Ad-libs: Don’t let your presentation sputter at the end

Ad-libs: Don’t let your presentation sputter at the end

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

Alex is an ad manager who wants his sales team to be professional from start to finish. “Some sales people talk too much, especially at the end of a sales conversation,” he said. “It’s like a car that diesels when you turn off the ignition. The engine just keeps on going.”

Dieseling was common in the early days of catalytic converters. I used to have a car that had that problem. After I turned it off, it sputtered for about five seconds – even after I removed the key. It was like the car had a mind of its own.

“It can be a real challenge to bring a conversation in for a landing,” Alex said, “so we put a lot of emphasis on turning the end of an appointment into a transition to the next step. We want to leave our prospects on the top of the mountain, not let things run downhill at the end.”

That approach reminds me of the Walt Disney quote: “The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.” If a sales person has had a productive meeting, it’s time to shift gears and go into action.

“I’ve heard about a helpful four-step process,” Alex explained. “Thank them, summarize what you’ve talked about, ask if there are questions, then mention the next step. That ends the discussion on a positive note with everybody on the same page.”

Here’s how it works:

1. Express appreciation. “In a lot of conversations, a simple ‘thank you’ indicates that the conversation is nearing a close,” Alex said. “That sets things in motion for you to end the meeting the right way.”

2. Summarize the conversation. “Think of bullet points,” he said. “A summary should be a quick restatement of the main points you discussed. It’s usually best to cover them in chronological order. You can say something like, ‘Let me recap to make sure we’ve covered the things that are most important to you. We talked about key point A. Then we talked about key point B. And we discussed the differences between strategies C and D.’ This is the old idea of saying what you’re going to tell them, then telling them, then telling them what you’ve told them.”

3. Ask if the summary covers everything. According to Alex, asking “Does this cover all the bases?” is a simple way to find out where things stand. “It’s important to show that you value their input. If something hasn’t been covered thoroughly – or even worse – if an important issue hasn’t been addressed, you’ve got more work to do.”

4. Specify next steps. “Every meeting should end with some kind of action plan,” he explained. “If possible, set a deadline. For example, you can say, ‘I’ll have that proposal ready for you by next Monday. Let’s set a time to go over the details.’ That’s a simple, professional way to end a presentation. It’s a clean landing with no doubts about what happens next.”

It sure beats sputtering, doesn’t it?

(c) Copyright 2017 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: