I love teaching public speaking to people in sales. They have boundless energy and confidence; they can hear “no” a dozen times and still have the stamina to go after the next potential client. But how do they go beyond their standard pitch to be more authentic?

These days, each one of us is in sales. We are always selling something: we’re selling a new direction to our board of directors, we’re selling a business idea to potential investors or donors, and we’re selling ourselves as job candidates or business partners.

At the same time, we have a very low tolerance for salespeople. We avoid people standing on the street with clipboards who try to sell us on an issue. We hang up when someone calls to tell us about a new phone service. We immediately delete an email that is written for a general audience and not for us personally.

So how can we sell with authenticity and passion?

In college, I waited tables at an upscale seafood restaurant in Sarasota, Florida called Charley’s Crab (it’s since been renamed Crab & Fin). On the menu, we had the most amazing espresso cheesecake: rich and creamy, with a graham cracker crust – in my mind, it was the ideal of what every cheesecake aspires to be. I used to sell it with such passion and enthusiasm that people overwhelmingly bought it over other desserts. They weren’t just buying the cheesecake – they were buying my experience with the cheesecake.

So when I teach public speaking to salespeople, my question to them is: what’s your cheesecake? What do you love MOST about the thing you are selling?

If you focus on that, and allow your natural energy and enthusiasm to come out, then you’ll be a more authentic and effective salesperson. Your enthusiasm (along with your knowledge of the product, industry, and client, of course) will make an impact on the client and make them want to buy whatever you are selling, because they will be buying your experience as well as your product.

So what’s your cheesecake?