The Art of Exceptional Conversations

You’ve heard people say, “Ditch the pitch.”  What is your reaction to that statement?  Do you consider it blasphemous or treasonous?  Does it insult your sales sensibilities?  Is it possible that presentations have become passé?

So that we’re all speaking the same sales language, let’s clearly define our terms:  a “pitch” or “presentation” is when you, the salesperson or company representative, stand in front of an audience of four or more in a conference room, town hall, or general session or sit across a table or desk speaking to one, two, or three.  Usually this act involves you speaking, often uninterrupted, and sometimes either using visual aids or slides projected on a screen.

But if your prospects/customers are no longer interested in seeing your pitch or presentation, in what are they interested?  Could it be as simple as wanting to have a conversation, a platform where they can express both their frustrations and dreams and feel like they are being heard and understood by a third-party resource who may be able to help them achieve their goals? Yes! Conversations are the answer. Conversations are the future.  Consultative selling was the last decade.  This decade, salespeople, is all about conversations.

As your conversation coach, allow me to provide five ways to turn your presentations into conversations:

  1. Be interactive.  The very word “presentation” sounds like a performance.  Make sure that your conversation is a dialogue and not a monologue.  Monologues were great for Hamlet, but Hamlet wasn’t carrying a bag.  Hamlet didn’t have a quota. Banter. Discuss. Engage.
  2. Listen. It’s harder to listen when you’re the only one talking. Side note: We salespeople/sales managers/sales trainers can learn an awful lot from our friends the actors.  The best actors are the best listeners.  They are in the moment.  They are not thinking ahead.  They are listening and watching intently, responding accordingly to every stimulus.  In a conversation, we are jointly participating with our prospect/customer to reach a desired solution for both.
  3. Be generous.  “Presentations” have primarily become all about the speaker’s product, services, or company and much less about the customer’s wants, needs, or desires.  Consultative selling was supposed to solve all this.  But that process is still front-loaded.  Don’t consult, converse.  Plus, change your paradigm to see the world through the customer’s experience, not through your desperation to win the business.  Conversations are audience-centric, customer-centric not you-centric or your company-centric.
  4. Question. Interrogation vs. conversation. We know that you know to ask questions.  We know that you understand, teach, and have implemented the tactic.  Now, through the prism of conversations, we ask you to employ a strategy, an innate strategy that you have practiced since preschool.  Don’t stop asking questions, just do so in a less caustic and obvious way.  Less selling, please.  More conversations.
  5. Close naturally.  Examine the conversations you have with your friends and colleagues on a daily basis.  How do they end?  Is it fair to say that action steps are clear for everyone involved?  “We’re going to meet at the movies at seven o’clock.”  “Don’t forget to close the garage.”  “All expenses are due by the end of the day.”  Action is a natural conversation progression.  Please do not think that if you’re having conversations that nothing will happen and you will not close.  You will close, but it will happen organically and won’t feel forced or pressurized.  The close to a conversation is the easiest way to gain commitment to the next right step, whatever that may be.

If we are going to ditch the pitch, then let us all adopt a more palatable measure – conversations – and serve our audiences in a way that is unique, extraordinary, differentiating…in a word – exceptional.

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