Getting to the point during a sales presentation takes some discipline, since we’re fond of padding example with details.
Here are a few tips to help you cut through the fog, and get your sales message across, with clarity.
Know your audience. If you're dealing with a long-time client, you should already know. If it's a new client, you'll have to learn. However, if you're addressing a large group the means might not seem obvious. Get there as early as possible and mingle with the meeters-and-greeters ask about attendees and what they do. Chat up those who arrive early. Look for those whom you already know.
Use the active voice. It’s more straightforward. A classic trick people use to avoid taking responsibility is to use the passive voice. You'll hear "Mistakes were made" rather than "I got this wrong". But when you need action you have to use active language. If you say "You need to do this" there's no question about the doer the way there is if you say "This should be done."
Use a metaphor. The role of metaphor is to explain the abstract in terms of the concrete and the new in terms of the familiar. l once attended a talk on the spread of disease, the rapid evolution of germs and how they work. My question was why some germs are devastating but harder to catch while others are mild but easier to catch. The speaker was a biologist, I’m not. When she said "Nature is a ruthless economist" it made the point clear to me very quickly. Germs are tiny and have limited energy and so must evolve and develop one capacity or another in order to reproduce. Since I was working in finance, the metaphor of nature being an economist seeking to make efficient decisions made sense to me.
Know what message you want to get across so you can cut extraneous detail.
Consider how much detail is necessary for people to understand. In a speaking workshop l asked an accountant to give me an example of a personal accounting achievement. He said he saved his own building (a co-operative owned by the tenants) $40,000.00 on a $250,000.00 renovation job. But before he told me that he spoke at length about the characters of various builders, how some of the tenants wanted one kind of garden entrance and some wanted another, how these groups had squabbled, even the fight over paint colours!
I asked him to rewrite this example and, as he came to each tangent, to ask himself “How important is this background-detail? Is it necessary for the audience to understand how I saved 16% on this contract?” The details had seemed important to him when he first told the story. It’s likely that these were the things which led his thinking to certain conclusions. But most of them didn’t add to our understanding of where he made his savings.
Having cut most of the particulars, when the accountant presented his example, the point was clear to an audience of non-accountants. This was the goal he had set himself.
By Paul Carroll, Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. Find your local club. Follow on Twitter.