Sooner or later, you will have to sell something perhaps an idea, a business, or a product in front of a group of people. If you are not prepared, you may have a difficult time of it. Mastering a few fundamental skills of group selling will ensure your success. Some of the ideas below come from a book called The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Knowledge and Faith
The Foundation of Persuasion The first and most important rule of group selling is to sell only what you know well. This is a tough rule to follow, especially if you like to wing it. You can quiet the crowd with enthusiasm, but you wont convince them. I learned this lesson vividly years ago. When teaching English literature in Africa, I would sometimes come to class unprepared and try to get by with a spirited half-assed presentation.
I figured my students had two disadvantages: They knew nothing about English literature, and they didn’t speak fluent English. I should have been able to snow them, but I couldn’t. Somehow, they knew what I was doing. So the first rule of group selling is to talk about nothing except things you have a comfortable knowledge of. If you do that, you will never do badly. If you want to do better than OK, however, you might consider the following techniques used by professional speakers. Ask questions early. Get an idea of whom you are speaking to. Find out who they are, what they want from your speech, how much they know, and so on.
This technique gives you three advantages: By letting them talk about themselves, you get their attention; by getting their thoughts out there first, you can account for them in your comments; and, finally, by allowing people to express their ideas, theyll feel part of the solution your solution when it comes. Talk only about what you know and ask for feedback before you make any pronouncements. If you follow these two golden rules of public speaking, youll always do fine.
Here are a few more rules for you:
1. Make your first sentence engaging and compelling. Your first sentence is like a headline. It needs to be carefully created. Use the extra time you get by listening to your audience talk about their lives and their ideas to formulate the precise words that capture your thoughts, address those of the group, and advance your agenda.
2. Make your last sentence equally strong. You dont want to dilute the effectiveness of your argument by running on too long or finishing with a secondary remark. Be sensitive to your audiences reaction to what you are saying. If you do, you will have their attention and at some point in your presentation whether it be a formal one that lasts an hour or an impromptu argument that runs 30 seconds you will recognize that you have hit your mark. The group will be moved to your point of view. When you reach this juncture, end quickly and strong with a single, powerful sentence.
3. Whenever possible, solicit testimonials. If someone in your audience can testify to what you are saying, by all means ask him to do so.
For longer, more formal presentations you should also do the following:
* Anticipate questions and answer them in your presentation.
* Tell your audience beforehand that you will answer questions at the end.
* Illustrate what you mean with little stories anecdotes the audience can picture.
* Toward the end of your presentation, create a sense of urgency, a reason to act now rather than later. This needs to be real, not contrived. Spend some time thinking about it.
* If you are naturally funny, be yourself. But don’t try for laughter.
* Practice your presentation. If you don’t, two bad things will happen: One, you will not be able to finish the material you have assembled. Two, your audience will be thankful when you run out of your allotted time.
Remember, these skills apply to group selling situations of all sizes, including business meetings/dinners/etc. If your motive is to sell, use these techniques and succeed.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]