Grace Under Pressure

By Cindy Waxer

You’re getting ready to give a presentation to the biggest client your company has ever had. Just as you are about to begin, you realize that you have the wrong notes! They’re the notes for next week’s presentation. Well, don’t panic. According to behavior performance consultant Joseph Riggio, with the proper approach a salesperson can turn even the most unfavorable conditions into an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the customer.

Riggio offers the following suggestions for handling sticky situations.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

If a power outage halts your carefully scripted PowerPoint presentation, don’t panic. Instead, Riggio recommends using a power outage as an opportunity to foster greater intimacy with participants.

“Now you have an opportunity to make a connection on a more human level with the participants because that chaos actually creates an opening or a possibility that wasn’t present the moment before.”

Use this time to welcome questions from participants and solicit information about a prospect’s needs and concerns.

Demo Damage

A bungled product demonstration can reflect poorly on your company and compromise its credibility. If, for example, your software solution doesn’t live up to its promise mid-presentation, Riggio recommends making light of the matter.

“In this moment, the number one tool you have at your disposal is to remember things are never as serious as they seem and, therefore, the best way to approach them is with humor.”

A clever punchline can shift participants’ focus from a failed presentation to your ability to maintain composure under pressure.

Harnessing the Heckler

Don’t let naysayers throw you off track. If an audience member insists on peppering your presentation with negative, off-the-cuff comments, don’t fight back, Riggio warns.

“In this situation, what you want to do is isolate the heckler and use him as a foil – use his heckling to make your point.”

Ask the heckler how he would handle a hypothetical business situation and use his response to demonstrate how your company can do an even better job.

Mission Aborted

Learn to differentiate a challenge from a lost cause. If a prospect has made a solid case for why your company’s products and services aren’t needed, Riggio says, it’s time to cut your losses. Some sticky situations are better left untouched.

“If a salesperson is spending his time and using his expertise on people who are ultimately going to give a qualified no’s, he can’t pursue the people who are going to be qualified yes’s.”