Sound Bites

By Heather Baldwin

Try boiling down the essence of your sales presentation into one sentence. Can’t do it? It might mean you’re trying to convey too much information or your message isn’t clear enough. Tom McKee, president of Advantage Point Systems, Inc., a training and staff development company, advocates using a sound bite – a single statement that captures your key message – and repeating it throughout the presentation to drive home your main point again and again. Here’s an example.

Years ago, when McKee was selling long-distance service for AT&T, he learned he was about to lose one of his largest accounts to a competitor. Why? The competitor had offered McKee’s client significant savings on their monthly long-distance bill, which put McKee in a tough spot. If he matched the offer, which he couldn’t, the client would wonder why the lower price had not been offered sooner and likely would take the reactive offer as another reason to switch. If McKee didn’t match the competitor’s price, he would lose the sale. It seemed a classic Catch-22 situation.

Determined not to lose this important piece of business, McKee asked his client for the opportunity to give a short, 15-minute presentation. When the client agreed, McKee dug in and did some research – and in the process learned some valuable information he knew could save the business if he handled the presentation right. What he discovered was that the competition had a much lower intrastate long-distance rate than AT&T, but only 20% of the client’s long-distance calls were intrastate. The bulk of their calls were interstate and international.

McKee boiled his message into the following sound bite: If you switch, it will cost you far more than the few pennies you will save on California calls. He made that statement at the beginning of the presentation, before and after each of his three examples and again at the end. The sound bite kept him focused and repeatedly drove home his point. It also kept the audience focused. Not only did they remember his message, they believed it. McKee kept the contract.

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