I have heard that the number one reason prospects don’t buy from a salesperson is that the former failed to actually ASK for the business. If my personal experience is anything to go by, this must be true. But it goes a little further than this. You can ask for the business too early or at the wrong time – which is still going to get you the same result – no sale. Consider this: Today you have a better chance of closing a sale by not asking for the business, than by asking more than twice. So where is the middle ground?
As a presentation skills coach I have discovered that the Achilles Heel of the vast majority of presenters is their lack of understanding of the purpose of the conclusion, or the close. This is regardless of whether you are selling or not. The conclusion is more often than not treated as a quick exit strategy. “I’ve got through the main stuff, now lets finish off and get out of here”. It’s a brainless attitude because if you had some convincing to do, your conclusion could well determine the outcome. This means that the result of a reasonable number of presentations is determined by the conclusion.
A good conclusion has two key elements. The first one is to succinctly but powerfully summarize the main points of the presentation. This is the reminder, in case a point or two slipped away or was less than clear. The second is to tell the audience what you, the presenter expect them to do afterwards. It may be to buy, change their minds, go and study a particular chapter, support a cause, join a club or anything else. You can also make it easy for people to follow up and do what you’re suggesting by providing them with the right contact information.
Another reason they don’t buy is when they leave before you finish. This happens either when you’re too boring to bear, they are called out unexpectedly, or you exceeded your time and they had to leave due to an appointment. What a waste if you had an excellent close planned, and a key member of the audience left before you’d hit the nail on the head?
A presentation is an opportunity to persuade. Usually you have a captive audience – to start with anyway. Within the first 10 seconds they will establish whether you’re worth listening to – yes, that’s how long it takes for them to make up their minds about you, so a strong start is vital. But having gone to all that trouble, it would be a shame to blow it all with a limp conclusion.
Top sportspeople know how important it is to close out a match. The same applies to your presentation. If you have been alert to the needs of your audience and listened during question time, your closing request should come once only – at the end. If your presentation was interesting and persuasive along the way, more often than not they’ll do what you ask.