Monthly Archives: July 2009

How To Give a Killer Online Presentation

Outdoor Vision user photoAs an early adopter of WebEx (now owned by Cisco) about a decade ago, I grappled with the unique challenges of presenting without being able to visually connect with your audience. Training, virtual, sales, multinational, board of directors, webinars, more and more meetings are done via the Web. So when I received an email (excerpted below) from a reader the other day, it got my attention:

My normal presentation venue is an online meeting without video conferencing – other than PowerPoint and screen sharing. While reading your post, How to Give a Killer Presentation, I kept thinking about the difficult challenges online meetings present such as the inability to read body language, not knowing when participants are having side conversations, and all the associated challenges that arise when you cannot see and visually interact with your audience.

So, do you have advice for giving killer online presentations using service providers such at GoToMeeting and WebEx?  

Jerry Anderson

I sure do. Here are 7 Tips for Giving a Killer Online Presentation:

  • Gratuitous analogy. Movies can direct viewer’s attention using the camera. Theater doesn’t have that luxury, so stage actors use voice and other tactics. Online presenting isn’t much different. To direct your audience’s attention and get them to engage without the benefit of visual cues, you have to go a little over the top.
  • Keep your energy level up. It may feel a little exaggerated at first, but you’ll get used to it. Be animated. Make big verbal gestures, statements, or rhetorical questions from time to time. Being a little funny or dramatic will help people remember what you’re telling them. It’s surprising what holds people’s attention.
  • Tell anecdotes. I know, if it’s a technical or training presentation that may seem odd or out of place, but it’s not. People passionate about a subject or experts in a field can usually point to an engaging teacher in their youth, and it usually involved funny or dramatic anecdotes or stories.  
  • Modulate your voice. If it doesn’t come naturally, learn to modulate your voice and practice. Take a voice class if you have to. Ask associates to sit in on your presentation and be critical. Tape it and listen for yourself.
  • Ask engaging questions. Ask unusually engaging questions. I’m not kidding. Come up with a few zingers the night before and use them. Also use out-of-the-blue analogies to different industries or activities (like I did here with acting … you think it’s easy engaging an audience just with words?). If your audience isn’t in “speaking” mode, then rhetorical questions work just as well. But stop short of standup comedy, okay? 
  • Pause for emphasis. Nothing’s worse than a presentation where the speaker drones on and on from point to point, slide to slide, without pause. Pause is the most dramatic way to emphasize a point. Practice getting comfortable with it.  
  • Avoid “slide show” speak. Direct the audience’s attention conversationally, sort of like this, “there’s a cool diagram on slide 8 that attempts to explain …” instead of the usual, “on the next slide …”

Well, the blog experts say I’ve lost your attention beyond 500 words, so I’m done here. But I’m sure all you online presenting experts can help Jerry and everyone else out with some of your own tips, so fire away.  Courtesy of BNET.

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What’s The Hot Time to Cold Call?

Ice CubesMost sales reps make cold calls when they feel like it. And that’s too bad, because scientific research reveals that timing may be even more important than technique when it comes to cold calling success.

This post tests your preconceptions about timing your cold calls, and then provides you with scientific facts that can help you double or even triple your cold calling success.

Ready to reach your next level of success? Click on the link below to take this three-question “learning” quiz.

HOW TO HEAT UP YOUR COLD CALLING. Courtesy of BNET.

5 Strategies for Selling During a Recession

sell yourselfDuring an economic slump, it’s tough for even the best sales professionals to close deals. Downturns prompt executives to slash discretionary spending as companies face intense pressure to show quick returns on investment and once-loyal customers eye cheaper competitors. But some companies still manage to close deals — or at least tee up for renewed sales in the inevitable rebound. Drawing on the successes of IBM and others, Howard Stevens, chairman and CEO of the HR Chally Group, and John Asher, chairman and CEO of sales training firm Asher, offer these five ways to make your sales organization a winner during a recession.

1. Don’t Devalue Your Product

During the 1973 recession, as competitors panicked, IBM made an unusual move: It raised prices. Big Blue took this step after embracing the marketing catchphrase “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” “Most people think in tough times you have to give a special offer or cut prices,” Stevens says. But that ends up devaluing the product — and the salesperson’s reputation. When prices fall dramatically, Stevens says, customers start to believe they were overpaying at the regular price or that the product is so cheap because there’s something wrong with it. Instead of slashing prices, consider offering additional services — such as longer guarantees or additional tech support — to make buyers feel like they’re getting more value for their money.

2. Stay Calm and Focus on Solutions

One of the worst mistakes a sales professional can make during a recession is to panic, says Stevens. Sales reps who act too aggressive or too hungry to make a sale will scare off potential customers, who are already worried about the fate of their own companies — and their jobs. Instead of hysteria, offer calm, focused solutions. “In a downturn, people are more concerned about safety and security than they are about high potential and big gain,” Stevens says. Sales pros should do background research to determine the biggest challenges and threats potential customers face, then shape their sales pitches around ways to minimize those threats.

3. Concentrate on Fewer Leads, but Contact Them More

Asher says his firm’s research shows it takes an average of 12 “contacts” — including e-mails, voice mails, face-to-face meetings, and phone conversations — to make a sale. “That increases in a recession,” he says. During a downturn it can take as many as 16 contacts to close a sale, because factors like tight credit and budget cuts lengthen the decision-making process. In a recession, sales reps should concentrate more of their efforts on a smaller group of potential clients. “The average salesperson will pick 50 prospects and give them just a little attention, usually quitting after three contacts,” Asher says. “Elite salespeople will pick their top 10 prospects and give them 15 or 16 contacts.”

4. Don’t Neglect Your Base

Focusing on new customers is crucial, but don’t ignore your existing customers or assume that they’re safe. Make sure they know their business is appreciated, and spend as much effort reaching out to them as you do contacting potential new clients. After all, it’s your existing clients who will carry you through a recession. “Losing them for the sake of new business will only cost you more in the end,” Stevens says.

5. Upgrade Your Sales Force

Recessions often trigger layoffs or the closure of entire firms, which means that scores of sales professionals are looking for new opportunities. That’s an opportunity for you to give your sales team more muscle. Asher suggests taking advantage of that pool of experienced labor and reorganizing your sales force to maximize its potential. His rule of thumb: Reassign or let go of the bottom third of your underperforming salespeople and replace them with fresh blood. But don’t stop there. Employee training is also essential to boost sales in a recession. Assign senior sales managers, or even executives, to act as personal coaches to the sales force. Meet regularly with your sales reps to review your products and services, discuss strategies and setbacks, and keep people motivated.    Courtesy of BNET.

 

How to Create an Effective Sales Presentation

woman holding speech bubbleMaking a sales presentation can be nerve-wracking. Throw in a recession and increased pressure to close the sale, and the scenario gets even more stressful. Generic speeches and snazzy PowerPoint slides just don’t cut it anymore — especially with corporate customers who have reduced spending to boost their bottom lines. That’s why firms like IBM have retooled their sales pitches to better address the needs of their customers. Before setting up your next meeting with a potential client, try these techniques to create a more effective sales presentation that can produce real results.

Things you will need:

  • Allow hours or days for customer research.
  • Good research: To understand what potential customers need, you have to understand the details of their business.
  • Storytelling: Narrative is more compelling than a data-driven slide show.
  • Attitude: Be confident and persuasive. Don’t shy away from who you are: a salesperson. Own it.

Know Their Pain

Goal: Target your sales pitch to address the problems customers need to solve.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to framing a sales pitch. Even within the same industry, each potential customer will have a unique set of problems that he is eager to address. Your job is to understand those needs and position your pitch to speak directly to the client’s core concerns.

To do this effectively, good research is essential. The customer’s Web site is a good place to begin, but keep digging deeper. “Prospective clients expect that you understand their business, because Web sites, social networking, and other forms of technology are accessible to everyone,” says Kyla O’Connell, a sales consultant and director of business development for advertising agency Punch. “It’s not wise to walk in and ask, ‘What is the company’s vision?’ They expect you to know that already.” Research the company and its competitors online, but don’t stop there.

The Internet is useful, but nothing beats the insight you’ll get by talking to a human. That’s why it’s invaluable to find a contact inside the target company who can advise you. Leverage your social networks or professional organizations to find an “inside coach” who can provide details about what happens behind closed doors — especially whatever “pain” or existential concerns the firm is confronting.

Lastly, try to learn as much as possible about the person who will make the purchasing decision. The buyer may be under intense pressure to solve a problem, or face losing her job. Once you have a handle on what that problem is, your presentation should position your product or service as a solution. Potential customers are always more receptive when it’s clear that the sales pitch is relevant to their circumstances.

 Study the Industry as Much as the Players

Getting to know the inner workings of a company — and its decision makers — is a crucial part of any effective sales pitch. But don’t miss the bigger picture: what’s happening in the industry. Keep up with trade magazines, seminars, newsletters, conventions, or online groups that provide insight into an industry.

In 2001, IBM executives asked customers what IBM sales reps lacked. The answer, according to an interview in Sales and Marketing Management magazine, was that IBM’s sales force did not have sufficient depth of knowledge about customers’ industries. To address this, IBM retrained its sales force to make each sales rep an industry expert. Reps were also reorganized into teams based on a customer’s size, industry, and location. The shift meant that all of IBM’s sales reps could respond quickly to customer needs — without having to defer to a superior or another employee with specialized industry knowledge.

 Design a Presentation That Sings — Not Snoozes

Goal: Create an engaging pitch targeted to your potential customer.

Resist the urge to cobble together a bunch of pre-existing PowerPoint slides, and instead try to create a presentation that tells a clear story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Dean Brenner of the Latimer Group, a communications consulting firm, urges salespeople to sit down and outline the story they want to tell before writing the final draft. Begin by setting a goal, he says. Consider these two questions: What do I want to accomplish? What do I want my customer to think when I finish the presentation? If a competitor sells a cheaper product, then “your goal is to get them to see value beyond the price,” Brenner says. “All communication needs to be constructed with a very clear picture of where you’re trying to go.”

Clarify your message before pulling in props such as PowerPoint slides, brochures, or decks. “Those things are merely the final illustration of the story you’re trying to tell,” Brenner says. Showing a picture, video, or graphic to illustrate a point is fine, but avoid showing a series of slides that contain nothing but text. “Too many salespeople use PowerPoint slides as a crutch and just simply read the slides to the audience,” O’Connell adds. Most important, avoid what O’Connell calls the “shameful rookie mistake” of turning a sales presentation into a dog-and-pony show that describes how great your company is — but doesn’t address your potential customers’ problems.

 Checklist

Developing a Presentation

Before you head into the meeting, make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Here are a few things you won’t want to forget:

  • Determine the points you want to make, tailored to the specific customer.
  • Write out your goals for the meeting.
  • Take your insights into your customers’ needs and turn them into a story with a solid beginning, middle, and end.
  • Create the visual aids that best illustrate the story.
  • Eliminate jargon and confusing slides from the presentation.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Get feedback from at least one other source, like your sales coach or a trusted colleague, before the presentation.

 Speak Like a Pro

Goal: Deliver an authentic, persuasive, and creative presentation.

Terri Sjodin, founder of Sjodin Communications and author of New Sales Speak: The 9 Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, says there are three essential elements to crafting a punchy presentation.

1. Have a rock-solid, persuasive case.

When people are uncomfortable making a forceful argument, they often compensate by providing lots of disjointed data. That’s a mistake. Data should be used to support a compelling story, but without the story the data can be overwhelming. “We give biased information. So let’s just own who we are,” Sjodin says. “We don’t have to shrink from being persuasive, especially when you believe in your product, your service, and yourself.” She encourages salespeople to think like lawyers: Craft an argument that’s so chock-full of evidence that it would persuade even the toughest judge.

2. Be compelling and creative.

“You may have a great case, but the way you present it has to be clever,” Sjodin says. That means steering clear of generic scripts or boring visual aids. Try using a testimonial from another customer or telling a story to illustrate a point. “Use your analytical skills as a sales professional, and ask yourself, Am I really looking at this material and defining what makes us different?” Sjodin says.

3. Speak in an authentic voice.

No one likes a poseur. “You don’t want to hear Eddie Murphy performing Robin Williams material,” Sjodin says. “They’re both great comedians, but each has their own voice.” Sales professionals are no different. Don’t pretend to know things you don’t or use too much industry jargon. Be yourself, be accessible, and remember that potential clients will see through someone who is putting on an act.

 What Not to Do

Avoid Information Overload

Don’t fall into the trap of giving clients information that they already know, Sjodin says. Too many facts will bog down a presentation and prevent it from moving forward. “Often you get this huge information dump, but you neglect to pull out the ‘So what?’ argument from the presentation,” she says. That approach forces the listeners to sort through the information on their own to find out what’s important, Sjodin says, rather than laying out arguments to build a case. There are lots of risks of dumping too much information in a presentation. The clients may get bored or feel like they are being lectured. Worst of all, they may take in all the information and data — and then use it to negotiate a deal with someone else.

Courtesy of BNET. (Additional reporting by Noah Buhayar)

 

The New Normal

new neon signFor some time now, I’ve been asking friends and colleagues, “What will the recovery look like?” Most seem to think of it as a “hundred year storm”. When it passes, the sun will come out again and life will return to normal. But I have my doubts. I think we’ll be dealing with a “new normal”, filled with continuing disruptions and reimagining of old business models. I firmly believe that a “new way of doing business” is emerging. One with more Government oversight and intervention, different energy rules, tighter credit and even tighter consumer spending.  I also see signs of a new “collaborative mentality”.  No, not socialism.  That’s an old “ism”.  I’m talking about businesses forming more “strategic alliances” where companies share resources, customers and ideas without formally exchanging equity or cash.  More efforts to make “more out of less”.    More cooperative ventures between government and industry.  And a softening of the “zero sum game” we all played in the 80’s and 90’s where every gain I made was at the expense of my adversary and “enemy”.  In short, something new we haven’t named yet, where businesses begin to share ideas and resources more openly.  Sort of like a new “open code” for business, where everyone is free to “add onto” advances and ideas made by others.  

If any of that is true, what will this “new normal” look like?  And how will we know it when we see it?

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, touted that term at the recent Allen & Co. summit of movers and shakers in Sun Valley, Idaho.  He said that companies need to “figure out how to be happy and get our lives together in this new configuration,” adding, “You can’t waste money, credit is tight.”  

Here’s another article on that subject passed onto me by a friend. It’s written by Bob Buford  and suggests we’re entering a “fluid time” filled with “Revolution, Reliance, Resilience and Reserves”.  As he states:  “The New Normal has arrived and I expect it is here to stay – perhaps the rest of my lifetime. Much is yet to come as I described in my last chapter which was notes from the Aspen Ideas Festival hyper-experts. I suggest you give it a second look.

What I am thinking about in this musing falls in the “OK, what to do about it” category. I am reading a clear, compelling and easy to understand book by international strategist, Joshua Cooper Ramo, appropriately titled, The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It that frames a good deal of my musing this time. I highly recommend it.

So after digesting the Aspen Ideas Festival, “looking out the window” as Peter Drucker advised, and reading three copyright 2008 and 2009 books on the current context by well-connected global strategists, here is my consolidation of their advice about how to think and what to do about the current mess. For my part, just treat it as “thinking my confusion out loud.” I am certainly no expert – at best a good reader and listener.

1. Revolution – We now live in what one sociologist has called the “Risk Society” – a period of profound uncertainty and constant surprises – new and incalculable risks that we all share in, even if we are not aware of them. My shorthand is “nobody knows.” The New Normal means we must “live with a comfortable fluency with disruptive energy that can change the world.” (Ramo’s words)

We are forced now to assume unpredictability, not stability. Ramo calls it “the sand pile effect” – one more grain of stand (and you can’t predict which one) turns the pile from stable to a cascade, an avalanche. Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers are kings of the hill one day and bankrupt the next with huge ripple effects. Thousands of lifelong auto dealers are closed down in one week.

Even church, that most seemingly stable of institutions, evolves and adapts at a rapid pace. According to church expert, Alan Hirsh:
“Church is becoming a much more organic, dynamic, and non-institutionalized set of relationships than the old Christendom allows for – more a web, a series of intersecting lines symbolizing networks of relationships, friendships and acquaintances.” The eternal stays firm. The forms are innovative.

2. Reliance – Who do you rely on when the chips are down? Research shows that it is usually friends and peers. Study after study demonstrates that institutional loyalties (to government, corporations, media, church and authority figures across the board) are way down. Faith in God is often more likely to be mediated through peers than through organized religion as the quote above from Alan Hirsh indicates. We see this all the time at Leadership Network as large churches adopt smaller, more personal forms – small groups, home churches, multi-sites.

3. Resilience – Not all hard times are financial in nature.

One of the Ideas Festival speakers was the artist, Chuck Close, a painter of oversized head on portraits like this self portrait.

Linda and I were lucky enough to spend a few minutes over a meal with Close. He is a gentle, patient man who works 365 days a year. Until we met Close, we didn’t know that he was quadriplegic with very little range of motion. He moves about in a compact motorized chair. He’s also dyslexic and has a disability called “face blindness” that causes him difficulty in focusing on the details of faces. And that is what he paints! Close is a paragon of resilience in the midst of multiple calamities that would wipe most of us out psychologically. Here is what he told us direct from my notes: “Everyone needs to feel special. It is a matter of survival. My art saved me from all my disabilities. When I looked around the room at Yale Art School, I couldn’t find myself there. And so I had to define my own space.

“Everything I did in art I did in response to my disabilities. I work with severe limitations. Sometimes I painted with ink on my fingertips. It was like caressing the face of someone I loved. It was tactile.

For those of us who are not destroyed by our disability, it becomes a great source of self-confidence and focus.”

I can’t immediately recall a better example of resilience in the face of adversity. It makes losing money in the stock market seem trivial. What a man!

4. Reserves – The story of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 41) is a great testimony to the wisdom of setting aside reserves. Joseph, with God’s help, interprets a dream for Pharaoh that nobody else can decipher. The kingdom will experience seven plentiful harvests followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh relies on Joseph as his Chief of Staff to store grain from the plentiful harvest and it saves Egypt from ruin.

Americans have been living on the edge for forty years. Now it looks like ten years of trillion dollar deficits even using the Obama projections which most everybody feels are optimistic. The Chinese have saved 45% of their incomes for years. Now we are the borrowers and they’re the lenders. Quite a reversal!

Sooo that’s what the New Normal looks like to me:
1. Profound uncertainty.
2. Relying more on friends than institutions.
3. Overcoming limitations by “defining your own unique space.”
4. Saving in lieu of spending.
5. Overcoming road blocks – living purposeful lives.”

That’s his version (and mine) of the “new normal”.  What’s yours?

Why Energy Demand Will Rebound

Energy guyAs the global downturn continues, the world economy faces a period of lower oil prices and overall demand for energy, a welcome change for consumers after the price spikes of recent years. But unless policy makers can find ways to improve the balance between energy supply and demand, the current slackness in energy markets will last no longer than it takes for the global economy to recover. That scenario will eventually impose significant costs on consumers and businesses in the form of higher energy prices. The importance of achieving a supply–demand balance extends, of course, beyond the next few years: in the longer term, demand seems set for robust growth.

As of late April 2009, the price of oil stood at around $50 a barrel—down from a high of nearly $150 a barrel in July 2008, though many observers doubt that oil demand will rebound enough after the current economic downturn to prompt another price shock. However, research from the McKinsey Global Institute conducted in 2008 and 2009 reveals the potential for a new spike in the price of oil between 2010 and 2013.  Courtesy of  The McKinsey Quarterly.

Russia Has Most Engaged Social Networking

Russia has World’s Most Engaged Social Networking Audience

Vkontakte.ru Ranks as Most Popular Social Networking Site in Russia with 14 Million Visitors

LONDON, U.K., July 2, 2009 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released a study of the social networking category in Russia, based on data from the comScore World Metrix audience measurement service. The study found Russia to have the world’s most engaged social networking audience, with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month.

Two-Thirds of Global Internet Users Access Social Networking Sites

Of the 1.1 billion people age 15 and older worldwide who accessed the Internet from a home or work location in May 2009, 734.2 million visited at least one social networking site during the month, representing a penetration of 65 percent of the worldwide Internet audience. The Russian social networking audience had the highest engagement among the 40 individual countries reported by comScore, with an average of 6.6 hours and 1,307 pages consumed per visitor. Brazil ranked close behind at 6.3 hours, followed by Canada (5.6 hours), Puerto Rico (5.3 hours) and Spain (5.3 hours).

“Social networking has become a popular online pastime not only in mature Internet markets like North America, but also in developing, high-growth Internet markets such as Russia,” said Mike Read, SVP & managing director, comScore Europe. “In a country as geographically large as Russia, social networking represents a way of connecting people from one corner of the country to the other. The highly engaged behavior of social networkers in Russia offers significant opportunity for marketers and advertisers seeking to reach these audiences.”

Top 20 Highest Engagement Social Networking Country Audiences*

Ranked by Average Hours per Visitor*

May 2009

Total Worldwide, Age 15+ – Home & Work Locations

Source: comScore World Metrix

Country Average Hours per Visitor Average Pages per Visitor
World-Wide 3.7 525
Russia 6.6 1,307
Brazil 6.3 1,220
Canada 5.6 649
Puerto Rico 5.3 587
Spain 5.3 968
Finland 4.7 919
United Kingdom 4.6 487
Germany 4.5 793
United States 4.2 477
Colombia 4.1 473
Mexico 4.0 488
Chile 4.0 418
Ireland 3.8 462
Turkey 3.7 427
Venezuela 3.7 454
France 3.6 526
Australia 3.4 374
New Zealand 3.4 386
Switzerland 3.2 430
Italy 3.2 39

*Out of the 38 individual countries currently reported on by comScore around the world.
**Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Vkontakte.ru is Russia’s Largest Social Networking Site

Of the 31.9 million people who accessed the Internet in Russia in April, 18.9 million visited at least one social networking site, representing a reach of 59 percent of the total online population. The most popular of these sites was Russian-based Vkontakte.ru with 14.3 million visitors, followed by Odnoklassniki.ru (7.8 million visitors), Mail.ru – My World (6.3 million visitors) and Fotostrana.ru (1.6 million visitors). Facebook.com attracted 616,000 Russian visitors, up 277 percent versus year ago.

A Selection of Leading Social Networking Sites

Ranked by Total Unique Visitors (000)*

May 2009

Total Russia, Age 15+ Home & Work Locations

Source: comScore World Metrix

Property Total Unique Visitors (000) % Reach of Total Online Population
Total Russian Internet Audience 31,907 100%
Social Networking 18,877 59%
Vkontakte.ru 14,310 45%
Odnoklassniki.ru 7,750 24%
Mail.Ru – My World 6,321 20%
Fotostrana.ru 1,624 5%
Privet.ru 942 3%
Moikrug.ru 839 3%
Facebook.com 616 2%
Steamcommunity.com 433 1%
MySpace Sites 371 1%
Vkrugudruzei.ru 214 1%

*Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

About comScore
comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com/companyinfo.