Get prospects involved in your presentations

John Foust
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Back in my ad agency days, I remember hearing and reading about the importance of getting prospects involved in sales presentations. At that point in my young career, I had experienced the difficulty of getting – and holding – the other person’s attention in a sales conversation. So I decided to try that strategy in an upcoming sales meeting.

The prospective client was a residential real estate development company which was considering a new logo and print brand identity. They were testing the waters to see if there were any logo ideas that were better than the design they had been using for years. I had worked with them on a few other projects, so they agreed for me to develop something.

My proposed logo featured an angled line over one of the upper-case letters in their name, with the line and the letter tailored to look like the outline of a house. Sure, it seems trite and unmemorable now, but at the time I thought it was a unique concept.

On the day of the presentation, I arrived with the finished logo, a drawing pad, and black and red markers. The finished version stayed in my briefcase, while I handed the pad and the red marker to the prospect. I provided detailed instructions on how to draw the simple letter and roof outline. Then I gave him the black marker and asked him to fill in the other letters of the company’s name. We talked for a minute or two about the simplicity of the design and how it would communicate the nature of their business at a glance.

That experience was a real wake-up call for me. From the moment I handed over the pad and the markers, he was completely involved in the process. I could tell that he had never before seen a presentation like that. By the time I pulled the completed version of the logo out of my briefcase, he understood the reasoning behind the design. After all, he had drawn it himself.

I wish I could report that my presentation convinced them to buy that new logo. But as it turned out, they kept using their old brand identity and later changed it to something which was designed by a family member. Those things happen.

Even though I lost the sale, I’ve never forgotten that day’s lesson. Those things I had heard about getting prospects involved in presentations were right. The key is to get the other person involved physically and mentally. There are a lot of possibilities. You can ask him to find his spec ad on a mocked-up newspaper page. You can ask her to look up something on her computer. Or you can ask the group at the conference table to vote on which testimonial quote to feature first.

Selling and teaching have a lot in common. It’s the old Chinese proverb in action: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

 (c) Copyright 2020 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:

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