Presenting… You!

By Lain Ehmann

Jerry Weissman wants to change the way you think about giving presentations. According to Weissman, author of Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2003), as a salesperson you are presenting all the time – when you pick up the phone to make a cold call, when you meet a prospect for the first time, when you hold a sales meeting. “Every event is a presentation to me,” says Weissman.

And not only are you constantly presenting, you’re also constantly selling. Every presentation is a sales pitch, according to Weissman, because you’re selling something – even if that something is yourself. Weissman, who specializes in helping companies create IPO road show presentations, says the importance of this philosophy can’t be overstated. “Every presentation is mission-critical,” he says. “Every presentation is a stepping stone on the path to ultimate success. If any one presentation fails, there might be no tomorrow.”

Weissman says one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is not making the benefit clear to the audience. You, the presenter, must put yourself in the audience’s place and answer: What’s in it for you? Weissman calls this the WIIFY. This WIIFY “is the benefit to the specific audience in your persuasive situation,” he explains. You need to tell the audience members why your offer of a product, service or merely a meeting will be important to them, and why they should care about you or your company.

Another common communication mistake is not making the goal and message vividly clear, says Weissman. If you’re trying to get the prospect to sign on the dotted line, you need to ask them to do so. If you want to meet with the prospect to perform a product demo, you need to ask for that meeting. Ask for the action you want audience members to take, says Weissman. “Your main and only purpose is to move people [from Point A] to Point B,” he explains. If you don’t ask them to take the final step, they’re stranded between the two.

Weissman says that communicating doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s as simple as telling a story. If you can tell a clear, compelling story you’re persuading them. “Persuasion is selling,” says Weissman. “If you want to sell people, you have to persuade them.”

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