How to Sell, Not Tell, During Sales Presentations

AlexAnndra Ontra

Delivering an interesting and engaging presentation is an art that has been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Presenting to an audience is a way in which you can help others understand your vision, persuade them to make a purchase, convince them to join a cause, or inspire them to take action. Countless movements, revolutions and campaigns have all been sparked by a simple presentation.

As appealing as this all sounds, these things can only be accomplished through an effective presentation. In fact, a negative presentation can have quite the opposite effect.  Knowing the proper way to organize and deliver your thoughts and information is an integral aspect of a true presentation, and crucial to any sales pitch. Here are a few tips on how to sell not tell during a presentation.

Don’t read your slides. This may be the first lesson you ever learned about giving presentations, but it still remains the most important. There is no better way to lose the attention of your listeners than by reading directly from what is already being shown. Your slides are there to support you, not the other way around. You are the hero of your presentation, and your audience should be convinced of that. Some of the best ways to keep an audience captivated are through eye contact, a strong clear voice, and bringing forth your information in a unique, unpredictable fashion. None of this can be accomplished while staring at a screen or index cards, reading lines that everyone already knows are coming.

Engage your audience. It is extremely easy to get caught up in what you want for your presentation. You prepared your slides a certain way, have certain cues and talking points, and know the direction in which you want to lead your audience; however, it is important to remember one thing. None of that matters. The only thing that your audience cares about is what they need, and the only way to be certain of whether or not they are getting that is by allowing them be a part of the process.  The best sales happen when the customer convinces themselves. So talk to them, not at them. With them, not for them.

Ask questions. Questions encourage dialogue, which turn the presentation into a conversation. It is not uncommon to present to people who give no indicators as to whether or not they agree with what you are saying. Consequently, stopping periodically to ask for input is a great idea. Try to avoid yes or no questions. This way, you are able to truly get a sense of how your attendees feel and maybe even adjust your presentation accordingly.

Avoid lingo. You want to keep your presentation as simple and easy to follow as possible. This helps keep everyone relaxed, focused and on the same page.

PowerPoint is an accessory, not a crutch. While other formidable companies have released their own presentation app, the fact that PowerPoint is so ubiquitous, intuitive and accessible has made it the de facto program for business communication. Everyone knows it; everyone uses it. That being said, it is imperative that you don’t make it the focal point of your presentation.  If the people you are presenting to are your audience, then you should consider your PowerPoint as scenery, employed to enhance the “performance,” but certainly not to draw attention away from it.

Use animations and video wisely. If used properly and at critical moments throughout your presentation, videos and imagery will serve as powerful tools to drive your message home. They can truly be the difference between a memorable and a forgettable presentation. It is very important, however, to only choose media and images that relate to – and reinforce – your central message. Having to explain to your audience the video they just watched is not a position you want to be in. Additionally, you don’t want the imagery and video to overwhelm or detract from your message. It’s a delicate balance.

After reading through these tips, it is important to remember one thing: the power lies in the presenter, not the presentation. If you are confident in your abilities, properly prepare and organize your thoughts, and follow these rules, you will have no problem selling every presentation you give.

AlexAnndra Ontra is co-founder and president of Shufflrr, an on-demand document management solution for dynamic presentations.