May I Have Your Attention Please!

Have you ever presented in front of a large group of people? How about in a small meeting or maybe even just a 1:1 setting? How well did you know your audience before going into that meeting or presentation?

I just watched a movie this past weekend titled "The Founder." For those of you who haven't seen it, The Founder is a film that stars Michael Keaton as a businessman (Ray Kroc), and portrays the story of his creation of the infamous fast food chain we all have come to know as McDonalds. Prior to dominating the fast food "real estate" market, Ray Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman. The opening scene of the movie starts out with Michael Keaton pitching an owner of a drive-in on why he needs to buy his state of the art milkshake mixer. Long story short, he did not get the sale. Over the course of the next 5-7 minutes of the movie we see Michael Keaton traveling through the Midwest, visiting multiple drive-in's, getting shot down multiple times. He could not close a single sale. He looks presentable, he speaks in a professional manor, he has his pitch down to a science. Yet, he just can't seem to catch a break. Why? On paper he seems to be doing everything right. Right? Wrong!

A snazzy suit and scripted pitch doesn't make you a winner these days.  Nor did it when Mr. Kroc was trying to sling milkshake machines back in the 50's. In fact, it lumps you in with the other hundreds of salesmen going after that same pieces of business. So, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you grab the attention of your audience and more importantly, how do you keep them engaged? Simple. Get to know them.

Understand who you're dealing with. In school, we all used to study and prep before a big exam, didn't we? Well, maybe not all of us...but, the point I'm trying to make is why wouldn't we do the same before a big meeting or presentation? Especially, when there's money on the line. Am I wrong? Read the news, network with colleagues or better yet, go directly to the source.

"Mr. Burger Shop Owner, tell me about yourself. What are some challenges you're facing with your business? How is that impacting your bottom line?"

If you know your product well enough (shame on you if you don't), just from those 3 questions alone you should be able to have enough information to respond with a 2 minute elevator pitch on how your solution can potentially be a fit for what the customer is looking to accomplish. You achieve this by acknowledging and incorporating all of the challenges they have presented to you into your pitch. Then, you subtlety start working in how your solution can potentially help address those challenges. The same can be done before presenting to a large audience. Prior to the presentation, find out who your audience is. Will it be C-levels? Middle Management? Sales people? A mixture? Once you find out who your audience is, center your presentation around what's important to someone in their particular role. Ask rhetorical questions during certain points of your presentation to make the audience think and keep them engaged.

If you think about it, this is sales 101. Simple stuff. You don't need to be a genius to be good at sales or any job for that matter. You simply just need to listen more than you speak. This applies to everyone. I don't care if you're a doctor, lawyer, bank teller, teacher, stay at home mom or whatever.  The truth is that no matter what title we have or what our career choice is, we are ALL in sales. At some point during your day I can guarantee you that you are selling something to someone. It's a fact.

In closing, let's transition back to the movie. Eventually, Mr. Kroc (Michael Keaton) used this same methodology to land the largest opportunity of his life. When he learned about the McDonald brothers, he drove all the way out to California just to get a look at their operations. He tasted their food, toured their facility and even took them out to dinner to learn their story. And guess what happened? The next morning he used everything he learned from them that day to create a tailored pitch on why the McDonald brothers should franchise. The rest is history...

- CC