Speaking Equals Selling

Making your next sale is like making your next speech.

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How can making a sale be any-thing like making a speech at Toastmasters? Surely, telling stories to an audience is nothing like trying to persuade a client to invest in your product or service. But stop and think for a minute. In both cases, you need to know your audience, understand their needs, and know what challenges you need to over-come. Furthermore, when preparing and delivering either a speech or a sale, you need to follow the same five steps:

1. Planning and Pre-work.

When preparing a sale, you need to know your prospects and the challenges they face. Preparing a speech is no different. You have to research your audience to understand who they are and what they want. In both cases, understanding the marketplace is key to success.

2. Choosing Your Material.

Research is just one part of preparation. Just as important is deciding what material you are going to use. In both cases, whether making a speech or making a sale, the basic question you must ask yourself is the same: "What story am I going to tell?"

Make no mistake, a salesperson is telling a story just as much as a Toastmaster is. A salesperson's story is simply about how a product or service will fulfill the prospect's needs or solve a particular problem. Simply describing the product and its features, while important, is not enough. You must also make the product's benefits real to the prospect, and the way to do that is through stories. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a mental picture is worth a thousand facts and statistics.

Come up with examples of how your product or service has helped people; create analogies to describe difficult concepts; identify problems that relate to people's lives and the solutions that only you can provide, and you will vastly increase your chances of success.

3. Making Your Main Points.

Getting ready to make your speech is like preparing to meet your client. Once you know your audience, you must tailor your speech in order to maximize your rapport with them so they'll "buy" your message.

Likewise, your prospects are more likely to base their decision to buy on their relationship with you rather than on the quality of the product or service you offer. To build rapport, a good speaker will not just talk to an audience but, in the words of 1991 Golden Gavel Award winner Bill Gove, will "pass over the lights" to become one with the audience. Similarly, a good salesperson will build up this relationship with the prospect, fostering trust and making sure the sales presentation is tailored to the client's needs.

Of course, you will make your main points in the opening, which is just as important in sales as it is in speeches. The opening is where you hook your audience or your client and establish a connection with them. Therefore, you need to get your opening right, whether you are at a Toastmasters meeting or in a prospect's home.

Throughout the opening and body of your sales presentation, your prospects need to feel that the two of you are working together to solve a problem, not that you are trying to force them to buy something they don't want. In a sale, your main points will be the ways you can fulfill your prospects' needs or alleviate their pain. Realize that people move either toward their needs or away from pain. When prospects buy some-thing from you, they are not really buying the thing itself so much as the benefits the thing provides. So when making your main points, describe these benefits in terms of this movement - either toward their needs or away from a problem or challenge.

Note that a need can be either real or perceived. For example, suppose that you have to get to work in a city with no public transportation and where your job is too far away to walk. So what do you need? You need a car. But what sort of car? A Kia? A Mercedes? You can get to work just as easily in a Kia as in a Mercedes, so a Mercedes salesperson would have to create a perception of need in the client and build that perception as high as it will go, even if no real need exists. Even though the prospect's real need is the car, the perceived need for a Mercedes may be the luxury, the dependability, the status or the elegance of the car.

4. Illustrating Your Main Points.

In a Toastmasters speech, you back up your main points with stories; in a sales presentation, you use analogies, facts and third-party testimonies. The composition of the speech and the presentation is the same. Let's say, for example, that you are trying to sell disability insurance to someone who is not sure of its benefits.

While you certainly should give him or her the details of the insurance benefits, you'd also want to make it real for the prospect by giving testimonials from similar people who purchased the insurance when they were healthy and thought they didn't need it, and later became unable to work because of an accident or some other unforeseen event.

Life insurance wouldn't have helped them, because they are still alive, but the disability insurance they purchased was able to help them provide for their family during the period they were not working. Such stories, if told well, evoke far more concrete images in the prospect's mind than a bald listing of figures and percentages.

5. Making the Call to Action.

A Toastmasters speech and a sales presentation should both end with a call to action. When delivering a speech, you are calling on the audience to implement your ideas, to change the way they do something or to rethink a process. When making a sales presentation, you are simply asking the prospect to invest in your product or service.

In both cases, the message is the same; "This will change your life." Both audiences and prospects need to make a decision to move forward. The process of persuading them to do this is the same, whether you are crafting a speech or crafting a sale.

Say It and Win!

The skills you learn at Toastmasters can help you with all aspects of your life. You will learn to present with confidence, build rapport with your prospects and clients and, above all, establish credibility.

You develop confidence, rapport and credibility several ways: through displaying your knowledge and expertise, through being able to speak eloquently and concisely, and through showing that you have thought through your statements and can substantiate them with data.

All these factors build confidence and trust in the client, so that he or she will choose to invest in you. So while you continue honing these abilities at your weekly Toastmasters meetings, realize that they will transfer way beyond the platform and will propel your career to new heights of success.

By Sam_Stein


What's Your Perspective

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"So many objections can be made to everything that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something"

-- SAMUEL JOHNSON

In every situation where one person is attempting to sell another person a product, service or idea, a sale is made. It is either the prospect who is sold the product, service or idea, or the salesperson who is sold on a reason for the prospect not to buy. Do not let your own personality flaws interfere with your success, Cultivate an optimistic outlook on life and take responsibility for your own situation. Then, you will be more effective at helping others solve their problems by seeing the benefits your product or service can bring.

Change your perspective. Realize, you are the only one responsible for your life, and while you cannot control everything that happens to you, you can control your attitude. Luck is nothing more than chance where you control the odds. The same holds true for every prospect you will ever meet.

Be an optimist. An optimistic attitude, especially in sales, can be one of your greatest assets. Try to see the good rather than the bad; to see the brighter side of life. Seeing situations from this perspective opens the mind to creative solutions to problems. Optimists can see solutions completely overlooked by pessimistic prospects. After all, it is the salesperson's duty to demonstrate how the product or service can solve the prospect's problems.

Use tact. Tact is basically the ability to communicate without offending others. Tact separates the pushy or aggressive salesperson who annoys or offends his prospects from the assertive salesperson, who persists despite rejection or objection, having the best interest of the prospect in mind. In a prospect tells you, "I can't buy because of this uncertain economy, contradicting that statement will only put him or her on the defense. Use tact when you respond to objections and think in terms of the prospect's point of view. An appropriate response may be, 'l can certainly understand why you would hesitate in this economy. In fact, our customers appreciate our products most when the economy is slow, because of the money it saves them."

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