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The DNA Selling Method: Winning Sales Presentations

Because people buy emotionally and justify decisions logically, it is important to supply rationale to justify purchasing decisions. The mes¬sage of the sales presentation provides just that—evidence. It demon¬strates how the proposed product or service eliminates pains and prob¬lems and establishes clear, competitive advantages. The body of the sales message provides buyers with compelling reasons to purchase the presented product or service and follows the pattern set by Aristotle over 2,000 years ago when he said, “A speech has two parts. You must state your case, and you must prove it.”

Oratorical power does not arise from passionate dec¬lamation only. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln demon¬strated the equal power of using simple, yet eloquent words, qui¬etly spoken, to convey a message. In the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in July of 1863, Union and Confederate forces clashed in a battle that brought enormous casualties. In three days of hard fighting, the Union army suffered over 23,000 casualties, the Confederate army 28,000. However, there was no question that the Confederate army had suffered the greater blow. Later that year, a Gettysburg attorney conceived the idea of ded¬icating a portion of the battlefield to become a National Soldiers’ Cemetery. Although President Lincoln was invited to speak, the main address was delivered by the former President of Harvard, and noted orator, Edward Everett. Everett spoke to a crowd of close to 20,000 people for over two hours. At the conclusion of Everett’s address, Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver a few remarks. Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war test¬ing whether that nation, or any nation, so con¬ceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final rest¬ing place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate—we can¬not consecrate—we can¬not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never for¬get what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remain¬ing before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of free¬dom—and that the gov¬ernment of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Apart from the Sermon on the Mount, no speech has been so heavily analyzed by scholars. Abraham Lincoln spoke only 272 words in his Gettysburg address. Yet in his ten sentences, he deliv¬ered one of history’s most memo¬rable orations. What is it about his address that is so fascinating to histori¬ans? Why are these ten sentences so mesmerizing to politicians, and why have students of ora¬tory been studying this address since its inception? The reason? Its message. It is the message of the speech that is captivating. Abraham Lincoln was able to couch in a three-minute address a message of timeless importance. In simple, yet penetrating lan¬guage, he articulated the struggle for human freedom, hope, and responsibility. Although Lincoln himself considered his speech to be a fail¬ure, it turned out to be one of his¬tory’s most eloquent moments. Compelling Sales Messages: Logic and Content The Gettysburg Address contains all of the elements of a successful presentation and is a blueprint for sales and non-sales presentations alike. Like all successful presentations, it contains a strong introduc¬tion, powerful content, and memorable conclusion. In his farewell address on January 11th, 1989, President Ronald Reagan said, “I won a nickname: ‘The Great Communicator.’ But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a differ¬ence. It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I did com¬municate great things.” Obviously, creating substantive content is an essential part of preparing and delivering a successful presentation. Consider the three characteristics of a successful presentation: 1. Ethos (Character and Credibility)2. Pathos (Emotion and Delivery)3. Logos (Logic and Content) The body or message of a presentation deals with logos, the logic and content of a message. Logos has to do with the substance and rationale of a presentation. It is the overriding message and provides the details and reasons buyers should procure the presented product or service. The central message of a presentation provides supporting evidence and dem¬onstrates the qualities of the proposed good or service. Without pro¬viding clear and compelling reasons to acquire products or services, participants are left with little or no incentive to take action. Because most buyers make purchases based on emotions that are then justified with logic, providing logic is extremely important. Although the introduction and delivery of the presentation provide emotional validation, it is the body of the presentation that provides the rationale to support a buying decision. When people purchase a home, for example, they initially make a decision based on emotional attachment (pathos).

“It looks beautiful.”

“It feels like our home.”

“I just love the Victorian look.”

It’s only after buyers feel an emotional attachment that they begin to justify their decision with reason and logic (logos). “After all, this home will be an excellent investment.”

“Property values are going up.”

“Interest rates are at an all time low.”

“The school district in this area is excellent.”

By providing buyers with information to support the value of the product or service, presenters fulfill a buyer’s intellectual need to justify an emotional decision. Appeal to the reason of prospects with logical, content-rich messages.

Pain and Problem Resolution: Your Central Sales MessageThe most intense emotion buyers experience is pain. Pain is such an intense feeling that people will do almost anything to eliminate it. People take action to avoid, prevent, or overcome pain faster than any¬thing else they do in their lives. The primary reason people buy is to reduce or eliminate pain—physical, mental, emotional, financial, social, even spiritual. Eliminating pain and resolving problems is the primary motivating factor in any sale. Think of anything you recently purchased. Was it not to eliminate some dissatisfaction, displeasure, or frustration? In business-to-business presentations, different members of an organization attend presentations for various reasons—in other words, because they experience diverse pains. A CEO’s ultimate pain might be declining stock price. The VP of Finance might attend because profits are down. The VP of Marketing might attend because of customer ero¬sion. The VP of Sales might attend because his sales staff is not meeting revenue expectations. The VP of Manufacturing might attend because manufacturing costs are up. Each member of a business organization experiences pains and problems that they would like to eliminate. In our corporate trainings, I am occasionally challenged by partici¬pants who ask, “Not all purchases are driven by pain, are they? What about luxury items? For example, what pains are resolved with the pur¬chase of a yacht? People don’t buy yachts because they have to. They buy them because they want to.” While the premise of this challenge is correct, the conclusion is not. I typically respond to this question by asking, “Do people ever want something so much that not having it causes pain?”

The answer is, “Of course.” Sometimes the “desire to acquire,” the yearning to possess, or the craving to experience some¬thing becomes the pain, i.e., the motivating factor that drives the sale. Most major purchases can be traced to eliminating pain. In fact, without pain, there is probably no basis for a purchase in the first place. A customer who feels totally satisfied doesn’t need a presenter’s product or service. Pain leads to needs. Needs lead to action. Put another way, No pain = No change. Potential buyers will not change unless the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

Ultimately, products and services are evaluated in terms of pain and problem resolution. This is why addressing buyer pains and prob¬lems should be the central message of the presentation. Without a comprehensive under¬standing of the buyer’s needs, pains, and problems, sales professionals are left to create presentation messages without accurate, substantive, or compelling data.

Training participants frequently ask what the difference is between problems and pains. There is a critical, fundamental difference. Problems are described in logical, cognitive terms such as, “My com¬puter is broken.” Pains, on the other hand, are described in fervent, emotional terms such as, “It is extremely frustrating having to work late because of computer failures.” When buyers use emotional words such as frustrated, upset, disappointed, irritated, concerned, worried, etc, you know you have hit the “pain vein.” Pain is the consequence or outcome of the problem. The point is to make pain and problem resolution the central theme of your sales presentation.

Conviction Requires Proof: The Power of Demonstrations, Testimonials, and Logic A pharmaceutical salesperson who sells sleeping pills once related a humorous experience that illustrates the power of “proof.” Midway through a presentation to a group of physicians, one of the attendees fell asleep and began snoring. The pharmaceutical salesperson stopped the presentation and woke the sleeping physician. Without hesitation, the physician stood up and said, “This drug has some real promise!” In order to persuade buyers to make a purchase, they must first be convinced of the value of the proposed product or service. Like a court of law, conviction requires proof. Buyers want hard evidence to con¬firm and substantiate claimed product or service benefits.

Highly successful presenters use live demonstra¬tions to illustrate the qualities and benefits of their product or service. They demonstrate rather than articulate their message and include con¬tent that validates the benefits of the proposed product or service. For example, skilled technical presenters visually demonstrate how the pro¬posed technology addresses identified needs and problems. Successful phone system salespeople conduct live demonstrations to validate prod¬uct claims and capabilities. Experienced medical device representatives demonstrate the utility of the proposed device.

I know a salesperson who sells high quality computer and network¬ing wires and cables. Because of the quality of his cables, his prices are higher than his competitors. Because of the extra expense involved, some of his clients periodically drop his product. When one of his larger clients discontinued using his product, he decided enough was enough and arranged a meeting to demonstrate the value of his wires and cables. After admitting that his product was more expensive, he stated to the audience that it was important to compare apples to apples. He then held up one of his competitor’s wires and put a lighter underneath it. The casing around the wire began to melt and in a few seconds was on fire. His audience was astounded. He then held the lighter under his wire and reminded them that his wiring was fireproof. He concluded his presentation by asking a simple question, “Ladies and gentlemen, which wire do you want in your walls and computers?” His client can¬celled the order from his competitor. The point is to use live demonstrations and scenarios whenever possible to bring facts and information to life.

TestimonialsIn our presentation trainings, I frequently ask participants, “How many of you provide buyers with testimonial letters to support the success of your products and services?” I am always amazed at how few hands go up. Yet, what better evidence can a presenter have than a statement by a satisfied customer? When we talk about providing proof to validate product or capability claims, what better proof can a presenter offer than a testimonial? A testimonial is nothing more than a type of evidence. Like a court of law, witnesses are called to testify to the truthfulness of certain facts or disputed claims. Client testimonials serve the same purpose. They illustrate how the proposed product or company has benefited other companies and organizations. Used appropriately, testimonials com¬municate similar benefits available to the targeted audience. Because service oriented businesses cannot physically demonstrate the benefits they offer, it is especially important that service related presentations provide testimonials from existing clients to validate the claimed capabilities or benefits. Testimonials help substantiate benefits such as friendly customer service, excellent technical support, and on-time deliveries.

Logical ArgumentAll sales presentations should provide logic and rationale to support product or service capability claims. An R.O.I. (return on investment) sheet is a logical argument. I regularly use R.O.I. sheets to demon¬strate the value of sales training. By calculating an estimated percent of increase in sales, multiplying it by the company’s total sales, and subtracting the cost of the training, I provide buyers with an accurate forecast of the financial return they will receive on their investment. When I provide hard numbers that demonstrate the value of our train¬ing, buyers are logically convinced to make the investment. Other options include: examples, facts, exhibits, testimonials, and statistics. By providing buyers with proof of the value of the presented prod¬uct or service, they are more easily convinced of the need to make the purchase. In SummaryBecause people buy emotionally and justify decisions logically, it is important to supply rationale to justify purchasing decisions. The mes¬sage of the sales presentation provides just that—evidence. It demon¬strates how the proposed product or service eliminates pains and prob¬lems and establishes clear, competitive advantages. The body of the sales message provides buyers with compelling reasons to purchase the presented product or service and follows the pattern set by Aristotle over 2,000 years ago when he said, “A speech has two parts. You must state your caseFree Web Content, and you must prove it.”

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Patrick Henry Hansen is the author of the From Great Moments in History™ book series which includes: Power Prospecting™, The DNA Selling Method™, Winning Sales Presentations™, and Sales-Side Negotiation™. Mr. Hansen is the founder and CEO of Patrick Henry & Associates, a training company that provides sales, prospecting, presentation, and negotiation trainings for corporations involved in complex, committee-based sales. Mr. Hansen has trained, coached, and influenced thousands of professionals in forty-eight states and seven countries. To contact Mr. Hansen, or to learn more about his books and trainings, visit

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