Question-and-answer portions of a sales presentation are like panel interview sessions. You’ve got people firing their queries one at a time and you give a reply. However, the roles of authority are reversed: the expert is the one interrogated and the questioners are curious minds with their interests piqued.
This is a common result of a great presentation: inspiring your audience members to think about their preset beliefs and how your points challenged or strengthened those convictions. When they’re mentally stimulated and begin asking questions, discourse happens. For ideas to flourish, there should be healthy discussions – debates even.
Here are five facets you should keep in check during your Q&A sessions with your audience to make sure nobody’s time is wasted.
Control your sales presentation
From the start, it’s good to let your audience know that all questions during the Q&A portion of the conversation will be respected. It’s useful to set the groundwork. Let everyone know that all questions will be answered at the end of the presentation or be clear that questions are welcome during the presentation. Setting expectations at the beginning helps everyone feel more comfortable.
You should also maintain that level of control from beginning to end. Of course you want to hear what your audience has to say. At the same time, if you lose control over your audience, a presentation can easily slide off course. A perfect manifestation of this is when people become trigger-happy with their questions and you find yourself dealing with a main question and multiple follow-ups or when someone deliberately confuses, bothers, and agitates you.
The moment you lose control of your audience, you’ll soon find yourself scrambling to regain it and stop your Q&A session from being a disaster. You also need nerves of steel and good composure awareness.
In any aspect of life, anger is not the answer. Keeping your cool is an important and very hard lesson to learn. It’s even harder to do, especially when you’re being pushed into a corner. In that moment of decision-making between fight and flight, neither of two is the answer. Being calm and levelheaded is.
When you’re frazzled during a sales presentation, it shows in many ways. Your speech becomes less confident and less dignified. You use filler words more frequently. Your body language is more defensive. You start having nervous ticks, like fidgeting, nail-biting, breaking out in cold sweat, and the like. If you are using video during your presentation, your audience will pick up on any of these quickly, and they will lose interest.
Instead of panicking, a calm and collected demeanor and a matching answer is sure to diffuse any tension and attempt at derailing your sales presentation. This and maintaining control are two of the better signifiers that you’re a professional.
When members of your audience ask questions, not only do they put themselves in a position as the center of attention, but they may also raise a point you’ve already covered in your sales presentation. In these cases of confusion, don’t say they’re wrong. Instead, show them that, even though you’ll be repeating a point or two, you still listened to them.
Say a few words of acknowledgement after they speak. For example, try, “Thank you for that great point” or “I’m glad you shared your insight” (and avoiding the clichéd “Good question”). These phrases create a safe space for them to ask their questions. It also encourages others to do the same.
When you’re ready, answer the question as you normally would. If you’re going to redirect them to a slide, don’t make it sound like they missed the point entirely. Just do it casually. Avoid all means of embarrassing your audience.
Pause to Think
Questions that require you to elaborate your points further are inevitable, so don’t hesitate to give yourself a few seconds to think of a great answer. Speaking immediately after someone asks their questions can show a sense of “scripted”-ness on your part – although it can also imply that you have quick wit and you need little time to gather your thoughts.
Rather than gamble with a good or a bad impression, you might as well strike the balance. Pause, even just for a few seconds, to exhibit that you’re genuinely thinking about your answer. Audience members appreciate speakers who think before they speak.
Even after you take a pause and think hard, you may still not have a satisfactory answer. Being honest about a question that stumped you is more appreciated than forcing yourself to give an answer when you really have no idea about what you’re saying. You could give the assurance that you will look for the answer and follow up on it.
Lastly, and related to honesty above, when you’ve given an answer, the last thing you want is your interrogator saying, “You didn’t answer my question,” or “You didn’t address the points I made.”
Even if you strike all points of your audience’s question, don’t just assume that it ends there. Follow up with, “Does that answer your question?” or “Does that clarify the concept?” Those are good examples of being concerned about their curiosity. Saying either of the two – or any question of the same caliber – shows that you really want to make the whole matter clear to them. Let your audience know you will take the extra effort to make sure they understand and are satisfied. In short, aim to meet their needs.
People listening to your sales presentation want your pitch to be informed. Barring time limits, if questions are left unanswered, then that’s a lacking people will remember.
Q&A sessions can make or break your presentations. You’ve already ended your talk on a high note. Don’t trip and fall when you’re just inches near the finish line. Just a little more and you’re there. Keep calm and soldier on.
Looking for additional resources about answering questions after a sales presentation? Check these out:
- Latz, Jayne, After the Presentation: 5 Tips to Ace the Q&A, Corporate Speech Solutions. August 31, 2016
- Recto, Cathy, 7 Myths When Answering Tough Questions During Presentations, 24Slides. December 3, 2015
- Presentation Skills: How to Properly Respond to QandA, Kauffman | Entrepreneurs, August 1, 2016
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Author Bio: Rick Enrico
Rick Enrico is the CEO and Founder of SlideGenius, a presentation design agency in San Diego, California. He regularly publishes expert presentation and marketing tips on the SlideGenius Blog. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.