• April 1, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Condemned by Every Syllable She Utters

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What makes a successful businessperson? Going by a New York Times article by Hillary Chura ("Um, Uh, Like Call in the Speech Coach"), good presentation skills are crucial. This is particularly true in sales; ineffective speakers close few deals. "Presentation is part of the sales process, and you do need a process," says Russ Lombardo, president and owner of Peak Sales Consulting. Lombardo finds salespeople not knowing how or even what to present. "Features and benefits aren't the way to lead." Carmine Gallo, communications coach and author of 10 Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators, says, "'For example' are two simple words that mean so much. If you can make your pitch interesting and relevant, you give the audience a reason to listen." Training somebody to speak to people means teaching them to focus on why those people should care. "A lot of salespeople do the wrong thing at the wrong time. They try to close too soon, or qualify too late," Lombardo says. The answer is to listen. "With good listening skills, salespeople will encounter fewer questions and objections, and achieve more successes." There are other ways to improve. "Practice--salespeople, like most people, hate to present," Lombardo says. "Many people have more fear of speaking than of dying." Weak speakers should practice in private; join an organization like Toastmasters International; and, most important, know their material and audience. Many presenters lack charisma because they have bad speech habits, but these can be fixed. "The best training is to put them on video. Nothing brings it home like seeing yourself fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, or hunting for words on camera."
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