The Secret to a Killer Sales Presentation – It’s All About Prep & Practice

I gave a presentation on Friday morning.  This was a big one.  Big company, big titles, big opportunity.  The feedback that I got was that I killed it, which thrilled me because a ton of work went into it.

I love doing this type of presentation too.  I reflected on the meeting on the flight home. I wanted to share what goes in to a presentation like this.

First, I have an amazing team.  Like any large scale presentation, you need to have a great supporting cast.  Without their help, this wouldn’t have been such a great presentation.  That is piece of advice number one.  Get help.

I found out about this presentation 2 weeks prior so here is what went down (assume this starts on day 0 and you present on day 14):

- Day 3 – Meeting overview – this is usually a 60 minute meeting with the team and includes: How much time we have? Who is attending? What do they want to get out of the meeting? What do we want to get out of the meeting? What are the points most important to them?  What key events have happend or will happen between now and about 2-weeks after that (to remain relevant)?

- Day 5 – Present the rough outline – If you’re doing slides, these are the titles of each slide.  If you’re giving a talk, these are your primary talking points.  As a sales guy, I try to avoid slides, but when presenting with a group, especially technical things to technical people, this is tough.

- Day 7 – Dry run – This is a soft run to your team, ad libing each of the main points.  The goal of this dry run is to ensure that you’ve got the points in the right order.  By this point, you should have a good opening line and a good closing line.  What is going to grab their attention and what is going to be the closer to ensure that they remember you?

- Day 8 – Start writing a script – This might be something specifically for me, but I literally write down word for word exactly what I’m going to say.  In the case of this past week, it was about 10 slides with a story on each slide.  I write it down verbatim, almost like stage directions.  I put in pauses, I put in emphasis, I put in notes about what to do with my hands.  

- Day 9 – Review with the team – Read this script, with your slides, to your team.  Where does it work, where does it miss?  Get tons of feedback about what you should say and shouldn’t say and how you should or shouldn’t say it.  My fault is that I don’t pause enough.  It’s good to hear feedback from my team on where to insert these pauses and for how long.  I add them to my script.

- Day 10 & 11 – Keep reviewing – By this point, I’m reading my script 5 or 6 times per day.  I generally try to do it a couple of times in the morning and make adjustments then do a couple of times at night before I go to bed and keep making adjustments.  Also at this point, I’m starting to find that I wake up in the middle of the night reciting my script and jotting down notes on what changes need to be made.

- Day 12 – Do it without notes – Usually by this point, I’ve got the script pretty well memorized.  Now, I want to make sure that I can recite it without having my notes in front of me.  This accomplishes two things – 1.) It ensures that I know the stuff and 2.) It gives me a chance to improv so that it doesn’t sound like I’m reading from a script, but actually speaking from the heart.  

I’m still doing all of this with my team and making constant adjustments to the presentation based on their feedback.  Of course, by this point, the content is pretty well solidified, now it is just a matter of delivery style.  

- Day 13 – The day before a presentation, I generally try to present at least half a dozen times.  I usually do two dry runs by myself in front of the mirror first thing in the morning (once before coffee, once after) then I try to find a few poor souls that will give me the time to do a dry run for them.  Finally, I do a couple of dry runs before I go to bed.  I’m making minor tweaks to the style and the way that I deliver each point

- Day 14 – The day of the presentation, depending on what time I’m presenting, I try to give a couple of dry runs in front of the mirror in the morning.  I get a good breakfast if I’m presenting in the morning, but I generally skip lunch if I’m presenting after lunch.

In watching the TechCrunch Disrupt presenters last week, I was amazed at how clear it was that many of these CEO’s clearly didn’t practice their presentations or much time in to preparing for them.  I wasn’t too impressed by Qwiki as a company, but their presentation killed.  If you’ve got to give a presentation on the value of your life, and you’ve got a few weeks to prepare for it, don’t you put a little bit of work in to it?

Allen Iverson talks in the video above about how ‘it’s just practice’.  Iverson has no rings.

Put a little bit of effort into your presentation and practice it a little bit and go get your ring.

If you want to learn more about working a room, keeping a topic and generally kicking ass when you’re giving a presentation, check out Scott Berkun‘s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker.

Building a Sweet RSS Feed in Yahoo! Pipes

I’ve been working on and off on a series of posts on web 2.0 tools that sales people can use to be better prepared for sales calls and to outperform the competition. You can find the beginning of the series here.One of the posts that I’ve really been looking forward to writing is one on Yahoo! Pipes. Pipes, while it appears complicated, is actually a fairly simple data aggregator. Do you have a penchant for building a gizmo that scours criagslist for something and sends you a report with a link and price? Pipes can do that for you. Want to combine Last.fm with YouTube? No problem (that one is really cool). Pipes is really super fantastic good for making any kind of mashup you can envision.I actually discovered Pipes when I was trying to develop a golf / Flickr mashup. Tangent: It would have combined Flickr with golf course reviews in local. If anyone wants to build it, please do so, I couldn’t make it work. What I could do, though, was develop simple, combined RSS feeds. Essentially taking feeds from a number of different sites and combining them into one data feed that I could subscribe to. In other words, I could take all of the official Yahoo! RSS feeds and, rather than subscribing to 20 different feeds, I simply subscribe to one.Using this in a sales environment is really quite simple. I’ll walk you through the first one and you can take it from there. I’ll show you how to make a basic pipe that aggregates a number of sales blogs together. The really nice part about Pipes is that the code is open. I’ll give you a link to my pipe and you can modify it as you see fit.The first step is to go to Yahoo! Pipes and login.Now, you can do one of two things. What I would recommend is that you browse around the pipes and find a couple that you like. From there, just steal their code and modify as indicated above. If you are more of the macho, I want to build this on my own type of person, press the ‘Create a Pipe’ button.You’ll be presented with a screen that looks like a piece of graph paper with the words ‘drag modules here’ in the center. On the left hand side, you’ll see said modules starting with Sources, User Inputs, Operators, Url, etc. These will be your building blocks for the application you are building.To build an RSS aggregator, first, it is important to think about which feeds you want to subscribe to. In my case, I’m going to grab the following sales & marketing blog feeds:

Sweet, you’re with me right? Pipes is open to the front page looking like graph paper and you have the blogs you want. Here is the easy part.From the left hand side of the screen, grab the module called ‘Fetch Feed’ and drag it onto the graph paper. You should have a cool little box that looks like this:

Media_httpwwwscottsch_jpcjl

Grab a few of them and put them on your graph paper.Next, fill in the boxes with the site feed address. This is the one that ends in RSS, atom or has Feedburner or something like that in it. For example, the feed address for my site is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/scottschnaars/kVtx. Just right click (if you are right handed) on the little orange box and select ‘Copy Link Location’. Hopefully you have something that looks a little bit like this:

Media_httpwwwscottsch_txozi

(Click for Bigger Image)You don’t need to be nearly so anal about how clean it is. We are pretty smart at Yahoo and can figure it out if you have modules all over the place.You have to hook all of these feeds together. Grab a module under ‘Operators’ called ‘Union’. This will take all of your feeds and stuff them into one pipe. The ‘Union’ module will support up to 5 feeds and you can unionize unions of unions if you want. Very Big Love.Next, under operators, grab a module called ‘Sort’, drag it to your graph paper and from the drop down menu, pick ‘Itemby.pubDate’ and leave the default as ascending.Now the fun part, connect your modules using Pipes. Simply grab the little ball underneath your ‘Fetch Feed’ module and drag it to your ‘Union’ module. When you are finished dragging feeds to unions, drag your union to your sort. You probably notices that you also have a ‘Pipe Output’ module that was on the page when you dropped your first module there. You want to hook everything to this. In the end, you should have some type of Dr. Octopus schematic that looks more or less like this:

Media_httpwwwscottsch_qhfja

If you did it right, data should be coming out in the gray part at the bottom of the screen. Not just any data, but the data that you want in your application. Congratulations, you’re a Yahoo! Pipes developer. Share your apps with your friends and colleagues.Like I said above, my recommendation would be to find an application that you like and tailor it to your needs. You can access this application and copy the code by clicking here.If you create an application or an aggregator using Pipes, please share them with me.

Building a Sweet RSS Feed in Yahoo! Pipes

I’ve been working on and off on a series of posts on web 2.0 tools that sales people can use to be better prepared for sales calls and to outperform the competition. You can find the beginning of the series here.

One of the posts that I’ve really been looking forward to writing is one on Yahoo! Pipes. Pipes, while it appears complicated, is actually a fairly simple data aggregator. Do you have a penchant for building a gizmo that scours criagslist for something and sends you a report with a link and price? Pipes can do that for you. Want to combine Last.fm with YouTube? No problem (that one is really cool). Pipes is really super fantastic good for making any kind of mashup you can envision.

I actually discovered Pipes when I was trying to develop a golf / Flickr mashup. Tangent: It would have combined Flickr with golf course reviews in local. If anyone wants to build it, please do so, I couldn’t make it work. What I could do, though, was develop simple, combined RSS feeds. Essentially taking feeds from a number of different sites and combining them into one data feed that I could subscribe to. In other words, I could take all of the official Yahoo! RSS feeds and, rather than subscribing to 20 different feeds, I simply subscribe to one.

Using this in a sales environment is really quite simple. I’ll walk you through the first one and you can take it from there. I’ll show you how to make a basic pipe that aggregates a number of sales blogs together. The really nice part about Pipes is that the code is open. I’ll give you a link to my pipe and you can modify it as you see fit.

The first step is to go to Yahoo! Pipes and login.

Now, you can do one of two things. What I would recommend is that you browse around the pipes and find a couple that you like. From there, just steal their code and modify as indicated above. If you are more of the macho, I want to build this on my own type of person, press the ‘Create a Pipe’ button.

You’ll be presented with a screen that looks like a piece of graph paper with the words ‘drag modules here’ in the center. On the left hand side, you’ll see said modules starting with Sources, User Inputs, Operators, Url, etc. These will be your building blocks for the application you are building.

To build an RSS aggregator, first, it is important to think about which feeds you want to subscribe to. In my case, I’m going to grab the following sales & marketing blog feeds:

Sweet, you’re with me right? Pipes is open to the front page looking like graph paper and you have the blogs you want. Here is the easy part.

From the left hand side of the screen, grab the module called ‘Fetch Feed’ and drag it onto the graph paper. You should have a cool little box that looks like this:
Pipes - Fetch Feed
Grab a few of them and put them on your graph paper.

Next, fill in the boxes with the site feed address. This is the one that ends in RSS, atom or has Feedburner or something like that in it. For example, the feed address for my site is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/scottschnaars/kVtx. Just right click (if you are right handed) on the little orange box and select ‘Copy Link Location’. Hopefully you have something that looks a little bit like this:
Pipes Editing
(Click for Bigger Image)

You don’t need to be nearly so anal about how clean it is. We are pretty smart at Yahoo and can figure it out if you have modules all over the place.

You have to hook all of these feeds together. Grab a module under ‘Operators’ called ‘Union’. This will take all of your feeds and stuff them into one pipe. The ‘Union’ module will support up to 5 feeds and you can unionize unions of unions if you want. Very Big Love.

Next, under operators, grab a module called ‘Sort’, drag it to your graph paper and from the drop down menu, pick ‘Itemby.pubDate’ and leave the default as ascending.

Now the fun part, connect your modules using Pipes. Simply grab the little ball underneath your ‘Fetch Feed’ module and drag it to your ‘Union’ module. When you are finished dragging feeds to unions, drag your union to your sort. You probably notices that you also have a ‘Pipe Output’ module that was on the page when you dropped your first module there. You want to hook everything to this. In the end, you should have some type of Dr. Octopus schematic that looks more or less like this:
Pipes Editing 3

If you did it right, data should be coming out in the gray part at the bottom of the screen. Not just any data, but the data that you want in your application. Congratulations, you’re a Yahoo! Pipes developer. Share your apps with your friends and colleagues.

Like I said above, my recommendation would be to find an application that you like and tailor it to your needs. You can access this application and copy the code by clicking here.

If you create an application or an aggregator using Pipes, please share them with me.