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Shut up and listen!

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Shut up and listen!

Do you remember those bloody awful sales videos you had to sit through in the 80s and 90s? The ones that had you drawing a line down the middle of the page; that made you remember the alternative close, the puppy-dog close, the assumptive close, even the ludicrous Duke of Wellington close. It took you, maybe, two sales pitches to work out that none of them worked.

Sales pitches account for the majority of presentations, and presentations probably account for the majority of books, how-to websites and general win-new-clients- and-look-sexy training courses. Amazingly, in the enlightened 21st Century, we're still stuck in that groove of someone's theory of how the world ought to wag (but clearly doesn't). So we hear about "information-loading colours", "optimum bullet weighting" and God knows what other bananas.

About the only sales training tip I ever picked up that's been useful is the old one about the ratio of ears to mouth. Good sales, we're told, stem from listening twice as much as we speak. And most of us are willing to accept this as fact.

So when was the last time you made a sales presentation this way?

Unless you're as relentlessly vigilant as a wheel clamper at the Olympics, presentations have a habit of becoming didactic lectures. Their whole structure encourages you to talk at your audience rather than with them. I've had clients comment, "Sure, but we'll have a proper conversation afterwards". Great, let's hope there's time.

This is fresh in my mind after a pitch presentation I made last week for a Web project for my Internet business. I'd put together something that looked professional and slick - there'd be something wrong here if I didn't. But the whole production was presented as a discussion document, not a "Here's what we do, aren't we fabulous?" propaganda attack. It took two full hours to work through around 15 slides, because all of us were talking in detail around each point. Except that they talked a lot more than I did. In those two hours we advanced beyond where we'd usually be at the end of the second meeting.

We got the deal (smug mode ON <k-dzzz>). Not only that, we got it on the day and before the end of the presentation. So here's a thought: Drag out your most-used presentation deck and ask yourself how you could make it more like a conversation.

Your best presentation tools are stuck each side of your head.

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