If you’re in sales, public speaking skills matter. Now, if you do your selling one-on-one, you may think this doesn’t apply to you. But we’re always presenting, even if we’re selling to just one person. Besides, at some point you’ll need to lead a meeting, accept an award, or give a presentation.
When I was 20, I had to give a speech to an audience of 3,000. I thought I was prepared (I wasn’t) and that my speech was fully memorized (it wasn’t). Suddenly, 5 minutes in, I went absolutely blank. I still remember it vividly: a pounding heart, two sweaty palms, and a sea of blank faces. After the event, I vowed to never step on stage again.
I’m so glad that vow didn’t last!
Since then, I’ve learned that the key to public speaking – or any professional speaking – comes down to practice and preparation. All salespeople should work to become better speakers, no matter how small their “audience” is.
7 Habits of the Best Public Speakers
Gwen Moran wrote a great article for Fast Company titled 7 Habits Of The Best Public Speakers. I read this a few months ago, but it’s one of those articles I find myself going back to again and again.
Here’s the 7 habits she outlines:
- They get in the zone
- They make sure to nail the first and last 30 seconds
- They tailor their message for the audience
- They plant their feet and use their bodies
- They aren’t afraid of silence
- They mix up their presenting style
- They don’t pretend to be someone they’re not
Every time I read this article, I find myself wanting to write a blog post on each of these 7 habits – they’re so good and they apply to all salespeople, not just public speakers. For today, I’m just going to focus on habit #2:
Make Sure to Nail the First and Last 30 Seconds
Here’s an excerpt:
…you need to spend time understanding and organizing your material, says Ruby Newell-Legner, president of the National Speakers Association:
They’re deciding whether they like you or not in the first 30 and you want to plant the seed for the most important thing to put in their heads in the last 30.
I think that’s great advice for any salesperson, in just about any sales scenario.
The First 30 Seconds: The Introduction
There’s a saying that you only get 7 seconds to make a positive first impression, and that’s especially true in sales. We typically only get 1 chance to nail it and that’s why it’s so important to have a script. Yes, I know I write about scripts a lot (like here, here, and here), but that’s because they work – especially for introductions.
I’m guessing you started using introduction scripts when you got your first real job – I know I did! Just imagine the 14 year old version of me saying, “Thanks for calling Dairy Queen, this is Dew, how can I help you?” and “Welcome to Dairy Queen! How can I help you today?”
See!? Scripts have been in our work life from the start.
I have scripts for my entire sales cycle and I teach my clients how to do the same, but here’s how they apply to the first 30 seconds of your sales conversations:
3 Tips for a Great Sales Introductions
- When phone dialing: use a standard introduction – or even better, have a standard introduction for each personality profile that you can use as soon as you determine the personality of your prospect. Your approach (initial introduction) is critical to getting their buy-in immediately.
- When meeting face-to-face: never shuffle papers or fidget with anything that may be in your hand. Keep your right hand free to give a professional handshake, look them in the eye, and give a solid, well rehearsed introduction.
- When starting your meeting: create a buying atmosphere. It sets the stage for successful meeting.
The Last 30 Seconds: Setting Next Steps
On the stage, the last 30 seconds of a speech “plants the seed” with something that will leave a lasting impression. The last 30 seconds of any phone or face-to-face meeting are crucial, too. This is when you set the next steps so that all parties know exactly what’s going to happen next. Never leave a sales meeting (or end a sales call) without setting the next steps. And be specific! “I’ll follow up next week” isn’t good enough. Set the meeting date and time for the next conversation, and make sure everyone knows what’s supposed to happen during that meeting.
When to “Wing It” (Spoiler Alert: Never!)
If you find any of these scenarios uncomfortable, it’s probably because you’re winging it. Winging it just doesn’t work. Ever. If you see a great salesperson who looks like they’re winging it, it’s just because they’ve delivered their pitch so many times and they have every aspect of their presentation down so well that it just seems like they’re winging it.
If you want to be a rock star sales professional, then work on your craft like the big dogs do. Take the time to write your scripts and practice, practice, practice until it feels natural; practice the words until you’ve memorized them and they become a part of you. Both your prospects and your organization will thank you!
Public Speaking Skills for Salespeople Really Matter
I shared the story of my moment frozen in time to share that I too have screwed up (plenty of times, actually), but I deliberately practice my craft mistakes happen fewer and farther between. And thankfully, when I nail the introduction and finish strong, they don’t usually remember the part in the middle where I may have lost my train of thought. And thankfully, I haven’t gone blank in front an audience again!
Check out Gwen’s full article here…
Until next time – go sell some stuff!