Next week, I’ll be speaking at an important event for sales professionals in the Washington, DC area. Sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, the Customer Acquisition Symposium on November 18 in Tyson’s Corner, VA, features 6 world-class sales experts with presentations and workshops to help you find and keep more clients. Use discount code SHAPIRACAS for $25 off the registration fee.

Many of my clients are in a customer-facing sales role in their company, but even those without “sales” in their job description need these skills to be effective in their job.

We are always selling something: if you’re the Executive Director of a nonprofit, you’re persuading donors to support you. If you’re an engineer, you’re selling a new strategy to your teammates or senior leadership. If you’re a parent, you’re persuading your kids to go to bed on time (or selling them on the value of vegetables!).

Sometimes we are selling an idea or a course of action, but more frequently, we are selling ourselves – as a job candidate, an elected official, a trusted advisor, or a partner.

Every time you speak to an audience of 1 or more, you have an opportunity to change their behaviors, beliefs, and actions.

As my colleague Annette Simmons, author of my favorite book on storytelling, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, says that when you change someone’s emotions, you change the way they feel about an issue. In her own words:

“The truth is, facts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts – at least the perception of facts. If people are mad, sad, or fearful, they discredit facts and attack the credibility of the source.”

In my experience, the most effective sales people truly believe in the product they are selling, which is why one of the most important questions we ask before giving a speech is “Why you: why are you passionate about this subject?”

Selling isn’t about creating a fake sales pitch that you present to your clients, donors, or team. It’s about sharing your natural enthusiasm for your work, for WHY you do what you do and why it’s important to your audience. Your enthusiasm is your best sales tool.

5 Speaking Tips for Your Sales Process

  1. Always ask “The 3 Questions” before your sales call. Before a speech, presentation, or conversation with a prospect, always ask yourself The 3 Questions below. They help you identify the most important information to highlight in your conversation.

    Who is your audience?
    How do they feel about your product or company?
    What is your goal?
    What do you want them to do at the end of the meeting?
    Why you?
    Why are you passionate about this? This unlocks your authentic language and energy.

  2. Remember that the best salespeople ask questions rather than pitch. A speech should feel like a conversation between you and every member of your audience. A sales presentation should literally include questions. And not rhetorical questions like, “How many of you would like to earn more money?” but rather, “Can you tell us about the problems you’re experiencing?” That way, the solutions you present to the client are in line with the actual challenges they face.
  3. Think about your executive presence. When you speak to a prospect or client, your entire body is communicating: your words, your body language, and your tone of voice. How can you ensure that everything is in alignment and nothing is undermining your confidence or professionalism? Come to the Nov.18 Customer Acquisition Symposium to learn tools to build your executive presence.
  4. Include a call to action. In public speaking, I always recommend a clear call to action – what do you want your audience to do after hearing you speak? In sales, this is called “the ask.” The more you know your client, the easier “the ask” will be because it will flow naturally from a conversation. Many people get cold feet and never ask for the business, for the funding, or for the partnership. Don’t shy away from this very important part of the conversation.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. In last month’s newsletter, I showed you how to use your daily commute to practice your upcoming presentations and important conversations. But on the way to the client’s office should be the final run-through, not the first time you practice. Set aside 15-30 minutes one day in advance to walk through the conversation out loud – either in front of a colleague or while videotaping yourself on your smartphone. The greatest number of filler words  – ums, ahs, kind ofs, sort ofs – happen when we are unprepared. When we look unprepared in front of a client, we lose the business.

Your public speaking skills can make or break your sales pitch; make time to practice the delivery of the pitch in addition to finalizing the content. The more you connect with your natural enthusiasm – and then let yourself demonstrate it in front of your clients – the more you will win the business.