Sales Speaker: An interview with Brian Clough on sales presentation

Sales Speaker: Brian Clough

Becoming the sales speaker you want to be, according to Brian Clough, professional speaker, Business Coach, and ex-Navy man begins with understanding your audience and your purpose.

In this interview I asked Brian to demystify the process behind a successful sales presentation by stepping us through the preparation.

My questions are in bold and Brian's answers are below them. I hope you enjoy and learn from the interview. I certainly did!

Brian, what's the most important practical first step a would-be successful sales speaker must take?

First you’ve got to understand the place of sales speaking in your overall marketing approach. You’re doing it to make money so don’t waste time on the fun bits without doing the hard yards first. That means you’ve first got to go through (in order) the following questions.

  1. Who? Who are you selling to?
    Who is your target market?
  2. What? What do they want? What offers might they respond to?
  3. Where? Where do you find them in the tightest concentration?
    Eg, whose databases are they on?
  4. Why? Why should they buy from you and not your competition?
  5. How? How can you best communicate your offers to them? Sales speaking may well be one of the ways but it shouldn’t normally be the only one.

You’ll notice the How comes last but the mistake most businesses make is to ask it first before really understanding exactly who they’re selling to, and what they want.

Who is Brian?
Find out. Visit his website
No Fear Public Speaking

What's the difference between public speaking to sell and public speaking to inform?

You get money from the former and applause from the latter!
Seriously though the question leads to a critical point. Your purpose when doing a sales seminar is to get people to give you money in return for something of value that you’ve given them. It’s not to have them think you’re a nice person, (although that helps), and it’s not simply to give them information.

Having said that the two types of speaking can be very similar in content, but the ‘call to action’ is quite different. For example a sales seminar is normally 95% free information and 5% selling.
Finally once you’re on the stage forget all about the money! Your job is to have fun and get them to like you … not a bad job description is it?

Who needs sales speaker speaking skills?
Or to put it another way, what groups of people would benefit greatly from learning about speaking to sell?

I guess anyone who needs their audience to get their wallets out at the end of the talk. That would obviously include businesses with a product or service to sell, but it could also include charities, fundraisers etc.

In the broader sense sales speaking is a specific type of persuasive speaking and as such would be of benefit to just about anyone who has to interact with other humans! It’s particularly useful for those who have to occasionally persuade groups.

Could you tell us how you personally prepare for a sales presentation?
What are the steps that you take and why do you take them?

I spend a lot of time initially thinking about my audience and researching them as well as I can. I want to find out what they want and why they want it. Then I work on putting together a presentation that they will enjoy.

Finally I make absolutely sure of the logistics for the event. I make sure that nothing can possibly go wrong … and then when it inevitably does, I make sure I have a back-up.
If the laptop crashes I make sure I can carry on using a flip chart or whiteboard for example. If the mic fails, I’ve got another with spare batteries, and so on. I always get there early and triple check everything personally.

How do you write or prepare a speech as a sales speaker?

Once I’ve done my homework as in your questions above then I’ll put the presentation into a logical sequence like this:

#Attention grabbing opening

Then cycle through several rotations of:


#Call To Action – be realistic about what you want them to do next. As long as they take some action they remain in your sales pipeline.

Do you use notes, cue cards, or a full text when you deliver it?

Sales speaking doesn’t suit a fully written-out speech so I’m afraid you’re going to have to learn it by heart. That’s because people get emotional about money so if you’re trying to convince them to part with some of their hard earned cash, then you better not be reading a prepared speech at them.

I like powerpoint but I hate boring slides. I also love using flip charts, normally one on each side of the stage – make sure you use the proper big fat permanent flip-chart markers, and not the wimpy whiteboard ones that no-one can see from the back of the room.

How do you personally manage your nerves (fears) during an important sales presentation?

I do my very best to get excited about the presentation so I feel like I can’t wait to get into it. The actual physical sensations are virtually the same as when you’re scared anyway – you just tell yourself a different story about them.

Brian, what have you learned about delivering the same presentation to different audiences?

Remember that it’s the first time they’ve heard it so you’d better come across like you’re excited to be bringing it to them even if it’s your 237th time!

Also don’t worry about Mr Grumpy. I thought one guy was going to hit me after I finished because he sat here with his arms folded and glared at me for 2 hours without moving. Afterwards he came up and told me that was the best presentation he’d ever heard and he became a long term client and friend. Lots of other people were nodding, smiling, laughing throughout … and I never saw them again.

What do you do if your sales speech goes badly?
How do you recover from it?

I’ve never had a sales presentation ‘go badly’ and if you get the audience on your side by being genuine and friendly and not boring them … then you won’t either.

Keep questions for the end, if at all. I prefer to answer questions during a half-time break or after the presentation. The last thing you want is some detail oriented person sucking all the energy out of the room by getting you involved in an in depth discussion and believe me, it only takes a few seconds for that to happen. You are in charge so act that way, respectfully of course!

I’ve had negative comments on feedback forms but not enough for my liking. Most people are too nice and you learn nothing from them. One guy wrote quite scathing comments on a feedback form in my early days so I rang him the next morning and asked him to explain what he meant. We had a great chat and I learned a lot – he wasn’t expecting my call I can assure you!

The biggest sin you can commit in my book is to be boring. It normally happens because the speaker didn’t really give a damn about the audience.

What insights or personal benefits have you gained from being a sales speaker?

It's a huge amount of fun! It’s a real buzz delivering a 2 hour sales seminar that’s chock full of great content that the audience is keen to get hold of. I feel great before, during and after it’s done.

What tips do you have for successfully integrating hand-outs or power point presentations into your speech?

I rarely use handouts during a sales presentation. I want their heads up looking at me or the screen or the flip-chart most of the time.

On their chairs will be a blue feedback form which I ask that everyone completes and hands in before they leave. As well as capturing details and collecting comments, it also asks what products and services they’re interested in.

I use Powerpoint as a way of staying on track and of making the whole show more interesting and stimulating for the audience … and never to show a bullet-point list!

How important is personal presentation when giving a sales speech?

Very but this is not difficult. Your physical appearance should be about what the audience expects. That way it doesn’t distract from the performance and the message you want them to get.

Do you have any resource websites that you think offer indispensable information about sales speaking?

I have material on my site No Fear Public Speaking . If people want to ask me specific questions they can use Contact Us page on the site and I’m more than happy to help if I can.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Do your sums before you start. This is a business not a charity so you need to make sure you can make a profit from your sales speaking.
It takes a lot of marketing to fill a room even with 30 people, so get good at that.

Get over your own resistance to selling before you go anywhere near an audience. You will be asking people to give you money. Are you OK with that? Really? In my experience of business coaching, a lot of small business people aren’t.

Be yourself. It’s much less work than trying to be someone else and it comes across really well when you do a sales seminar.

Make up your mind to enjoy it regardless of how much you sell on the night. You can always learn to get better at selling from the stage but it’s a waste of your life if it’s not fun, and you don’t get the time back again.

Make people laugh if you can. If not, at least make them smile.

Many thanks to Brian for these sales speaker tips. I'm already repeating the mantra - 'never be boring, never be boring...'
Do take up his offer and contact him if you have any questions.