Sales Management Digest

How to Use Props in a Sales Presentation
Julie Hansen
In this digital age, many sales presentations are built around technology. And while videos or slides can be ideal mediums with which to engage your prospects, some sales professionals still believe in the value of using a physical prop during a sales presentation.

How does a prop add value? Consider how props are used in theater. In the theater, props are used to further the action of the story. In the movie Castaway, starring Tom Hanks, the story was not about "Wilson," the soccer ball. The soccer ball was simply an object that helped the audience understand how Hanks's character was feeling. Similarly, using your prop is a memorable way to help the audience relate to your message.

Some props are fun and simple; handing out PAYDAY candy bars, for example, can underscore the fact that you can help your prospect achieve higher revenue. Other props can add drama to a presentation. Plumbing-solutions rep Richard Hilliard once poured sulfuric acid into both a cast iron pipe and a plastic pipe. During the course of the meeting, the acid corroded the cast iron, resulting in a hole in the pipe and making his point that new materials are often better than the old.

Here are some quick tips on how you can use props effectively during sales presentations.

Choose a prop that's relevant to your message. Although the flying chandelier in The Phantom of the Opera was dramatic, it also tied into the plot of an opera house haunted by a lovesick phantom. If a clown on a pogo stick crossed the stage during your sales presentation, your audience members might be surprised, but if you can't make a connection to your sales message, they'll just be confused.

Consider your audience. Is your audience made up of sophisticated, C-suite types accustomed to professionally produced, multimedia presentations or seat-of-the-pants buyers who best respond to something off the cuff and casual?

Know when to reveal your prop. Leaving a prop exposed until you're ready to introduce it might be distracting. Likewise, frantically searching in your bag for a prop can take your audience out of the moment. To add an element of intrigue and expectancy, keep your prop covered and off to the side until you're ready to present it.

Use dramatic pauses. A well-planned moment of silence before unveiling a prop can build anticipation and add drama, just as pausing afterward to let the audience take it in and react can add impact.

Handle your prop with care. If treated with proper reverence on stage, a plastic crown can seem made of gold. Conversely, a worn-looking sample can reduce the impact and value of your prop (and by association, your product) in your audience's mind. Even if it has traveled from Boise to Boston, treat your prop with awe and respect, and your prospect will endow it with greater value, as well.

Rehearse with your prop. Adding a prop to your normal routine requires adjustments in the timing and delivery, so don't wing it. Rehearse with your prop to avoid embarrassing malfunctions.

Not only do props help the audience retain information, they can help emphasize key points and keep the audience engaged. The appropriate prop can help sales professionals create a memorable experience for the audience and move a presentation from good to "Sold!"
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