics that get repeated over and over with no real fact checking. Try to make sure that whatever you tell your customer is true.
5. Ask the audience
You know that we love a customized sales presentation. One way to be sure you’ve got your customer’s attention is to ask them what is most important to them about your presentation. The easiest way to do this is to give them choices - for example, product specs, case studies, testimonials, price, or how you think it solves for this customer. It doesn’t mean you’re only going to cover that one topic, but it’s a good way of understanding your customer’s priorities and letting them know what information you have for them. It helps your customer feel like they have some control over the conversation and that builds their confidence as an equal party in what should be a conversation rather than a monologue.
In practical terms, this technique is difficult to pull off without the right software. Using a Sales Enablement Platform like iPresent helps you pull together a sales presentation in minutes, selecting from all the marketing-approved content to create a playlist that works for this conversation.
Top tip: Be careful not to give your customer too much control over the course of presentation or you will lose momentum. Think of it like one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books - the customer/reader chooses from a selection of options, but you are still guiding the conversation.