One of my great privileges is the opportunity to travel around the country and speak to various industry groups. It’s a privilege I take very seriously. It’s a privilege that I feel comes with great responsibility.

However, I realize that not everyone shares my perspective. I spoke to a group of about 200 industry professionals recently. Afterwards, one of the other speakers was congratulating me on my presentation and how obvious it was to him that I had really prepared.

As I told him, “Well, I believe that we (as speakers) have an obligation to our audience to be prepared.” His response, “Hm, let me think about that for a moment.” And he did. At first I thought he was joking a bit, but it was soon obvious that this was an entirely new concept for him. I was more than a little surprised as he was a seasoned presenter.

Honestly, we hear this all the time from all kinds of people. I have heard it from other speakers who take the stage in front of a roomful of their peers, and I have heard it from producers in reference to their sales presentations. “Oh, I never practice, I always wing it. I’m much more effective that way.” I call BULLS*#T!!

You will NEVER convince me that you are more effective, more articulate, or better serving your audience by not preparing. If someone is affording you the opportunity to listen to what’s on your mind, you damn well better make it worth their while. Not only do you owe it to them, you owe it to yourself.

I practice out of fierce determination to not waste anybody’s time.

While that is my first priority, I am not completely altruistic.

I also practice out of fierce determination to not waste my own opportunity.

I’m sure there are those who have completely convinced themselves winging it is their best option. However, I think if they are being honest with themselves, they don’t practice because it would force them to face up to their own shortcomings. I also think there are others who just don’t understand what it means to prepare.

To meet your obligation as a speaker/salesperson, there are three key things you must do.

1. Know your audience – What are their issues? What are their concerns? What do they need to know that they don’t yet know they need to know? How do they define their future success and how can you contribute to that success?

As a producer this means having a way to capture the story of the prospect with an Account Strategy Plan. Identify the information you need to learn about the prospect and then build a template to be completed for each prospect in your pipeline.

  • Doesn’t it make sense that the more completely you know their story, the more needs you will uncover?
  • And with more needs uncovered, you will be in a better position to identify the most critical needs.
  • And, with the most critical needs obvious to everyone, you can provide the most potent solution.
  • And, doesn’t it make sense that if you are putting the most potent solution on the table that you will win more often?

2. Build your message for the benefit of your audience, not your own – Whether you are delivering a keynote presentation or your sales presentation, never leave your audience feeling that they were sold to; nobody likes to be sold to. However, everyone appreciates someone who makes them think, connects dots, and leaves them better prepared for success.

Every opportunity to be in front of an audience is an opportunity, and an obligation, to educate. When you educate people to the point of making better decisions for themselves, the sale will take care of itself.

As a producer, look at the message your sales process delivers. Can you honestly say that, even if that prospect never becomes a client, you are leaving them better informed and prepared to make better HR/benefit decisions? (Hint – If your “sales process” is built around a spreadsheet, the answer is “NO”.)

3. Practice – I have given the presentation I mentioned above probably 200 times. However, only about 10 percent of those presentations were actually in front of an audience. Even when it’s with a familiar presentation, I NEVER go onstage without having practiced the presentation many times beforehand.

As a producer, you must practice your sale presentation in the same manner. Of course, that means you must have a sales process in the first place. As I hinted before, quoting insurance is not a sales process, it is merely part of the job you do as the broker.

An effective sales process forces the buyer to think about their situation in ways they likely never have before; it helps them to imagine a more successful future; it makes them face the limited reality of their current situation, and it compels them to work with a partner who can bring a tangible plan of improvement. THAT is a conversation focused on the buyer. THAT is a conversation that takes practice.

I practice out of fierce determination to not waste anybody’s time.

I practice out of fierce determination to not waste my own opportunity.

What about you?


Photo by niratpix