Have you ever given a presentation designed to persuade some people to pursue a particular course of action and been met with silence and blank stares from your audience members? In plainer language, have you ever given your sales pitch only to have it fall on blind eyes and deaf ears?
If this hasn’t happened to you, you either (1) haven’t given enough presentations, (2) are so charismatic that everyone hangs on your every word or (3) you learned early on in your career the value of involvement. The most successful marketing and sales professionals know deep in their guts that they must get the prospect/customer to open up and respond to them during each and every interaction. Even negative responses provide information and additional opportunities to overcome objections or uncover new needs or wants.
Those who market and sell products or services for a living, which is almost anyone in business, have been taught from day one to ask open-ended questions. Not “May I help you?,” which provides only two answers, one of which you don’t want. More like “How may I help you?,” which gives the prospect or customer the chance to articulate his or her needs or wants. Not “Would you like to buy now?,” which still has one answer you don’t want and calls for a decision the other party might think is fraught with risk. More like “Do you think the walnut or the mahogany style would look better in your living room?,” where a simple preference answer moves the prospect ever closer to the ultimate buying decision.
I had the opportunity recently to give a presentation to 20+ people at a lunchtime networking meeting. I’ve watch and given hundreds, if not thousands, of presentations and I know that succeeding depends very heavily on audience involvement. Beginning a presentation with a question relevant to the members of the group is one of the simplest and best ways to evoke participation as early as possible during your presentation. So is dividing a group in half and getting them to compete with each other using questions or game-style presentation methods, which is the method I used for this occasion. And it was a big hit according to the feedback I received.
How do you know what kinds of questions to ask? You have to do your homework! You have to know what is likely to pique the interests — or set off the passions — of the members of the group to whom you are speaking. So research is a vital element in the preparation of your message to your listeners. Because the wonderfulness of your graphics and the slickness of your presentation style will buy you nothing if it is not perceived to be relevant by those on the receiving end of it.
The same is true for any and all of your marketing tactics. Or do you have another opinion?