Over the years, I have sat through what sometimes feels like an endless procession of training sessions. Some were great, and some were less so.
As the great wheel of existence turns, now other people have to sit through my vendor training sessions.
It’s my expectation, whether I’m receiving or presenting, that in return for taking a half or a full day to attend a vendor’s presentation, participants should expect to come back enriched with useful new tools or information at their disposal. A really terrific buffet lunch can only go so far to compensate for having your time completely wasted.
If your job involves giving presentations, here are some simple suggestions to ensure that your audience is receptive to your message.
First of all, please have a point to being here today. Most effective training follows on the heels of their new product releases and new marketing efforts. This means that you should have a wealth of new and exciting information to impart to your audience.
I’ve known reps in the past that I’m certain looked at their calendar and thought, “Uh oh, Q3 is almost here. I better organize a training session before my national manager asks me what I’ve been doing all year!”
I still recall one training session where the rep basically said, “So, um, yeah. We’re not really launching anything new until CES. Oh, and we’re going to engineer our subwoofer enclosures a little smaller, so you can fit them into tighter spaces. Got that? Great! Where do you want to go for dinner?”
Don’t be that guy.
Building on the first point, next, please prepared and be organized. You need to have your presentation completely put together before subjecting us to it.
Central to a good sales presentation is being well prepared: Have your material organized, your PowerPoint ready to go and attend to little details like making sure you’ve got extra AV patch cables in your briefcase to interface with your venue’s multimedia.
If you really want to keep your audience engaged, practice. Rehearse your presentation over and over until your delivery is impressive. If you need serious help with your public speaking, join your local Toastmasters chapter. Your audience may not thank you, exactly, but they won’t nod off in the middle of your presentations.
I’ll point to an example outside of our tiny little industry: Some of the best training sessions I have ever seen have been put on by reps from mattress companies. Their reps’ presentations are focused, dynamic and keep their audiences engaged. I know for a fact that vendor reps for mattress companies endlessly rehearse their presentations until they’re polished.
Here’s another important tip, be prepared for hard questions from your audience. General managers, dealer principals, and senior staff have both years of real world experience and little patience. If there are any shortcomings in your presentation, they won’t be shy about letting you know.
The best way to handle questions from the experts is to be an expert yourself. One industry veteran once characterized to me how his territory reps fell into two categories: “Nice guy; doesn’t know anything,” and “Knows everything; not good with humans.” If you’re the former, make sure that the latter joins you on training sessions, and defer to him when the senior installer/senior programmer/senior propeller-head at your top account starts letting into you.
Some of the best presentations I’ve seen followed that pattern: The sales guy with the winning smile delivers the presentation, with the engineer sitting in reserve to field the questions.
That’s it, simple, direct ways to make your dealer training sessions more engaging and more effective.