I spoke to an Entrepreneurial class at Clark University this week, something I've been doing once or twice a year for the past 5 years. It's much more difficult than working with experienced C-Level Executives, Sales Leaders, Sales Managers and Salespeople because the kids don't have the context, reference points or experiences that professionals have. Despite the difficulty, it's more fun because they don't push back, they don't claim to have heard it before, they don't say that "it" won't work in their business, they don't resist, and they are great learners!
This week I talked with them about public speaking and presenting. While they were as interested as professionals are in learning tips, formulas, challenges, tools, and secrets, they were dramatically more interested in learning how to overcome their fears. The most common word they used to describe their pre-presentation feelings was, "awkward". The biggest difference between the students and the professionals I usually work with is their honesty. While professionals hide behind the tips and technical suggestions for how to be effective presenters, the students were comfortable admitting they were scared.
What would happen if the salespeople who work for you admitted they were scared? What happens as a result of them masking their fears and fighting their way through important presentations?
Presentations don't make sales, but they can certainly break them and reinforce people's tendencies to lean in one direction versus another. There is no excuse for a professional salesperson or sales leader that can't stand in front of a large group or sit with a small group and make a winning presentation. But since it is not common for people to possess those skills, we tend to identify people in organizations that are best at that and by default, defer to them for important presentations. It's wrong, but until we focus on developing those skills, it's necessary.