The two common problems I’ve witnessed when observing people pitching ideas or making sales proposals are as follows: they get stuck in a looping pattern of repeating themselves or they skip around so much there’s no single thread to hold their pitch together and it falls into disharmony.
Whether you’re a person who is Stuck or a person who is Skipping, both issues are a result of not rehearsing and knowing your material well enough to deliver an effective presentation while being peppered with questions from a curious and impatient prospect.
Are you Stuck?
If you’ve ever listened to an old vinyl album on a record player (rather than listening to streaming audio or to a CD) a frequent problem with a well-love album (or a heavy tone arm) was that the record player would keep repeating the same audio over and over again because the needle got stuck in a groove (repeating a short clip of the song) instead of continuing to following the flow of the record tracks and breaks toward the label and the center hole.
In a presentation this usually means you lost your place or didn’t have a great transition to help you move on to the next track of your presentation “album”. You’re stuck in the groove and keep repeating yourself hoping the next line will pop into your head allowing you to ease into the next point of your proposal.
While a tone arm will sometimes self-correct, you usually have to manually pick up the arm and place the needle yourself on the next track to bypass the groove — which by this point has turned into a rut — and nobody wants to get stuck in a rut.
The next time your needle gets stuck during a presentation, just take a minute to pick yourself up by pausing to refer to your notes and then transition to the next topic in your presentation and get yourself back into the groove.
Are you Skipping?
The best proposal are basically a story arc with a distinct beginning, middle, and end with your conclusion (the prospect choosing to say “yes”) building throughout your story so that you have a strong finish. Think about the rules of creating a killer mix tape. You have to start strong, cool it down, and finish strong. There is a distinct order to the songs you choose — you don’t set it to random play and hope for the best. Your presentations need to play by the same rules, so you can’t allow yourself to bump the turntable and skip around your pitch.
Skipping might not be totally your fault.
Prospects ask questions in their impatience and excitement to get their specific bottom line details, but if you’re going to just give them a price without doing any setup to make sure you’re offering a solution to something they think is a problem how will you establish project goals and management the expected results.
When customers try to make me skip to the end of my presentations, I just tell it’s worth the wait and I don’t want to spoil the ending.
If your client asked you about a movie like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects you wouldn’t giveaway the ending, right? You wouldn’t tell them who Keyser Soze turned out to be or that Bruce Willis’ character was really the grown-up version of Haley Joel Osment’s character who was sent back in time to save himself from the ghosts, would you? (Oops! Spoiler Alert!)
The same rule applies to your presentations.
You don’t lead with “Hey, let me tell you about Luke Skywalker’s dad” and then try to keep them interested in recapping the problem your proposal is trying to solve for them.
If you follow this advice about how to avoid skipping around or getting stuck in the groove, I think you’ll be setting new sales records in no time!