Ancient PowerPoint Secrets: Ask Your Grandma!

Yes, there are ancient PowerPoint secrets...secrets your grandmother knows and is probably willing to pass down to you.

But what's this you say? Your grandmother has never even heard of Microsoft PowerPoint?

No matter. If your grandma was like mine, she knew something about the power of an effective presentation.

Ancient PowerPoint Secret #1: A little treat. My grandmother was the master of what you might call a coffee klatsch...getting people together to talk and tell stories under the guise of having some sort of treat. In my grandmother's day, the treat would usually involve meeting over coffee or tea, and some sort of wonderful, home-baked sweet. And with these coffee klatsches, Grandma would inform and entertain while developing or maintaining treasured relationships.

If you're in sales, you can learn a lot about PowerPoint presentations from your grandma. Chances are, her coffee klatsch objectives probably aren't that much different than your PowerPoint presentation objectives. Like Grandma, you want to inform and entertain your audience?and you'll want to develop and maintain valuable long-term relationships, as well.

I've given lots of PowerPoint presentations in my day. And I've probably closed more sales over a box of doughnuts than with any single presentation! How can it be any wonder that many coffee shops today offer free, open wireless connections? Coffee shop owners know that during the day, business people often close deals over coffee and treats. The free wireless access that coffee shops offer is an inexpensive, effective lure to attract business people. In the same way, offering your prospects a tasty treat is a friendly, low-cost way to begin a sales relationship.

Ancient PowerPoint Secret #2: A little conversation. In the past six weeks, I closed three deals in coffee shops. I bought coffee and offered treats to my prospects, popped open my notebook computer, and had a conversation (not a presentation!) about my prospects' needs. Yes, I developed PowerPoint slides for all three meetings. But I didn't use PowerPoint to present: I used PowerPoint to guide a conversation.

Now, you know that conversations are two-way, interactive forms of personal communication. But what did your grandmother know? She knew that conversations can be downright entertaining! And that's yet another ancient PowerPoint secret: a series of conversations are much more effective than any single presentation when it comes to building relationships. So instead of building a massive PowerPoint presentation, why not build a PowerPoint conversation?

Here's how: start by listening to your prospect. Conversations are all about give-and-take, which involves listening, not just talking. Avoid storming into your first client meeting with an "All About Us" PowerPoint presentation. Your grandma wouldn't blab her life story to someone she just met: and neither should you!

Instead, ask questions. Find out about your potential clients' business and what challenges they might be facing. Have a conversation, not a presentation.

Ancient PowerPoint Secret #3: A little more conversation. If you think your or your company can help your new prospect, ask them if they'd like to meet you in a few days?for coffee and treats, of course! Tell your prospect you've generated some good ideas for their business based on your conversation, but you'd like a little time to give a little more thought to what they've said.

At this point, many sales people give a yelp of protest at this advice. They want to dive right into their product and services, and fire up their "All About Us" presentations right away!

But if you want to develop a long-term relationship, slow down! Give it some thought! By telling a new prospect that you've listened to what they said and that you want to think about it, you're showing them that you respect their ideas. That's flattering stuff. And by asking for a second meeting, you've also assumed the close. In this case, the close is simply a second meeting.

And of course, your prospects will definitely want to talk to you again! Everyone loves a good listener. Plus, your new prospects will want to hear the big payoff from investing in their first meeting with you. And guess what? By slowing things down, you've favorably predisposed your prospects into liking what you have to say. Why? Because if they're busy, they're thinking subconsciously, "Now, why am I meeting with this person again? I know, the pastries are good, but that's not the real reason, although I sure would like another one sometime soon. Oh, I know why -- it's probably because I like this person. I'm sure I'll like her products, too. Otherwise, I wouldn't have agreed to meet with her again!"

So ask for a second meeting and go home. Go back to your office. Armed with the information you've gleaned from careful questioning and listening to your prospects' concerns, you can custom-build a PowerPoint conversation that's "All About Them". This is way more effective than the typical "All About Us" presentation.

And remember, Grandma didn't have any use for bullet points! Bullets are for shooting people, and pointing is bad manners! So when you develop your PowerPoint conversation, remember what Grandma really loved: relevant, entertaining, illustrative stories. Make sure you tell a few good stories to your client in every conversation. Bullets can injure and kill: but a good story can really help you sell!

Put it all together... A little coffee, a little treat, a little conversation: that's the essence of beginning and developing an ongoing customer connection. A series of conversations over delightful treats can set a beautiful stage for building a long-term business or personal relationship. This approach is much better than plunking down a notebook computer filled with fancy graphics, animations, and sound effects. You may kid yourself that PowerPoint's technical "eye candy" can take the place of Grandma's penchant for telling entertaining stories over coffee and cake ? but it isn't. You only get to build strong relationships over time, so put away your hard-sell PowerPoint presentation slides...and grab a cookie!

Laura Bergells is a writer and internet marketing consultant from Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can read her blog and hear her podcasts at "A PowerPoint Blog by Maniactive." You can also download free PowerPoint templates at http://www.maniactive.com.

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