Previously on Sales Initiative I've written articles on the importance of getting to the point in sales presentation, and how clarity and brevity are most important for achieving that goal.
However, today I'd like to expand on a point. Specifically: expanding on points.
On the one hand, when you're presenting to customers, you can't say everything there is to be said on the topic. You can't even say everything you know. There wouldn't be time and many of the details will be unnecessary to the audience's understanding of your topic. This risks confusing them instead of informing or persuading. Part of the work in getting to the point is deciding which details to leave out. On the other hand, we cannot treat every subject only in outline.
The opening of a presentation will have an outline so that the audience knows where you're heading. Even in the body of the talk leaving out extraneous detail is important for clarity. That's a judgement call for the presenter. The question to ask yourself is: is this fact necessary for understanding what follows?
The vexing issue is this: when does a detail cease to be extraneous? Answer: when someone asks you to expand on a point.
The question as it’s put to you should indicate which details are necessary for your answer. This allows you to tailor your response whilst achieving maximum impact from what you say. Knowing your audience means anticipating some lines of questioning.
For instance, let's assume you’re a food producer selling a Christmas line to retailers. In giving your presentation, one of the things you might say is "All our ingredients are ethically sourced". Your audience of retailers should already have an idea of what that means, so you won't need to go into depth. But someone may want clarification or confirmation and ask "Could you expand on that point?"
This question doesn't indicate which details your customer wants to hear but you can clarify it. Do you mean ‘How do we choose suppliers’? or ‘How do we guarantee that the goods meet certain standards?’
If the answer is the latter…
"We get certification from Fair Trade International that the producers of ingredients farmed in the developing world received fair payment. We get certification from the Soil Association that the ingredients are organically grown and processed. We get certification from the Marine Stewardship Council that all our fish, like smoked salmon, is 'line caught'."
In the main body of your presentation you probably couldn't go into detail on every product you sell but since someone asked about ethical sourcing you had the details to back up your point. If further details are sought about who the producers are and how long they've been certified you should have access to that information. But you don't need to supply it unless that further question is asked.
In summary, the required skill set here is
1. Knowing your material
2. Knowing your audiences
3. Paying attention to what's being asked in questions and clarifying when necessary
4. Deciding which details are appropriate.
By keep it clear and to the point, you have the room to expand on points if and when you are asked – rather than swamping your presentation with unnecessary detail.
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.