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The Power of Citation


One good way to add authority to claims about your product is to quote sources other than your own marketing material. After all, independent corroboration is much more credible to your client than your own claims. Still, don't forget to cite specifically where you get that confirmation from. 

"X Magazine called us ..." is much more interesting to a customer than, "The press has been very kind to us." If possible, name the publication, writer or source of the quote. Then be prepared to offer a reprint or URL so the client can see it for themselves if they want.  

Like so much else in life, the more specific the source of a quote or feedback, the more credible it is in the eyes of your customer. Just be careful not to overwhelm them. 

Stand Up and Be Counted On


The workplace has become more casual, and this means that little things can help you stand out... literally. 

As more people get used to sitting while speaking to groups, the person who stands is going to attract attention. Since you want to look confident but not aggressive, here are some tips to stand out by standing up... 

  • Stand slowly, as you're speaking (don't jump up and scare someone).
  • Smile.
  • Move away from the table so you're not towering over people or leaning on the table for support (and thus towering over someone...he or she could find this intimidating).
  • Use a white board or an easel chart as an excuse to stand and draw attention away from the table to yourself.

Change Management and Presentation Skills


PresentationMeryl Streep gave an extraordinary commencement speech at Barnard College in 2010 on how gender restrictions are finally breaking down. In a very personal, very funny presentation, she explained to the women graduating about the uses of empathy in the current transition - to a world in which women are as empowered as they are entitled to be. And then she said something that went beyond the case she was making about the transition: "This is your time and it feels normal to you, but really, there is no normal. There's only change and resistance to it and then more change." It was meaningful for her message, but it's also meaningful for anyone in business. That there is no normal is a sort of law of the workplace. We at Communispond have seen this law in operation time and again in our presentation skills training programs. 

We are often called in because change management always requires someone in a leadership position to exercise presentation skills. You may need the support of memos, emails, websites, posters, tweets, and videos to help in the process, but without some presentations to employees, your change management is dead in the water. Change management requires putting a leader in front of people, in person.

Your success in gaining an audience’s acceptance of a change depends, in part, on the kind of change you are asking them to accept. In the world of business, there are three basic kinds of change, based on urgency:

1. We could improve. In many ways, this is the hardest change to deal with. If things are working, it takes an enormous amount of persuasion or charisma – or both – to convince people to change. Most of the audience will likely not see the advantages of supporting your recommendations. Your presentation skills will be taxed to the utmost for this, the smallest kind of organizational change.

2. If we don’t fix this, we are in trouble. When the problem is apparent, it doesn’t require great presentation skills to get people to see the need for change. The consequences of not taking action are obvious and easy to communicate. On the other hand, announcing this kind of change elevates stress levels, which may cause problems for your change management process. You may have what seems to be a very successful presentation, but if it gets in the way of achieving the change you want, then it hasn’t succeeded at all. 

3. This is a major crisis. If a problem has had the chance to evolve to the point that its consequences are already being felt in the organization, your presentation skills won’t be needed to persuade people to accept it. They will be needed to rally them. If you’re feeling the consequences, people are probably not thinking clearly. There may be panic in the air. This requires an inspirational presenter, not to sell the change to the audience but to make them believe the change can be managed.

Because it is easier to sell the change process when the need is more urgent, there can be a temptation to misrepresent your change. Don’t give in to it. Audiences, especially audiences of employees, are far more perceptive than you might think. If they believe you are crying wolf, you will not only have a difficult time persuading them, you will damage your ability to manage any more of the change process.

Who Pays For Lunch?


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Who pays for a business lunch? According to etiquette experts, the rules are: 

• Whoever benefits most from the meeting pays. In most cases, this means the salesperson.

• In the case of both parties benefitting mutually, the person who invited the other pays.

Oh, and people who know this stuff say breakfast meetings should last an hour and get down to business right away. Lunch and dinner should be longer and slower. Hold off business until after the appetizers or salad is served.

Musical Advice


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Sometimes in our rush to present our information as quickly as possible, we forget the power of pausing. No less a genius than Wolfgang Mozart had this to say: 

"The silence between the notes is what makes the music."

Pause to let your audience digest and appreciate what you've told them.

Presentation Skills: Working a Room


Presentation SkillsSome time ago, I wrote a blog post about tailoring your presentation to the needs of your audience. I explained that you could give the same topic two different treatments for two different audiences. The example I used was a safe driving presentation: you would emphasize different points, and even include different information, if you were speaking to an audience of students than you would if you were speaking to a meeting of the PTA. A few months later, I discussed audience analysis and offered a system for scoring an audience's responsiveness to you and your message. Both of these posts have to do with understanding your audience, and they recommend that you do your homework: research your audience and shape your presentation to fit their needs. Presentation skills, in other words, are not simply speaking skills. Some of them are analytical skills. And some of them are neither speaking skills nor analytical skills, but interpersonal skills.

It’s these interpersonal presentation skills I want to discuss here. Don’t just try to know your audience in the abstract. Get to know them as people. Go early to your speaking engagement. Greet members of the audience individually as they arrive. Work the room.

You may learn more about your audience, and you may get ideas for tailoring the presentation even more closely to their needs than you have already done. That last bit of tailoring may be the difference between a good presentation and a great one.

The second reason that working the room is one of your most important presentation skills is that it can gather important intelligence for you. Using names and information you have gleaned by working the room helps your credibility. Imagine how much more impact you have if, instead of just talking about turnover, you can say, “Joe, you mentioned before we started that you have a problem with turnover.”

Third, working the room makes you a person in the eyes of the audience. When people know you as a person, they will be more respectful toward you and more open to whatever you have to say. This kind of respect can be particularly important for “bad news” presentations or those presentations in which the audience might be resistant or hostile. Let them know you not just for your presentation skills but for your winning personality as well.

Fourth, working the room reduces your nervousness by personalizing your audience. You would give a better presentation to a roomful of your closest friends than you would to a nameless crowd. So take the opportunity to turn your audience in a roomful of you closest friends. You may end up feeling like you’re not using presentation skills at all but simply making remarks to people you’re fond of.

Fifth, working the room gives you something to do before you step up on the platform – something besides obsessing about your presentation. You will find that your nervousness is reduced and your brain constructively occupied if you're not just sitting in a corner looking scared and talking to yourself. Nervousness can be one of presentation skills, if you learn to harness it into energy. But let’s be honest. You’ll give a better presentation if you’re not on the verge of an anxiety attack.

"Tone-Deaf" Salespeople


When someone is tone-deaf, they are unable to distinguish high tones from low tones, so music is pretty much lost on them. They "hear" the music, but it doesn't mean much. Ironically, many salespeople suffer the same problem.

Sales tone deafness comes in two forms: The hopelessly optimistic and the pessimistic.

To optimists, everything is a buying signal. While this keeps their attitude positive in the face of rejection and objections, they can often miss subtle signals that can derail a sale or, if ignored, can become stumbling blocks later. These folks need to listen more to subtle signals of vocal tone and body language.

Pessimists, on the other hand, need to realize that questions and objections aren't necessarily deal stoppers, just a chance to reinforce their message. Words like "almost," "question," and "problem" need to be specified in a positive manner, rather than imagining the worst-case scenario.

We need to hear what's really there-in all its nuance and subtlety.

Don't Eat and Present


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Most of us can always count on one particular item being present in the room during our presentations: food. Naturally, talking and chewing can be difficult for you to accomplish-and even more difficult for your audience to witness. So, for the sake of your own digestion and comfort-as well as that of your audience-hold off eating until after the presentation.

Studies show that digesting a big meal can impact your concentration. What's more, the stress and adrenaline associated with giving a big presentation can cause stomach acid to increase, resulting in physical discomfort that can distract you from your presentation.

Therefore, if you must eat during your presentation, concentrate on eating light foods, like fruit and/or vegetables. After your presentation, feel free to pig out to celebrate the great job you did.

Selling Skills: When Is a Question Not a Question?


SalesA brief story about selling skills.

It was the first meeting with this particular prospect, and the sales person was eager to learn about his company's needs. The prospect started off by asking a question.

"Has your company ever trained senior executives?"

“We have trained company presidents all over the world,” said the sales person. “We provide one-to-one executive coaching in public speaking, handling the media, and leadership behaviors. We can help you with ‘bad news’ situations, grooming high-level executives for the next career step, or preparing for a product launch.” The sales person could have gone on much longer, but she did not want to go into too much detail at this stage, and she was pleased to see the prospect nodding with each point. But her pleasure was short-lived.

“That’s too bad,” said the prospect. “I was interested in training for middle managers. I’m tired of hearing companies beat their chests about how much senior management training they do.” 

At that point, the sale was lost. No amount of selling skills would get the horse back into the barn. How could the sales person have known the prospect was interested in middle-manager training when he asked about senior executives? What went wrong?

That story is fiction, but if you’re in sales, it may sound familiar. I made it up to illustrate a point about selling skills: many questions are not asked in order to obtain an answer. Sometimes they are, like this one, entrapment. Sometimes, they’re simply asked to introduce a topic that the questioner wants to discuss.

If I ask you “Have you ever had achilles tendonitis?,” answering the question is likely a waste of your time. I’m probably not interested in actually hearing about your experience with running injuries. I’m signaling that I want to tell you about my achilles tendon and the ways in which it has betrayed my trust and interfered with my running. Business conversations are like that, too, and someone with good selling skills knows how to spot a question that doesn’t need an answer.

A question, in other words, is not a question when it’s a cue. And missing your cue in a sales dialogue can spell the difference between success and failure – as the story showed. If we miss the cue, the dialogue bypasses the real topic the customer wanted to discuss, and we may even kill the sale before we’ve brought our selling skills into play.

You can avoid that problem by sticking to a short answer and a question that returns the ball to the other person’s court. 

“Yes, we do provide a whole range of training for senior executives. But Im curious: Why do you ask?”

That way, you give the prospect a chance to talk further and lay out the real issue – while you keep listening and probing for more information. You’re not evading the issue but trying to identify it so you can meet the person’s needs. Let it be one of your most used selling skills to deploy these four little words – why do you ask? For more customer-centered selling skills, consider as a training program or skills refresher Communispond’s Socratic Selling Skills®.

Persistence and Pressure


It's no secret that salespeople must be persistent. But some salespeople seem to forget the imaginary line separating persistence from pressure.

The customer is the one who determines the amount of pressure that crosses the line. Therefore, it's wise to remember to pay attention the following customer cues indicating you may be pushing too hard:

• You hear verbal cues like, "hold on" or "not so fast."
• There is a sudden change in their physical demeanor; they pull away from you; or they suddenly look less relaxed.
• Their voice becomes flatter and less engaged in the conversation.

If you're asking too many closed questions (a common cause of feeling pressured), the customer may go from using friendly responses to one-word answers.

Don't give up on your objective-but remember to avoid the line between persistence and pressure.

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