15-second sales presentation“So, what do you do?”

This is a fairly common question that people ask at a networking event, a trade show or even at a cocktail party.

How do you answer that question?

  1. You launch into a two-minute (or longer) technical spiel that leaves the person asking the question rolling his eyes and looking for a graceful way to escape your company.
  2. You stammer and stutter and examine your shoes, while your mind runs through all the possible permutations of how to answer the questions without the consequences of answer #1.
  3. You deliver an approachable, friendly, SIMPLE answer that makes your companion smile and say, “Really?  Tell me more about that!”

The VAST majority of people, even experienced salespeople, needlessly resort to answer #2.

Last week at the NBAA Convention, we facilitated a training session on Sales Phobia. It was attended by 40+ aviation professionals. These were the best and brightest in aviation- obviously they care enough about their profession to travel to the convention, some from as far away as Australia.  These were people who had many choices about how to spend their time at the convention – they could be meeting with clients, manning their booth on the trade show floor, or attending any of the other concurrent sessions. They were folks who went out of their way to attend a session on the topic of sales. Presumably, these were people representing their company’s product or service to other attendees, either in a trade show booth or in various networking events. They had paid good money (or their company had paid it on their behalf) to be present.

These folks were an excellent roomful of participant for the whole presentation. They were VERY responsive and full of ideas and comments, until I invited the group to give a 15-second sales presentation.

Let me say that again.

I invited them to give a sales presentation to a group of 40 or so of their peers, many of whom were probably excellent potential customers for their product or service.

I even offered them candy. (I throw candy to participants in many of our sessions. Perhaps not good for their teeth or blood sugar, but it’s an excellent way to encourage participation and keep up the pace in an education session!)

Seriously, in real life, how many times will it ever happen that you are actually offered CANDY to promote your product or service?

And yet, only one (of the 40) bright, capable, sales-interested participants was brave enough to offer a sales presentation. It was great! Everyone applauded a fantastic example.

I warned them that I would be asking again toward the end of the presentation and suggested they get to work writing one out if they liked.

Only two more (of the 40) took me up on the opportunity.

Obviously, this is much more difficult than it sounds.

But it’s also much more powerful, because I can almost guarantee that if you can do this at all, you’re doing it better than your competition.

When we talk about sales presentations, we often think of formal hour-long presentations, including glossy brochures and a gorgeous Powerpoint presentation, customized to the prospect’s needs, of course.  For some clients, we go even further, including days-long facility tours, product demos, and training sessions.

And while the long-form sales presentations are not to be discounted, You have MANY more opportunities to deliver the 15-second version.

These short sales presentations are nothing new.  Different sales training programs and textbooks call them by different names:

  • Your USP (Unique selling proposition)
  • Your tagline
  • Your “elevator speech”

Some textbooks and training programs recommend a 30-second speech. We prefer 15 seconds – this better matches the natural flow of a conversation. It removes the pressure to “take over” the conversation for a longer period of time.  It forces brevity and forethought. And most importantly, it leaves the listener wanting to know more, rather than regretting that he asked the question.

Here are a few examples:

  • “We provide a centralized reservation system for air charter services. We reduce the workload for brokers, operators and passengers with the first fully-automated reservation system to  book the flights they want.”  (Douglas Schmohl, FlightPartners.com)
  • “We represent aircraft buyers and sellers of business aircraft.  We personally take responsibility to provide the very best outcome for our clients. We are type rated pilots for most of the aircraft models we work with, and we are personally on site for every inspection. We are more interested in the long-term relationship than the short-term outcome of any particular transaction.” (Brad Harris, DallasJet.com)

and of course

  • “Our mission is to help the aviation industry become profitable again, one company at a time. We do that by creating performance-based sales and marketing programs with measurable outcomes.” (Paula Williams, ABCI.)

A couple of pointers for developing a great 15-second sales presentation:

  • Keep it incredibly short. This makes it comfortable to use in any situation that someone asks “what do you do?”
  • Don’t use vague overblown hyperbole.  “We run the most incredibly wonderfully awesome charter service.”
  • Keep it non-technical.  You want this to be understood, not just by someone who is your ideal customer, but by reporters, association leaders, or the best friend or mother-in-law of your ideal customer if you happened to meet them at a party or networking event.
  • Use benefits rather than features.  “Bigger gas tank” is a feature.  “Longer usable range” is a benefit.  (Not clear on the difference? Read “Features vs. Benefits” for more information.)
  • Use examples when appropriate.  “New York to Los Angeles” is more understandable in real terms than “Three thousand miles.”

Still stuck?

Try filling in the blanks.

  • “We help <<specific target market>> realize <<meaningful benefit>> by <<specific thing your product or service does that’s unique.>>

How’d you do?  Enter your 15-Second Sales Presentation in the comments below. (Free PR!) Include a link to your website if appropriate.

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