Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Your hard work has paid off—you’ve made and completed the factfinding appointment, and set the next appointment to present your recommendations. Or, you’ve had great response to your seminar invitation, and you’re expecting a full house. How do you make sure your presentation is as effective as possible?
First of all, be organized. Your time is valuable, and so is that of your prospects and seminar attendees. Second, be prepared for questions, objections and curve balls. You’ve had lots of training to help you turn objections into sales opportunities, but when is the last time you actually role-played to hone your skills? Know your stuff—cold!
Equally important, always reconfirm your appointment or seminar details: date, time, place and who will be there. And be on time! Finally, follow-up and follow through. The presentation isn’t over when you finish the appointment or the attendees go home.
Here are seven pointers to set you on the path to stellar presentations.
1. Get organized.
How many times have you run out the door without all your materials—applications, illustrations, supporting materials, prospectuses, laptop, copies of handouts and so forth? What about your Day-Timer or personal organizer? Make a checklist of the materials you need to take and always follow it.
Make sure your materials are 100 percent current and appropriate to the prospect’s or seminar attendees’ goals and needs. Some things you have no choice about—compliance requires certain steps and materials—but don’t get carried away and overwhelm your prospect with too many options, too much information or too much material.
The most effective presentations are the ones that have been through tailoring (to the prospect’s needs and wants) and at least one dry run.
If you are doing a seminar or group presentation, don’t forget a sign-in sheet with name, address, phone and email boxes. And be sure to pack your business cards and brochures!
2. Be prepared.
This is the most important and often omitted step of the entire presentation process. If, as is often the case, you are using an online, automated or electronic presentation, make sure everything works before you head out the door. That means making certain your laptop isn’t doing strange things, the correct presentation and supporting materials are loaded, your wireless access works and your battery is fully charged.
If you are developing or tailoring materials, keep this in mind: Good slides are bullet-based and only have five to seven words per bullet and four to six bullets per screen. Presentation materials should contain “talking points”—you should never just read the materials.
3. Practice.
The most effective presentations are the ones that have been through tailoring (to the prospect’s needs and wants) and at least one dry run. The practice session gives you a chance to iron out glitches, formulate and deal with potential objections, and increase the overall coherency and professionalism of your presentation. This is also the right time to delete or update materials. Practice with a fellow advisor—you can help and learn from each other.
By practicing your presentation, you will come across as polished and knowledgeable. By tailoring materials for each presentation, you will save time and avoid confusion, and your prospects will appreciate the effort. It pays to have several versions of stock presentations. PowerPoint makes it a snap. As an alternative, you can take screen shots or scan in materials and embed them in a Word presentation.
4. Confirm the details.
Always make sure your presentation is a “go.” At least a day or two ahead of time, follow up by telephone and email. Using two means of confirmation is a good idea as it increases the likelihood your prospect will actually get your message.
Let the prospect know what materials, illustrations and documents you will be bringing. This may raise additional questions from the prospect, helping you more clearly identify and address his needs, wants and concerns.
It is very helpful to know if a spouse, adult children, fellow employees or others will be attending your presentation. This will help you tailor the presentation to meet as many expectations as possible.
Create a lasting positive impression by taking brief notes and then doing what you said you would do.
5. Read the signs.
When you are in front of the prospect, pay particular attention to body language. Is the person squirming, crossing his arms and legs, looking around or avoiding eye contact? These are not good signs. What you want to see is the prospect leaning forward, uncrossing his arms and legs, asking information-seeking questions and making regular eye contact. Notice and heed the signs about how well your presentation is going.
And please be sure to turn off your cell phone—your prospect is the only thing that matters right now.
6. Follow up and follow through
Create a lasting positive impression by taking brief notes and then doing what you said you would do. For example:
If you said you would get a more (or less) aggressive variable life insurance illustration, do it.
If you promised to do a side-by-side comparison of a variable and a traditional annuity, do it.
If your prospect asked questions you couldn’t answer, get the answers and deliver them.
If you find out your prospect has a medical issue that rules out the best rates at your preferred companies, find alternatives or send an explanation with the revised rates.
If you said you’d email the presentation materials, do it.
Ideally you should complete all follow-up and follow through within two business days. That should also include a handwritten thank-you note.
7. Allow for the unexpected
As you have surely learned by now, if something can go wrong, sooner or later it will. Maybe your computer battery is low—that’s why you brought printouts for you and your prospect. Maybe you were about to present information on market trends and asset allocation, and the market went into a tailspin, invalidating much of your material and making your illustrations look like pipe dreams—that’s why you have a second set of materials with more conservative data.
The better prepared you are, the easier presentations will be to create, update and actually present. You will find you are more successful at closing business, getting appointments and overcoming objections. Your prospects will get more out of your presentations, and as a result they will look to you as a resource and be more likely to understand what you can do and refer you business.

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