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Take Your PAL On All Sales Calls
By Marjorie Brody   Printer Friendly Version

It doesn't matter what you sell. Whether it's widgets or watermelons, we all face the same challenge -- connecting with our customers and getting our message across. I've devised a simple way to do this. I never forget my PAL™: the Purpose, Audience and Logistics of every sales call. This is the same method I use when preparing for any kind of presentation -- from a one-on-one meeting to a full-fledged "dog and pony show" with visual aids. You can do it, too.

Most business professionals know that when you give any type of presentation, you have to be conveying some value to audience members, remembering to answer their unspoken WIIFM question: "What's In It For Me?"

It doesn't matter what you are trying to sell. Whether it's widgets or watermelons, insurance policies or phone service, we all face the same challenge -- connecting with our audience/customers and getting our message across. How do you win over your listeners and close the deal?

Here's a simple way to do this. Never forget your PAL™: the Purpose, Audience and Logistics of every sales call you make. This is the same method you can use when preparing for any kind of presentation -- from a one-on-one meeting to a full-fledged "dog and pony show."

Purpose

The first point to remember is the P. Always keep your Purpose in mind. Do you want to generate sales leads? Sell a new product to an existing customer? Get a first order from a new customer? Or, merely inform them about your services?

What do you want your audience members to know, feel or do when they leave your sales presentation? Without this clarity, typically nothing happens. With a specific end result in mind, you will be more able to outline and develop your presentation more easily.

Being clear about the purpose of your sales call or sales presentation will help you prepare the right information to get your message across and keep you focused.

Audience

The "A" in PAL stands for Audience - the buying group or prospective buyers. Find out as much as you can about your audience members and the industry in which they operate before preparing your presentation. Even seasoned professional speakers sometimes forget to do all their homework and wind up losing a sale. There have been numerous examples of speeches given with information that was either too far above or too far below the knowledge level of the audience.

You want to ask yourself: Who is in the audience? Are they prospective clients or represent repeat business? Why are they there? What are their demographics (Where are they from? How old are they?). What is their attitude toward your objective? What knowledge do they have and do they need? The "right" information to the wrong audience limits your chance of achieving your objectives.

Where and when can you learn about your clients and prospects?

Before the presentation, you can do a Web search, read annual reports, and talk to others that have spoken to the same group. Ask the right questions of the person who invited you to present - or, better yet, ask some of the attendees. This type of advance preparation helps you customize the material and organize the content.

Whatever you do, make sure you are sensitive to the client. I know someone who almost lost a huge contract with United Parcel Service (UPS). After making a successful sales call, the well-meaning salesperson, almost on autopilot, told the client she'd FedEx him more information about her company's services! Wrong. The UPS contact asked her to repeat what she intended to do, and when she realized her mistake, she profusely apologized. The salesperson explained that her company had an account with FedEx, but that they also often use UPS. You can be sure that when the materials did go out, it was delivered by a driver wearing a brown uniform!

Here are two other pointers to remember along these lines:
  • Don't offer Cokes at lunch when the client is Pepsi.
  • Don't drive to a client site in an Avis car when the client is Budget.


Another way to properly prepare for your client is to arrive early before the sales presentation; observe and talk to people. This is a good opportunity to make last minute changes. Never forget what Yogi Berra said: "It ain't over 'til it's over." In other words, if your presentation isn't going well, change course. Doing a proper audience analysis and coming with the attitude of "serving" your listeners, will enhance your chance for success.

Logistics

Logistics represents the "L" in PAL. Knowing the logistics of your sales call or meeting in advance can save you a lot of grief later. Are you part of a team or panel of speakers/ prospective vendors - all scheduled to pitch product and services? What will the other company speakers be discussing? How large is the audience? What visual equipment is available? How much time do you have to present? What time of day will you be speaking? The answers to these questions are crucial factors in helping you tailor your sales pitch and presentation.

If you will be using visual aids, be certain you have the proper equipment including replacement bulbs, extra extension cords or anything else that might botch your presentation. If you will be going to your prospect's place of business for the first time, you might want to make a pre-visit to familiarize yourself with not only travel time but the office setup. Often a friendly receptionist will be able to show you the conference room or other setting where you will be making your presentation. Once you have determined your PAL, write your overall objective in one sentence or less. In other words, begin with the end in mind.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Be prepared to answer questions you might never have encountered before. Be prepared to be at your best. And don't forget your PAL.

With good preparation and practice, you will be prepared and close the sale.


Article copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999

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