If the thought of an upcoming sales presentation or speech causes you to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, you are not alone. Whether it’s an important sales meeting with your boss, an open discussion with customers or a keynote speech in front of an audience of hundreds, the fear of critical sales presentations and public speaking keeps many a sales presenter awake at night. If you have an upcoming sales pitch or speaking engagement, breathe deeply; effective sales presentation training can help you address and manage your fear.

First let’s examine the kind of fear many salespeople experience before speaking in a professional setting when the stakes are high. We don’t mean the fear that pushes you to think through and prepare for the sales pitch; we are talking about the kind of paralyzing fear that takes you from excited anticipation to dread—the fear that detracts from your ability to concentrate and drains your energy and lets your competitors win.

When this fear rears its ugly head, you have a choice of three responses.

1.

You can ignore it.
This is the most common response but it has very negative consequences. It affects your performance as you deliver your sales presentation in a very physical way. You are apt to move stiffly rather than in a casual, confident manner; your breathing may be uneven and show your stress; your voice is likely to betray your unease. All these manifestations reduce your ability to connect with your audience and prevent you from conveying genuine excitement about your message.

2. You can avoid it.
Though you will need a longer term solution, this response can at least help you in the interim.

You can take this step in order to create the time and space to devise more effective, more lasting approaches for effective sales presentations.

3. You can overcome it.
To overcome the debilitating fear of failing, follow the strategy of professional athletes. They imagine the desired end result in great detail…exactly how it will look and feel to cross the finish line ahead of the pack or carve the perfect figure eight on the ice. Creative visualization is a powerful and effective way to move away from scary thoughts and consciously move toward your goal of speaking confidently and engaging the audience.

To use the visualization technique successfully, here are some guidelines: Feel the emotions as you imagine reaching your goal. Music can be the vehicle to help you do this. Who can forget how the high energy Rocky theme came to symbolize the hard work, dedication, perseverance and ultimate triumph of the down-and-out fighter?Observe your success in your mind from the point of view of an outsider. See the whole event…your confident, smooth, persuasive delivery and the receptive and attentive audience. Then imagine the scene from the point of view of you as presenter. What does it feel like to easily find the words to make your points and address an audience that is transfixed by your message?Place yourself in the actual setting. Imagine the scene…the stage, the room, the seating arrangement…so that you can picture the event with even greater detail.

Are you ready now to try a visualization exercise? Think of an upcoming public speaking challenge and walk through the following steps:

Picture yourself seated in the room prior to the sales presentation. How will you feel as your time nears?You’ve been introduced. Imagine approaching the stage. Is your heart pounding? Let this be a sign of excitement rather than fear.Once on the stage, look directly at the audience. Breathe deeply and imagine a feeling of calm with your buyers.Take a moment to really see the faces of the group before you. Are they ready for you? Do you need to shift gears a bit before you launch into your prepared sales presentation? Feel the confidence that comes from observing your audience closely and being flexible enough to adapt to their feelings, goals, and needs.

Practice this technique and you will find that, little by little, your fear will decrease and your effectiveness and confidence with sales presentations and as a public speaker will increase.

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