Skip to main content
The Verdict is in: The Opening of Your Presentation Influences Your Sale
Stern judge speaking to the court
Stern judge speaking to the court

You’ve finally got that hard-fought presentation time with your prospect. You’ve managed to get all the decision-makers together in one room at the same time.

Quick reality check: Do you have their attention?

I wouldn’t bet on it.

Like you, prospects have other things on their minds. Perhaps they just got off a call with an unhappy customer or they’re worrying about how to handle an unresolved issue. Your first goal is to pull your listeners into the present.  Which means, you need a clear strategy for breaking through the mental clutter and physical distractions that plague today’s business audiences. After all, it won’t matter how exceptional your message is if your prospect isn’t listening!

The opening of your presentation or conversation influences the outcome of a sale than you may realize.
Consider this:

  • First impressions – Last impressions.  First impressions, while not always accurate, do affect the way you listen to people and how you perceive them. According to The Charisma Myth: ‘CEO’s and HR pros admit they’ll decide whether to hire someone in the first few seconds. The rest is just window dressing.’ If you have any doubt about the power of a first impression, think back to singer, Susan Boyle’s audition for The X Factor. Everything about her first few minutes on stage screamed “amateur.” The audience snickered and the judges barely contained skepticism until, of course, she hit those first superb notes. That’s a tough start to overcome. If you don’t have a dramatic trick like that in your bag, you need to start off strong to make sure your prospect is listening with a positive, open-mind.
    sales presentation skills
  •  Decisions are formed early.  Having somehow avoided jury duty my entire life, I found this fact from a recent study on juror’s decision-making shocking: the vast majority of jurors arrive at a verdict during or immediately after opening statements.   It’s no surprise then that trial lawyers spend a significant chunk of their time preparing their opening argument. Of course, you’re not on trial, but you are making a case for your product or service and your jury…er prospect, will start weighing the evidence from the moment you begin.

So how can you make a better start that will lead to a better finish? Stop treating your opening as simply a time to ramp up to full speed. You need to be at top speed out of the gate because you have a lot to accomplish, including:

Presentation Opening Goals:

  • Grab Attention: Getting someone’s attention isn’t difficult. Wear a funny hat. Show some photos of cute cats. Give away a hundred dollar bill. But I’m assuming that is not the kind of attention you want. Gratuitous attempts to hook people almost always backfire. I’m talking about earning attention in a way that is relevant and appropriate for your audience and your purpose. Provide an insight. Share an interesting fact or statistic. Pose a provocative question.
  • Create anticipation:   The goal of a movie preview is to give you just enough information to get you to shell out money for a ticket. In the same way, the goal of the opening is to pique your audience’s interest so they will be motivated to hear more of what you have to say. You’ve probably seen a preview where they all but spell out the whole movie for you. Who needs to see it after that?! Get your prospect excited about where you are going, but hold back a few plot twists to keep them engaged.
  • Deliver value:  Busy prospects hate to have their time wasted. In those first few minutes you need to quickly prove that you can add value. How? Tell a quick customer success story. Give them a specific benefit. Don’t save all the good stuff for the end. It may be too late.
  • Sell the next minute: Think of your prospect as poised with remote in hand. Sure, they’re with you now, but they could change the channel at any time. You’ve got to get them to stay tuned. How do you do that? By making each minute as compelling as possible and by getting them interested in what you’re going to say next. Selling them on the next minute is the only selling that should actually take place in your opening.

A tall order for the top of your presentation or call? You bet it is. That’s why it surprises me when salespeople say, “Oh, I usually just wing my opening.” Unless you’re a professional comedian, I don’t recommend leaving it to chance.   For more tips on improving your opening, click here.

Your sale could be riding on it.


Leave a Reply