Scenario: You've been asked to give a sales presentation to a large group of people, a mix of decision-makers, stakeholders and influencers. You want to make a good impression (of course) and you need to set the stage for the rest of the presentation. What's your best opening remark?
- Introduce yourself. If they're going to buy from you, your audience will want to know who you are and who you represent.
- Explain your presence. Your audience will take you more seriously once they understand the context of the meeting and why they're attending.
- Tell a funny story. People easily forget dry presentations. A little bit of humor is the best way to break the ice and get the audience involved.
- Quote a statistic. Sales is all about business, and business runs on statistics. So give them a factoid that opens up their eyes.
- Thank your contact. Selling is all about relationships, and relationships thrive on courtesy, so its crucial to give credit where it's due.
- Summarize your solution. These are busy people, so they'll want to know what they're going to hear about... before they decide to listen.
Here are the openings that I think are weak, and why:
- Introduce yourself. If it's a big meeting at a customer site, somebody will have already introduced you.
- Explain your presence. Anyone in the audience who doesn't know why they're attending isn't a decision-maker.
- Tell a funny story. I hate to tell you this, but unless you're the next Jerry Seinfeld, you're just not all that funny. Sorry.
- Thank your contact. Trite and unnecessary. You presumably have something valuable to offer, so no thanks are necessary.
- Summarize your solution. Awful. You haven't even restated the customer's problem, so it's WAY too soon to talk solutions.
- Quote a statistic. A TELLING statistic -- one that's startling and relevant -- makes your presentation memorable AND creates credibility.
Update (9/3): I respond to many of the comments below in the new posts "Presentation? You Got 10 Seconds!" and Use First Impressions as a Sales Tool
BTW, the above was loosely inspired by the new book "Own The Room" by David Booth, Deborah Shames and Peter Desberg. I'm not sure they'll support my "correct answer", but their cover letter pointed out the woeful weakness of some of the above approaches.