Becoming a Captivating Speaker

Last week I was inspired by a recent blog article titled 7 Lessons From the World’s Most Captivating Presenters.I often coach teams and individuals to recognize the distinction between a good and great presenter. The author offers us great suggestions on how to captivate your audience. Three memorable quotes for me were:

  • “there is no shortcut to excellence”
  • “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
  • “people will never forget how you made them feel”

I was so elated after reading the article I immediately distributed it to several organizations the old-fashioned way - email. It’s been fascinating to read many of their responses and what they connected with most in the article.

Today, I’m distributing via my blog to share the message to a wider audience. You can access the link @

Even the Experts Need to Practice

Stop yourself from “eastwooding”

Imagine … you are an 82-year old actor accustomed to performing in front of live audiences your entire professional career. Your experiences aren’t limited to acting but you’ve also acheived elite status as an award-winning director. Two weeks ago most of us witnessed what happens when you don’t prepare for a presentation and decide to “wing it”.

Over the weekend, in an interview with a local newspaper, Mr. Eastwood recanted the events leading up to his performance at the Republic National Convention  –

Now, I’m fairly confident no one following my blog, or any of our peers in the channel, can hold a candle to Mr. Eastwood’s extensive public speaking resume. However, even with his storied career his actions clearly prove you MUST always practice, practice, practice. It is so essential to be impeccable with your words and test your ideas/thoughts before you go live.

Even if, as Mr Eastwood learned, you’ve been performing presentations for years you still need at least one dry run. Take time to walk through your presentation with a co-worker, a friend or family and I guarantee you will be rewarded by your efforts.

Inspired by Feedback

I’m inspired to revisit my blog after a short hiatus.

Last week I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my public speaking skills. It had been about two months since I was on a stage and it felt revingorating to garner smiles and head nods. I spoke on a topic many sellers are intersted in today, how to accelerate a sales cycle.

I’ve considered myself a good public speaker, however I was overwhelmed when an audience member complimented me by saying I remind him of Seth Godin Hopefully a reference to my enthusiastic delivery, creativity and less about our matching hairstyle.

I look forward to sharing ideas, on a more frequent basis, so you can improve your sales and presentations skills.

Talk the Talk

One of the most critical steps during any ERP or CRM sales cycle is the research you perform prior to the initial contact with a prospect. Good pre-discovery can significantly streamline a sales cycle while contributing to building your relationship as a trusted advisor.

Sales teams who dedicate at least 30 – 60 minutes to learn about an industry they aren’t intimately familiar with, often put themselves in a strategic advantage over the other competitive “horizontal” sellers.

The reason is, individuals and companies alike, prefer to invest in experts. It’s a fact. Look at your own personal, consumer buying patterns. When given a choice between saving a few dollars to engage with a business who may understand your needs versus spending a premium to invest in a product and service that understand exactly your specific need. The majority of the time people lean towards the premium option.

Before your initial call you should know – What are the key metrics in the industry? What are the top three priorities for the CFO? What current trends and business opportunities drive the prospect’s industry?

How do you get started? In addition to the traditional research avenues – a company website, Bing or Google, LinkedIn, etc. there are several industry tools to aid you in becoming proficient and speaking your prospect’s “language”.

Three tools I rely on and recommend to partners, in order of preference:

Prior to my post I contacted all three organizations to learn about discounts available to Microsoft partners. While they exist, the reps weren’t forthcoming on what discounts they provide to Microsoft partners. However, when you call remind them you are a MSFT partner and learn more.

What’s the BIG Deal about Cost Justification

How important do you feel it is to provide a decison maker with a business case justification when pitching your software and services?

The following graph was captured during a survey conducted by Forrester Research and presented during a recent SQL Server webcast. I agreed with the presenter and firmly believe delivering a solid business case to any prospective buyer (big or small), regardless of the solution, is your key differentiator.

Occassionally I’ll meet a sales team who disagrees with me on the importance of selling with ROI (return on investment) or Payback. One sales professional claimed this method of selling is “only for the big dogs”.

I contend that in today’s selling environment you are not just competing against other software providers but other capital investments. Often times the sales team with the greater, more credible cost justification, is rewarded with the winning decision.

What are your experiences? When were you successful and when did it backfire on you?

Leverage Your Inner Boy Scout

Be prepared for anything.

About a month ago I dusted off my camping gear and drove to Moab, UT for a 3-day camping weekend. The first camping trip of the season always feels clumsy and rusty primarily because I’m not confident I packed everything I need for the trip. What helps alleviate my worries is – maintain a camping box where I store most of my gear and I assume the worst can happen at any moment.

How does this relate to your demo preparations?

Many sales teams travel to a prospect’s location with only their laptop in tow. Or worse, they rely on an internet connection to connect to their demo environment back in the office. If you plan for the worst, and you should because everyone knows the inevitable will happen, you will be prepared for any surprises.

A great tip for any sales team is to build a demo box, similar to my camp box, and include items which you may need to save your hide in the worst situation.

Suggestions to include in your demo box:

  • A local installation of your software (it’s always wise to have a backup plan)
  • Presentation clicker
  • VGA extension cord (enables you to position yourself anywhere in the room)
  • Power extension cord + surge strip
  • Back up projector
  • Batteries
  • Flipchart + markers

Be prepared for anything.

Predict and Prove


One of my favorite tips is challening a presenter to “predict and prove”.

Everyone’s heard the reference “tell ‘em what you are going to show and then show em”. Or, if you’ve attended a Demo2Win workshop you’ve heard me coach the Tell-Show-Tell methodology.

Following this construct for any demo is extermely essential in providing your audience with a roadmap of where you are taking them before your show software. By opening your demo with a prediction you are providing the roadmap for your audience to follow. Then, your demo becomes the proving ground for your prediction. It’s a very simple and easy structure to remember and your audience will reward your efforts with head nods.

Challenge yourself on your next demonstration and attempt to “predict and prove” your message.