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The most critical business development skill you must master.

Marketing and business development is a critical on-going activity for every business. For those creative entrepreneurs marketing their professional services, there’s one skill, above all others that’s critical to your success–presenting to prospects!

You already know that marketing and business development is a complex activity involving many strategies and tactics to find and close new business.  It can takes years of hard work before your efforts bear any fruit. You need lots of knowledge and skill to be an effective marketer.

For starters, you need a vision and plan, and you need to be visible in the marketplace. Prospects need to know about your expertise. You need to skillfully position your expertise in a manner that sets you apart from others in the marketplace, and enables you to build your brand. You need to be doing all these things and more continuously.

Of course the point of all this effort is to create an opportunity to have sales conversations with prospective buyers!  And if you’re going to go through all the difficult work of generating new business conversations, you need to be an effective and compelling presenter once you get in front of a buyer!

This one skill alone is more important to your business success than direct mail, advertising, you’re pricing, even your talent and delivery of services. If you can’t close business, no other skill or capability in your business matters.

You can learn to be an effective presenter. If you struggle with presenting your capabilities, take heart you can learn to be awesome. Like learning any new skill, at first you’ll feel awkward. But after some practice, and maybe some coaching from colleagues, or better yet from someone who is an expert at presenting, you can learn how to effectively present yourself physically in your appearance and body language, and verbally in your speaking.

I’ve always enjoyed getting in front of an audience. Early on I was a performing musician and singer. Later when I was running my design firm, presenting ideas was always a natural thing for me. And I thought I was pretty good at it.

But when I began public speaking, I had myself video taped during one of my first talks and I was horrified by what I saw!  I never smiled!  As I was watching myself, I thought, “this dude doesn’t smile” he looks so intense”. And what’s up with the twitching and touching my face?  I sucked! Then I thought “is that how I presented myself in all those years of client presentations”?  Is that why I didn’t get hired when I knew our firm was perfect for the gig?  It was a powerful learning experience for me. From there I got serious about elevating my own skill levels as a presenter.

Now, I realize how important a simple smile is to connecting with a person in a business conversation. Before meeting a new client or speaking to a group, I always tell myself –SMILE!

You have less than 30 seconds. You’ve probably heard the cliché expression you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Well, it’s more profound than that. You don’t get much time either. People make up their mind quickly. You have roughly 30 seconds to connect with someone on a level that builds enough trust and confidence for him or her to give you the time of day to present yourself and the value you can bring to the prospective client. If they have confidence in you, chances are they’ll buy from you.

Start by doing what all great presenters do–smile. Stand straight, look the person straight in the eyes (the window to the soul), speak clearly and in a confident voice. When you begin your presentation, get to the point quickly. Don’t blather on and on. Then allow the prospect room to speak and engage.

Leave the prospect with only one thing to remember. In a sales conversation, you leave the prospect with one clear takeaway. Just one. This is what you want the prospective client to remember most about you and the value you provide. However, the one thing is not about you, it’s about them. The one thing is about the benefit your prospect will receive by doing business with you. If you want to connect, make your one thing about how your services will provide a valuable business outcome that will make them more successful.

You can learn the skills to become a great presenter. Rehearse your presentation with colleagues, in front of a mirror, or video camera.  Seek a coach. Smile and hold a confident vibe. Lead your presentation with your one compelling benefit, build on it, demonstrate it, and then close with it.

Always package your one thing as a compelling benefit to the client. Being an effective and compelling presenter is the single most important business development skill you must master. When you do, your opportunities will always exceed your capacity.

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