Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

Presentation Prep: Mitigating Mistake Risks

As you prepare for your next meeting, imagine that CNN will be there broadcasting it live. How does that make you feel? Nervous? Self-conscious?

Truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Facing your next meeting as if the whole world will see it let’s you take the bull by the horns: come what may, you are going to prevail regardless of any possible mistakes.

Of course, mistakes can happen and they come in many forms. So, what can you do to mitigate the risk of a presentation mistake happening?  Here are a few things…

Six Ways to Avoid Presentation Mistakes

  • Prepare for a Bigger Audience: The client says, “It will just be me at the meeting.” But then you get there and she’s brought along five others. Be calm…be flattered…and then step up to deliver because you were ready for this.
  • Meet in a Conference Room: Look around your own office. How many distractions can you count? Even the photo of your family can make your mind wander. Request a conference room meeting. People know where your client’s office is but, probably won’t know what conference room he chose for your meeting. That means fewer interruptions. You have their full attention (if they can be convinced to put away their phone for 20 minutes!).
  • You Set the Stage: I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve rearranged a room in order to maintain control of the meeting. Often, there are too many chairs, the room is a mess, it’s too bright (or dark), there isn’t enough presentation space and so on. If there is a phone in the room, disconnect it! Dirty pool? No. You were promised full attention so, taking a phone call would break that promise. You will reconnect it after you’ve delivered your interruption-free presentation. The point is that you have arranged the room the way you want it and that will allow you to feel comfortable right from the start.
  • Calm Your Movements: Too many times, I’ve witnessed people making exaggerated gestures, pacing too much and making other unnecessary movements. This conveys one thing: nerves. We’ve discussed the importance of practicing, so you shouldn’t be overly nervous, just excited. Stay calm and deliver.
  • Be Neat: Prepare documents well and have them laid out, ready to distribute at the right time. Neatness counts…trite, but true. Control when the documents are distributed so that they don’t’ become a distraction to your presentation (ever had anyone skip ahead because they had the presentation in hand?).
  • Use the Facilities: I know…you shouldn’t have to be told this like a parent to a 5-year old. However, so many times we are rushing to get to a meeting on time, we forget our biological needs until it is too late. That’s a distraction for sure! Scheduling time to use the facilities will ensure a) you get there early and b) you have some time to compose your thoughts in private, which is another way to bolster your confidence.

Mistakes Are Human…So Is Your Audience

You can’t avoid all mistakes, only mitigate the risks beforehand. But Murphy is always lurking and sometimes, the unexpected happens. When it happens to you, acknowledge it. I had a client who just before a meeting accidentally dipped his tie into a full cup of coffee. He made light of it with humor to acknowledge why he wasn’t wearing a tie, which got a positive reaction since everyone in the room had had something similar happen at least once in their careers. Now, everyone could move past that incident and not wonder for the next 30 minutes why he was tieless.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.  If you follow the steps above and do your homework prior to the meeting, you have taken a big step towards mitigating the risks of mistakes. And that should give you the confidence to deliver the presentation in the way you hoped you would.

Oh…and one more tip…watch your coffee!

Which of these steps did you overlook in your last meeting?  What was the result?  Reply below.  -sg


Clues Are in the Research

I believe it was Dale Carnegie who once said; “Arouse an interest in another person before you present your idea…”
I’ve expounded on this for years…the sale is made in the listening, not in the presentation.

But listening without perspective is a lost opportunity to connect. Doing some quick research about your key client contact, the company, and news of the industry provides you with context for your listening.  The better and more relationally you listen, the easier it is to make the match to your product/service in a genuine manner.

Here’s an example from last week…

Do the Research

I’m coaching an investment executive on his fundraising efforts. At the start of our meeting, I asked him with whom he was meeting. His response was, “Oh, my team puts a list together and I look at it right before the event.”

You can imagine my initial reaction to this. But, remaining forebearant, I further asked, “Do you know what firms they represent? Did you look at his LinkedIn profile? Did you search any recent news about the company?”

Sheepishly he started to get the message and said, “I guess I should know some of this beforehand.” I asked him for the meeting attendee list, and put in the name of an executive he was scheduled to meet in LinkedIn. Up comes the university he attended: McGill University in Montreal. Turns out, one of his own team members also went to McGill. I asked if he thought that might be some good intel that could open up a conversation? He agreed that it was. And that was just a first-pass, tip-of-the-iceberg type revelation from the research.

The More You Know, the More You’ll Hear

Here’s the point, the more you know about your prospective client, the more you can listen to him/her and understand their respective “professional path.” The more you understand this, the more you can break the ice of initiating a relationship in a curious, genuine fashion and shape your recommendation to what their objectives are today.

Have the War Now, the Peace Later

My first lesson in business development came in 1977 in Flushing, Queens. I’d just graduated from college and began working for Met Life. I was assigned to a sales manager who changed my life in days. He could terrorize or motivate in seconds, make me scream with laughter or scream with rage almost at will. Yet what he actually instilled in me was his thirty years of life experiences all in one year.

We fought like crazy but most of what I teach today came from our real world selling situations and his deep understanding of people and how to reach them.  From that, I determined that when working with clients, it’s important that you allow the war first before you get to the peace.

Understand the Obstacles

What he meant was understanding ALL the obstacles you’ll face to close a client as soon as you can. He instilled in me the art of listening and calmly determining the barriers to close in a relational climate. He further demanded I uncover these within minutes of each meeting.

For example, listed below are a series of questions you can ask to find out what war you’ll need to resolve:

  1. What‘s mission critical to you and your business going into the new year?
  2. What challenges/headwinds will there be that can slow down this process?
  3. What’s been working with your current provider/consultant?
  4. What would you strengthen if you could?
  5. What’s your perception of our organization?
  6. How do you and your team like to collaborate with firms like mine?

Establish Empathy and Urgency

What is most mission critical is establishing a climate of empathy and urgency. These two behaviors are not necessarily immediate bedfellows. The empathy must come first. It must be genuine. The urgency comes from staying with the challenges your client shares long enough for them to accept them and declare their desire to get rid of them…pronto! As I’ve written…you have to stay in the pain.


What war is your client fighting? How are you helping? – sg

Don’t Give It Away

You go into a meeting where you will be pitching your company’s services and/or products. At some point, the client turns into a charity case when their expectation is that you will do some of the work for free as “goodwill” to earn their business. Been there? And did you comply?

You shouldn’t. Even though the act of giving them something for nothing may seem like you are earning their trust, what you are really doing is degrading the value of your company and its solutions.

There is Little Value in Free

It seems obvious that if something is free, it has little real value. Yet, so many times we are asked to provide complimentary services so that we can earn a client’s business. The thinking is, lose a little now to gain a lot later. But the minute you provide something for free, you have lessened the value it has. The expectation is that if you can offer it for free now, why would someone pay for it in full in the future?

An example: A advertising sales person has the opportunity to sign a major new brand. The potential client says they aren’t sure the campaign is worth the investment and would like to do a “trial run” to see how well it will work. You say yes because the potential future business is so great. In doing so you have made two mistakes:

  1. Made an assumption of future business. There are so many reasons why a client would back out after the free period is over. Therefore, there is no guarantee that this big fish will ever swim in your pond. Are you willing take that chance?
  2. Forever devalued your service/product. Once someone gets something for free, it’s pretty hard to convince them they should pay full price in the future. Thus, you have decreased the perceived value of your offer, probably forever.

Establish the Value So They Won’t Ask

It’s easy to give in to a “freebie” request (“I suppose I could lower our commission….”). But the moment you do that, it shows that you didn’t do a good enough job of establishing value. No one walks into a Mercedes dealership and asks for a free S550, right?

You need to gain the client’s understanding and trust. Remember, you are the advocate for YOUR company, it’s products and services. The benefits of those should be reward enough for your client. If you can’t demonstrate that, then it’s back to the drawing board for you. It is not a time to give anything away just to get the business. That will come back to haunt you later.

You can be positive in your response to a request for something for free. Honestly tell your client what you can and cannot do, and why. There is great a value in what your company offers and the client should be made aware of that. Doing anything for less than what you believe is fair shortchanges you and your company.

Have you ever been asked to provide something for free? How did you react?

Leadership Is Not Overcommitting!

Raise your hand if you have ever said one or more of the following:

I’d like to spend time leading my team, but I’ve got to focus on….
Renewing my existing clients
Retaining my high performers
Branding activity
My P+L
Business forecasting
HR issues
Compliance issues
Daily fire drills
Operational issues only I can solve
Inter-company issues
Legal issues
Community relations
Reviewing my team’s daily client interactions

Sound familiar?  What others are on your list?

There’s never an ideal time to lead your team. It seems like there is always something else more pressing. However, orphan your team at your peril. Without leadership, they will take matters into their own hands and that’s when your value proposition starts to weaken. Leading your team is not overcomitting…it’s your job!

Coaching Requires Discipline

Coaching people requires discipline, just like training for a marathon, learning a musical instrument or preparing for an important client meeting. To grow, we need discipline. Imagine if you raised children without any guidance!

The real question is: how important is it to you that you develop your team? I will tell you that it’s very important to your team. Who else do they have?

Start by asking yourself these questions:
Does your team know where you want them to be in six months or a year?
How will they know this without your direction? (Hint: the six-month check-in is not enough)
What can each direct report strengthen?
If you don’t tell them and give them a path to develop going forward who will?

Teams Need Direction

Your team will develop only through your direction. Try listing what you appreciate about each direct report and what you would strengthen. Then sit down with each person and share with them your thoughts. In doing this, you will establish a dialogue of development. It will make a large difference in each person you interact with and your direct report may surprise you with changing their behavior.

Keep in mind, you do not have to be perfect with your development efforts; you just have to make them. You will strengthen these skills over time but in the meantime, your team will see and appreciate the effort you are making. Make the time!

What is keeping you from developing your team? Let me know with a reply. -SG

Five Body Language Tips for Effective Presentations

You are sitting in a presentation and the speaker doesn’t move…for an hour! Are you engaged in the content? Conversely, your presenter is on the move constantly and it is like watching a tennis match…back and forth, back and forth. Does that get your attention or is it distracting?

Up to 90 percent of communication is judged by one’s physical delivery. If your body language doesn’t align with your spoken content, audiences will remember your delivery style more often than your words.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve discovered five physical actions to avoid when delivering an idea:

1. Looking Down

Looking down while speaking signifies uncertainty with the content. It can also communicate an unwillingness to answer a difficult question. Keep your head up and be confident in what you are presenting. Looking around the room when you are presenting implies you are searching for an answer or don’t know the content. Both are bad signs.

2. Lack of Enthusiasm

You’ve got to enjoy your conversation with a client and their team. Once you’re engaged, they engage. It’s always in that order. Get psyched in the morning with a great song you heard at the gym. Take some strong, deep breaths. Pump yourself up. Do whatever YOU need to do to get excited. Remember…you have heard your presentation many times (because you’ve rehearsed it, right?) but, they haven’t!

3. Non-Words

Nothing communicates tentativeness more that saying “ah or um” throughout a communication. In place of the non-word, put in a pause. You will give your communication more weight. No one wants to sit through a 30 minute soliloquy. A pause will allow them to digest what you are saying. It also gives you time to gauge their reactions by observing THEIR body language and craft your next points accordingly.

4. Being Motionless

Think John Madden delivering a football commentary. He wasn’t perfect but he enjoyed every thought he delivered. Gestures play a part in one’s voice tone. Your hand goes up, your voice goes up. Your hand goes down, your voice goes down. This movement keeps a communication alive and vital.

5. Using Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words we use that dilute the meaning of other words in the same sentence. Words such as think, might, want, hope, like, perhaps, maybe, and suggest weaken a recommendation to a client. “Perhaps our product might help with your situation,” is far less effective than “I recommend our product as a solution to your situation.” As you practice your presentation, note how many of these words creep into your communication. Once you are aware of them, you can work to eliminate them.

People will trust your recommendations when you deliver them with confidence. Your body language won’t lie so, pay attention to what you are saying…even when you aren’t speaking!

Leading is Living the Experience

I’ve just completed a program with the leader of an organization whose humility and confidence was profound. She participated in the program on Business Development with her direct reports. In a very demonstrative case of “leading by example,” she was willing to be coached and learn right along with them. It made a difference.

Here’s what her participation illustrated:

* Caring about the experience her direct reports were going to go through

* Courage in being the first up to experiment with different business development techniques we talk about in the program

* Humility in being coached in front of her team

* Commitment to developing her team

Further to this she realized the profound impact she has as the leader and the large impact she has in her team’s development. Through her own experimenting, she now has a shared experience to draw from as she shapes her team’s behavior. She also clearly sees the strengths and developmental areas of each person on her team. This is essential to building a team of green berets in business development.

Leading a team is all about making a difference with people and having people understand what’s mission critical. You’ve got to persist with your team to illustrate your devotion to development. The good ones will follow your lead from this behavior. Take heed of the ones who don’t!


The Big Impact of Small Talk

“How are you doing?”
“How’s the weather where you are?”
“What’s new?”
“What’s your sign?”

We all use small talk a lot to start of conversations. But too many times in business meetings, we use opening questions like those above (Ok…probably not the last one!), the answers to which do nothing to move your relationship or meeting goals forward. I can’t stress enough that time with a client should be used wisely right from the start.

The moment you greet your client must be light, tight and bright. This is the point in time…just after the “Hello” and handshake…to say something that proves you know their business and their needs are an obvious concern of yours.

Small Talk Takes Planning

Being successful with small talk is not a given. Solid, connected client small talk takes planning and forethought. You’ve done your homework, reading articles, studying financial reports, learning about the competition and prepared a solid recommendation. Now is the time to make that work payoff right out of the gate. An example:

A client of mine had an upcoming meeting with a key executive. Before the meeting, I insisted that together we study the company’s web site, review 11 pages of news, determine if any new products were being introduced (by them or their competition), review the executive’s LinkedIn profile and look over other publicly available information. When we arrived, he already had his opening line ready so….”Hello”….handshake…and then he asked: “Curious…when do you think you’re new product will be approved by the FDA since it’s already approved in Canada?” The client was visibly impressed, perked up and said, “How did you know that we were working on that exact issue yesterday?”

And the conversation went on from there….with no mention of the weather!

And Quick Reactions

While preparing your opening small talk in advance is a good idea, you’ll also need to be quick on your feet. Small talk may lead to something you need to react to and if you don’t pick up the signals, you’ll lose an opportunity to impress.

For example, I once accompanied a client on a meeting with one of the world’s largest ad agencies. When the assistant media director greeted us, she said, “Sorry, I’m running late. I’ll only have 10 minutes for you. Things are crazy since I’ve moved back from London.” What my client heard was “10 minutes.” So, to be respectful of her time, he quickly launched into his presentation. What I heard was “moved back from London.” At the end of the meeting, I asked, “Since moving back, have you noticed that advertising people in the UK have more savvy than New York advertising people?” She immediately brightened up, relaxed her face and body briefly and said, “I can’t believe you said that! That’s the main thing I’ve noticed since I returned.”

The ice was broken…but unfortunately it was at the END of the meeting. My client should have engaged the client and asked about her return with a sense of real caring and empathy. Heck…she had as much as said that the return was causing her stress. He needed to “stay in the pain” and ask about it. What a different meeting that might have been.

So, the next time you meet with someone, be sure you have an opening remark, comment or question prepared that relates to their business. And, be ready to listen, think and react to their opening lines. Keep doing this for meetings and you’ll never talk about the weather again!


What’s the Plan? Leading Your Next Conference Call

I have a client who hosts up to 25 conference calls with clients…per month! The challenge, besides the sheer volume, is that his clients usually have four people on the call and so does he. Adding to the complexity is that each conference call participant is in a different part of the world! I am currently coaching him on how to manage this so that he gets the results he wants. But leading a conference call is a skill that, unfortunately, so many fall short of doing well.

How Strong is Your Conference Call Leadership?

How good are you and your team at leading effective conference calls with clients? Pay attention to the next call where the team is presenting their recommendations/solutions. Is there a plan? Does everyone know it? Are each person’s roles clearly defined? Do they fully understand what you want?

Without a plan for something as important as a client conference call, you are leaving yourself, and your team, vulnerable to someone, probably your weak link, taking control of the call and leading things in the wrong direction.

How To Conduct an Effective Conference Call

Follow all or most of these conference call tips and I am sure your client calls will be more effective, your team will be more engaged with their client and you will see positive results.

  1. Choose your conference call moderator/facilitator: who owns the process both internally and externally? Let them champion it all the way.
  2. Establish you and your team’s expectations of the call, know every one of them throughout your team, then determine the most important three.
  3. Create the agenda you and your team will follow to craft the content of the call.
  4. Set participant roles and responsibilities and rehearsal times (yes, times, not just one but two or three)
  5. Pinpoint client questions and concerns; task teammates with determining solutions.
  6. Send out the final conference call agenda, and ask your client what additional items they want covered. Make the additional items a priority.
  7. At the start of the call, get verbal agreement on the agenda from each client stakeholder (know everyone’s name, use it and know what’s important to each)
  8. Restate the client’s collective goal and challenges as previously synthesized.
  9. During the call explain how your content “LINKS” to your client’s desires (use the word “LINK” or say “What this means for you and your business is…”)
  10. Build in discussion time after each person’s portion of the presentation to understand what your client is thinking/perceiving (it’s a great way to cheat on the test!).
  11. Recap the To-Do’s from the call at the conclusion of the discussion.
  12. Send out the set of next steps the same day (it shows your responsibility and urgency).

Follow these tips and you’ll be building a strong team that can communicate effectively by following a process you put in place, giving them confidence in you as their leader.  Let me know how it goes.

What the World Needs Now…Is Listening

I’m truly compelled now, with our nation’s recent events, to emphatically recommend to all my clients, readers and friends, to listen more to people than you ever have. Listening affirms someone. It says I care about understanding your issue, challenge, dream or worry, BEFORE I share mine with you.

Listening honors someone. Once they feel this, they in-turn will honor you. The more you listen, the more you forward your relationship with your client. The more you probe and ask questions that organically match their situation the more they will divulge.

That disclosure is precious and not to ever be minimized or dismissed. Rather it is to be cherished for it’s the aperture into which you will speak to establish a side by side relationship with you client.

Empathize with your client. Maybe their team isn’t listening enough to them. Maybe their family isn’t listening to them.  Everyone wants to be heard and they appreciate when they are. You have the opportunity to forge a climate of free disclosure. Clients remember this, they remember you for this.

Here are Four Listening Tips:

  1. Never take your own opinion as gospel
  2. Plan your questions the night before
  3. Play back what you hear, it’s an invitation for a client to disclose more to you
  4. Ask for your client’s opinion of issues, it’s very inviting

For other post where I’ve focused on listening, please check out the following:

Great Leaders Listen…But to Who?

Listen, Learn and Engage

Listen to Yourself First

Find Your Client’s Motivation First, Not Yours

Take time to listen to your clients, your friends and your family now…and make a practice of it. Understanding and compassion for their issues, goals and desires will follow.  And we can all use a bit more of that in these times.