Prospects size you up personally while making their buying decisions. “Are you credible? Competent? Interested in my situation?” The following tips will help you avoid the blank stare of disengagement.

1) Consider Your Demeanor—Don’t Confuse Boring with Sincere
Create flair and drama as you present a new idea, product or service. Wanting to shed the huckster image of forty or fifty years ago, networkers and other sales professionals sometimes go to the other extreme and seek to remove all animation, inflection and energy from their delivery style in an effort to come across as more “sincere.”

Instead of sincere, the result can be lackluster and boring. If you’re not passionate about your proposal, your buyers won’t be, either. Never confuse genuine enthusiasm with lack of professionalism. If you want to see the kind of passion and power that will move a world to action, watch the delivery styles of world leaders. Don’t let a passionless demeanor destroy your prospect’s confidence in your offering.

2) Distinguish between Agreeing and Understanding
The signs of agreement and understanding can be similar: smiling, nodding head, supportive statements. Make sure your buyer knows whether you’re communicating that you understand the point she’s making, or that you agree with her viewpoint on the issue. Not recognizing this difference can lead to opposite conclusions—and big disappointments and misunderstandings.

3) Use a Positioning Structure Rather Than a Pitch
Canned and formulaic presentations primarily make a product pitch. That is, they “tell all” about your organization and summarize one or a few key products or services.

A positioning presentation, on the other hand, focuses on how your organization and your product or service differ from others—how they uniquely meet the prospect’s needs or situation. It focuses on targeted areas of interest where your unique core strength meets the prospect’s criteria, and then compares that strength to what the competitor offers.

4) Never Just “Walk through” Your Brochure—Give a Guided Tour
Your prospects will beat you to the end every time. While you’re still on page two, they will be on page eight, checking out the pricing section. In fact, your brochure will compete with you for attention. Instead, carefully select which parts of your brochure to present orally. Then refer prospects to a specific page only after you make your key point about that page.

5) Ask What Your Prospect Knows Rather Than Telling What You Know
A question like “What do you know about my organization?” allows your prospects to give their perceptions. You then can fill in the gaps, clarifying and correcting if necessary. When you lead with, “Let me tell you a little about our organization,” you’re at a distinct disadvantage: you’re doing all the talking and setting yourself up in lecture mode as the person with all the answers. You may be providing information your prospect already knows, or elaborating on a point they don’t care about. What’s more, you have no way of knowing whether your prospect really understands what you’ve said or—most importantly—what your organization offers.

6) Tell Failure Stories
There is power in telling case histories about clients who didn’t have stellar success with your product or service, provided their lack of success was due to their own decision, actions or inactions, and not your product or service. It underscores what other customers did wrong (for example, waiting too long to buy, not using your product correctly, not buying a warranty) and helps the current prospect not repeat the mistake. Telling about failures of other product users adds credibility to your success stories.

One caution: Don’t use customers’ names in your failure stories, because prospects may fear you’ll tell others of their own mistakes later if they buy.

7) Make Statistics and Facts Experiential
People digest numbers with great difficulty. Yes, pie charts and bar graphs help, but if you can go beyond that, do so. For example, if you mention a survey done within your organization about certain qualities of your products, always present the results in a clear context and make meaningful comparisons.

Supporting statistics lend credibility to what you say. Be sure, however, to do all you can to help your prospects digest them.

8) Prefer Understatement to Overstatement
After a teenager came home from his first summer job interview as a grocery stocker, his mom asked how it went. “I don’t know,” he said. “They gave me one of those honesty tests, where they asked if I’d ever cheated on an exam, if I’d ever stolen money from my parents, if I’d ever shoplifted—things like that.”

He paused, looked a little concerned, then added, “I was answering no to all those things, and then I got a little worried that maybe I wouldn’t get the job—that I sounded too good to be true.”

He did get the job, but it was an astute observation about human nature.

It’s always more effective to let your prospect add to what you’ve promised rather than discount it because it seems too good to be believable. Present the range of results you have achieved and can document. Generally, it is better to promise only the minimum gains; otherwise, you set up your customers to be disappointed. If the minimum gains are worthwhile to them, maximum gains will be the extra that makes them long-term fans.

In order to avoid that blank look of disengagement in a prospect’s eye, keep these communication keys in mind. You’ll be clicking with your customers in no time.

DIANNA BOOHER is author of more than forty books and
CEO of Booher Consultants, a communications training firm,
offering programs in persuasive sales presentations, winning
sales proposals, strategic writing and executive presence.
Her latest book is
The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication
Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know.