Often the difference between success or failure in a meeting lies on how to read or work the room. The best presentation tools cannot overcome the dynamics that often come to play underneath the surface. While there’s an art element to persuasion, there are also some skills that can be learned. Next time you are selling an idea, a project, or just yourself, consider the following:
Find a personal connection. We do business with people we like. We hope they can deliver the goods. Don’t underestimate the power of a personal connection in a professional setting, especially if you’re selling…even just an idea. I have created strong bonds with perfect strangers after a few seconds of discovering that we both like to run, or that we have teenage children the same age, or that we both love the carrot cake at J. Alexander’s. I believe that people innately want to make friends and are looking for reasons to bridge the gap – from meeting a stranger to making a friend. Help them do that by asking probing questions and finding common ground.
Find a professional connection. Knowing respected people in business or ministry that help to legitimize or validate your credentials is critical on winning over decision makers. This should be natural and part of the conversation. The danger is to name drop for the sake of making yourself look good. That’s not only annoying, but it often backfires and repels the very people you’re trying to impress. You have to sell your credentials without selling them too hard.
Don’t assume you know who the decision maker is. If you don’t know the group you are presenting to, don’t assume the highest ranking person is your target audience. In my experience the “boss” is not always the one making the final call. As a CEO, I delegate a lot of important decisions to my direct reports. It annoys me, and them, when a sales person will direct every comment and question to me as if no one else in the room mattered. You are not going to sell me using this approach.
What else would you add to this list?