Taking the “I” Out of Presentations

By Heather Baldwin

If you’ve told your team once, you’ve told them a dozen times – sales presentations should be about the customer, not about the salesperson, the company or the features and benefits of the product. Yet you still find almost every sentence in your reps’ presentations beginning with the words I, we or our. How can you drive home the importance of getting your team to focus their presentations on customers? Try the following exercise at your next sales meeting, suggests Malinda Terreri, author of Better Sales Meetings in 3 to 30 Minutes (mtm Marketing, 1999).

Divide your team into pairs and have each group of two carry on a conversation without using any personal pronouns. You can assign a sales-related conversation topic or let each team pick its own. Regardless of what they talk about, however, as soon as one person says I, me or we that group is eliminated. Move the last pair still talking to the front of the room and have them continue their conversation as long as they can. You might even want to award a small prize to the team that lasts the longest.

To drive home the importance of focusing on the customer, Terreri suggests following up the exercise with discussion questions such as: Why is it so difficult to talk without using I? Why don’t we use you more often? Have you ever said: I think you could benefit from…rather than asking the customer: How do you think you would benefit from…? As a follow-on assignment, you might ask your reps to tape one of their conversations with customers and then go back and count the number of times they use I, me, we or our.

Conversing without personal pronouns is easier said than done. Your reps will find it takes a lot of effort and concentration to avoid them. But like anything else, awareness and practice gradually will make it much easier for them to present to prospects without using I and me. And that in turn will make it much easier for prospects to like and decide to buy from your reps.