Sales presentations can be a double-edged sword. You want to “wow” the client without coming across as too pushy or slick. Since first impressions tend to stick, prepare an enticing opening that will get them to trust you without feeling like they’re being sold.
There’s no one formula—the way you kick off a sales pitch should take into account the client’s personality, their problem and what you can offer. Four small business owners offer their insights to openings that have worked for them:
Establishing a connection
Clinton, Miss.-based business advisor Marianna Chapman insists that successful presentations must start with an emotional connection. “Avoid the gimmicks and take time to connect with the client on a personal level,” she says. To prepare, you can glean any information on hobbies and mutual contacts through Facebook and Twitter. If you connect on interests like children, golf or mutual charitable concerns, Chapman says, you’re much more likely to score the job.
Then follow up that initial personal connection with facts and numbers to prove you operate from both sides of the brain.
Drawing them out
Too many sales reps lose points by launching into a history of their company. To engage your audience, Bowie, Md.-based sales and marketing coach Henri Schauffler suggests getting potential clients to talk about their business. Questions like, “How did you get started in this kind of business?” are also an opportunity to mention something you learned researching the company.
Next, Schauffler suggests asking questions that help both parties pinpoint exactly what problem needs solving.
Mentioning past successes
To showcase his expertise while putting clients at ease, Mike Michalowicz, president of Boonton, N.J.-based Obsidian Launch and Wall Street Journal columnist, says he always opens sales presentations with a story of a similar client he was able to help. “By referring to a third party about the challenges they faced and how you solved them, you remove the sales distaste,” he says.
Dangling a carrot
“Give a little bit of free advice,” says Los Angeles-based business coach Tiffany Bradshaw. “I offer people a free marketing assessment and use that to get my foot in the door.” She starts with a checklist of marketing-related tasks and asks clients to indicate what they need.
In doing so, she’s able to bring up techniques—a best practice or business development program—that have worked for others in their industry. “I think this works so well because instead of me telling them what they need, they end up telling me,” Bradshaw says.