Modern Selling: Grab them by the Collar

Feb. 14, 2019
Five ways to command a room, engage your audience and make a sale

You have invested months of networking, cold calling and social selling with the goal of securing an appointment – and finally, that person schedules time for you to meet with their committee. You show up 15 minutes early, prepared and ready to rock their world.

You anxiously set up the conference room, and when the audience finally arrives, you realize that they are not nearly as excited as you are – a few of them even seem distracted and mentally absent. You immediately jump into your presentation, but after your killer performance, you notice polite but distant eyes. They are not overwhelmed with excitement; they are not standing and applauding…they weren’t even paying attention.

In today’s world of distractions, the most important part of a sales appointment is shifting the audience’s attention from their current state of mind to focus on you. If they don’t make this shift at the beginning of the session, then everything you say will fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, shifting their attention to you is not easy. It can be a challenge many are unable to overcome without a distinctive plan. Here are five ways to shift your customers’ attention from their current distraction to you.

1. Start with a quiz or riddle. One of the best ways to distract people from their current scenario is to get them to think with the left side of their brain. There are several fun brain-teasers to use, but try your best to make it relevant to your message.

2. Present survey results. Send them a survey a couple days before your meeting – there are several online survey tools that are free to use. Make the survey questions thought-provoking, because their answers will help prepare you to give the best presentation possible. Do not use the survey to sell your solution – for example, don’t ask Where will you work next when your outdated access control system fails? That is cheap and obvious.

3. Get out of the conference room. If appropriate, ask everyone to walk with you outside of the conference room. In many presentations, you will find yourself discussing specific areas of a property, so at the beginning of the meeting, have everyone join you at those specific spots.

You can introduce this exercise with a statement like this: We will be discussing your perimeter in my presentation, so I’d like to take a quick stroll and point out some of the specific areas we’ll be discussing. That may sound inconvenient, but it gets them walking and talking – and almost always distracting them from that phone burning a hole in their pocket.

4. Conduct a live poll. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt for them to take their phones out of their pockets. During your presentation use a survey app to get your audience to interact with you using their phones. I use, but there are several options.

Instead of asking for the group to raise their hands, you can deliver a poll question to their phones and they can answer them right there. The answers are tallied live, and you can show the results to everyone. This exercise keeps them engaged through the presentation. I use this tool whenever I have more than four people in the audience.

5. Tell a simple story using a whiteboard or flip chart. Don’t forget about the power of a good story; just don’t use PowerPoint to tell it. The most memorable stories I have seen were told by speakers who used use flip charts or whiteboards to tell their tale.

Regardless of how bad of an artist they may be, watching someone draw pictures on a flip chart as they are talking can be very engaging. If that is too risky for you, then simply tell a story about a customer that is like them – no slides or handouts, just you talking.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. To request more info about the company, visit