Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, Executive Speech Coach,
Sales Presentation Expert, Keynote Speaker. Author of Get
What You Want!, Make It So You Don't Have to Fake It! Past-President
of the National Speakers Association. PFripp@fripp.com, (415)
are incredible. Like Hollywood actors, whenever they open
their mouths, they are putting themselves and their company
on the line, taking a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome.
Just like actors, even the best, most experienced salesperson
benefit from some coaching and polishing from an expert speech
coach and sales trainer.
are the 12 most common mistakes that my sales clients are
making at the beginning of our coaching sessions. By the time
we're through, they've learned how to avoid them.
UNCLEAR THINKING. If you can't describe the objective
of your interaction in one sentence, you may be guilty of
fuzzy focus— trying to say too much at once. You'll
confuse your listener and that doesn't make the sale. Decide
exactly what you want and need to accomplish in this contact.
What would be a positive outcome? For example, imagine that
a busy executive says, "You have exactly ten minutes
of my time to tell me what you want me to know about your
company. In one sentence, tell me how I should describe your
benefits when I talk to my managers tomorrow." At any
stage of the sales process, you should know in advance why
you are interacting, what benefits you are offering your prospect
or client, and what you'd like the next step to be.
NO CLEAR STRUCTURE. Make it easy for your prospect
to follow what you are saying—whether in a casual conversation
or a formal presentation of information and ideas. They'll
remember it better—and you will too. Otherwise, you
may forget to make a key point. If you waffle or ramble, you
lose your listeners. Even for a conversation, mentally outline
your objectives. What key "Points of Wisdom" do
you want the prospect to remember? How will you illustrate
each point? What colorful examples will your prospect be able
to repeat three days later? What phrases or slogans do you
want to guarantee they will repeat afterwards? You speak to
be remembered and repeated.
TALKING TOO MUCH. Salespeople often talk too much
about themselves and their service or product. They make a
speech rather than having an exchange or interaction—otherwise
known as conversation. The key to connecting with a client
is conversation. The secret of client conversation is to ask
questions and the quality of client information received depends
on the quality of the questions asked. The bigger secret is
waiting for, and listening to, the answers! In fact, a successful
encounter early in the sales process should probably be mostly
open-ended questions—the kind that require essay answers
rather than just "yes" and "no." And don't
rush on with preprogrammed questions that pay no attention
to the answer you've just received. Learn to listen...even
pausing to wait for further comments. Silence draws people
NO MEMORABLE STORIES. People rarely remember your
exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images your
words inspire. Support your key points with vivid, relevant
stories. Help them "make the movie" in their minds
by using memorable characters, exciting situations, intriguing
dialogue, suspense, and humor. Telling stories of satisfied
clients and painting a picture of how this client’s
condition will be improved with your product or service are
NO THIRD-PERSON ENDORSEMENTS. There's a limit to
how many bold claims you can make about your company and product
results, but there is no limit to the words of praise you
can put in the mouths of your delighted clients. Use case
histories of your clients' success stories about the benefits
they received from your service or product. When you are using
their actual dialogue, you can say much more glowing things
about yourself and your company than you could if the words
were your own. Your endorsement stories should use the same
ingredients as a good Hollywood movie: create memorable characters,
use vivid dialogue, and provide a dramatic lesson learned.
dramatic lesson learned in your Hollywood story will be the
benefits of doing business with you. Choose characters that
your prospects can connect with. It helps if the star of your
story holds a similar position to your prospect. You can't
say, "Do business with me, and you'll get promoted,"
but you can give a specific example of someone who phoned,
e-mailed, or wrote you that this happened to them. "Just
last week," you might say, "I heard from Mary Smith.
She's the Payroll Manager at Amalgamated Systems. She said
that changing their payroll system to our company not only
made them more efficient, but they cut their costs 10%. She
told me, 'You made me look good in the eyes of management.
Thanks to you, I received a promotion!'" That's an emotional
NO EMOTIONAL CONNECTION. The most powerful communication
combines both intellectual and emotional connections. Intellectual
means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned
arguments. Emotion comes from engaging the listeners' imaginations,
involving them in your illustrative stories by frequent use
of the word "you" and from answering their unspoken
question, "What's in this for me?" Obviously, a
customer is going to justify doing business with you for specific
analytical reasons. What gives you the edge—what I like
to call the "unfair advantage"—is creating
an emotional connection too. Build this emotional connection
by using stories with characters that they can relate to and
by providing a high I/You ratio, using the word "you"
as often as possible and talking from their point of view.
recommendation is that you make telephone appointments with
your happiest clients. Tell them you would like to use their
stories about working with you as an endorsement, and ask
permission to tape record your conversation. Then just let
them talk. The more they say, encouraged now and then by a
question from you, the better their stories and quotes will
be. Finally, select the best quotes from what they've said.
WRONG LEVEL OF ABSTRACTION. Are you providing the
big picture and generalities when your listeners are hungry
for details, facts, and specific how-to's? Or, are you drowning
them in data when they need to position themselves with an
overview and find out why they should care? Get on the same
wavelength with your prospects. For first contacts with executives,
describe what your company can do for them in broad generalities.
With middle managers, discuss exactly how you can work together,
a medium level of abstraction. If you are dealing with IT
professionals, use the lowest level of abstraction, lots of
facts and figures. Don't discuss aspects or details of what
you're offering that your audience has no interest in.
NO PAUSES. Few sales presentations have enough pauses.
Good music and good communication both contain changes of
pace, pauses, and full rests. This is when listeners think
about important points you've just made. If you rush on at
full speed to crowd in as much information as possible, chances
are you've left your prospects back at the station. Give them
enough time to ask a question or even time to think over what
has been said. Pauses allow pondering and understanding.
IRRITATING NON-WORDS. Hmm--ah--er--you know what
I mean. One presenter I heard began each new thought with
"Now!" as he scanned his notes to figure out what
came next. This might be okay occasionally, but not every
30 seconds. Practice in front of your sales manager or colleagues,
giving them permission to call out whenever you hem or ah.
Or video or digitally record yourself, and note any digressions.
STEPPING ON THE PUNCH-WORD. The most important word
in a sentence is the punch-word. Usually, this is the final
word: "Take my wife—PLEASE." But if you drop
your voice or add, "Right?" or "See?"
or "You know?" or "Okay?," you've killed
the impact of your message. Another popular punch-line killer
is the word "today." Avoid saying, "Let's look
at the recommendations we have for you today." Obviously,
you're talking "today." The punch word in this sentence
should be "recommendations."
Jerry Seinfeld says, "I'll spend an hour reducing an
eight-word sentence to five words because the joke will be
funnier." I train sales teams to do the same thing with
their key phrases because their presentations will be more
powerful. We go through their sentences, looking for the "$10
words." Not every word or phrase is, or should be, of
equal importance. Emphasize the action words and phrases or
those that make an emotional connection. "And"-"it"-"in"
are no-dollar words.
recommendation I make to sales teams is to come up with what
I call "$100 phrases." My clients get excited and
call out, "Wow, that's SO good!" whenever someone
uses an especially potent phrase. Often it is a succinct term
for a hard-to-describe benefit. Such a phrase can be priceless.
For example, a company offering a complex process might explain,
"We're like a security guard that keeps the bad guys
out and lets the good guys in."
find $100 phrases for your company, I suggest this process:
Imagine you are trying to explain what you do to your 82-year-old
great aunt. How you describe it should be part of your conversational
sales presentation. This is an especially good technique to
use for executive overviews. If your $100 phrase is "visual
enough," your prospects and clients will repeat it later.
NOT HAVING A STRONG OPENING AND CLOSING. Engage your
audience immediately with a powerful, relevant opening that
includes them. For example, "You have an awesome responsibility."
Then fill in what it is: increasing sales, reducing errors,
cutting overhead, whatever your product can help your prospect
do. Another excellent strategy is to do some research. Then
you can say, "Congratulations on your company's recent
success," and describe it. Or "I love your new commercials."
Most salespeople start by talking about their company. Talk
about your prospect instead.
I give a speech for a company, I check out their web site,
corporate reports, or press releases to find something their
Chairman of the Board or CEO has said that I can quote. You
can do this too, making it almost sound as if their CEO is
recommending your company. For example, "Our core values
are..." and match them to your own. Or "We subscribe
to Best Practices and all our preferred vendors do as well."
close, pick the one sentence that you absolutely want embedded
in their minds, even if you don't get the appointment or the
sale. Leave them with a strong, positive message. They might
say, "We're happy with our present vendor." You
reply, "I appreciate your LOYALTY [a $10 word.] If you
ever want a SECOND vendor [$10 word] or for any reason they
DISSATISFY [$10 word] you, you need to do business with a
company that will be around LONG-TERM [$10 word.] Please remember,
we've been PROFITABLE [$10 word] for the last 167 quarters
the search for $100 phrases, don't just add up $10 words.
A $100 phrase stands alone. It is a repetitive refrain that
is so valuable to your company that every salesperson needs
to be trained to use it in every presentation.
MISUSING TECHNOLOGY. Too many salespeople rely too
much on their Power Point and flip charts and not enough on
making an emotional connection. My friend, Charles H. Green,
co-author of The Trusted Advisor, writes about four advertising
agencies who were given an opportunity to bid for a large
account. Each group had two hours.
last team walked in and said, "We're ready to do exactly
what the other three competing agencies have done. We can
give you the 'Dance of a Thousand Slides', but you have is
a choice. You can pretend you already hired us and for the
next two hours we can start brainstorming on your account.
If you hire us, you've received two free hours consultation...and
if you don't, you've still had two hours free." They
proved they could think on their feet and be flexible. This
won them a very profitable account. They showed they could
use the latest technology, but, more importantly, that they
didn't need it.
you're being considered for a job," says Charlie "act
as if you already have it. Most people want to think that
the quality of their work speaks for itself. It doesn't. Beat
your competition by getting to work for your prospect immediately.
Demonstrate how it will feel to be working together."
four agencies could have done a fine job. The one that landed
the account had enough confidence in their presentation skills
to use technology or not. The client was exhilarated by their
work session, impressed by the agency's flexibility, and confident
this agency would and could do a great job. Many sales teams
couldn't communicate with a prospect for two hours without
the help of a suitcase full of charts, slides, and electronic
line: Make technology a support, not a crutch.
you learn to avoid these 12 common traps, you're on your way
to being a "star" of the sales world, ready to accept
an award for your dazzling performance.