The Importance of Successful Presentation Skills

Jeff Cochran


We have all taken part in conferences or meetings that have terrible speakers who leave us wondering why we are there. Presentation skills are incredibly important for business professionals, but it’s not a skill that comes naturally to all people. In fact, some of the world’s most extroverted and confident people become nervous when confronted with the possibility of public speaking. Effective presentation skills require practice and dedication. Successful presenters will establish themselves as experts, promote audience engagement, and sway audience opinion. Here’s how to do it:


  1. Know Your Stuff

Do you want to present yourself as an expert? Then be an expert. Practice your material so often that you know it inside and out. Talking about your presentation material should be second nature. When you’re so uncertain about your material, you lose your audience. Not having to worry about remembering material gives you the opportunity to truly connect with the group to whom you’re speaking. This elevates your presentation from a simple presentation of facts to an actual conversation. Preparation is key. For more information about the importance of preparation, check out our book, Dare to Prepare.

  1. Focus on What’s Important.

Remember why you’re giving a presentation in the first place: to educate your audience members. They’re naturally interested in what you have to say; otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Don’t focus on how your voice sounds or the way you look; focus on the reason you’re there. By diverting your focus from your own performance to your audience, your presentation will become more natural and engaging.

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Body Language

One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they lose connection with their bodies. This can make your presentation seem robotic, instead of engaging and natural. The best public speakers use natural body language and appear grounded, not robotic. There are a few surprising ways you can achieve this: some public speaking experts recommend exercises like yoga, tai chi, or dance, which connect you with your mind and body and encourage awareness of your movements.

Public speaking skills are essential for a few reasons. Effective presentations can make all the difference in actually engaging an audience, as opposed to just spewing facts at them. An engaging presenter also sets the stage for an effective negotiation by making your audience connect with the information you’re presenting. Though becoming an effective public speaker may require lots of practice, it’s well worth the effort.

Successful Sales Personnel Share Personality Types

Jeff Cochran


If you could determine the likelihood of a prospective employee to succeed at your company, would you? More companies are turning to assessments like the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory during the interview process to see if an employee will be a good fit. Certain personality types are said to have natural talent for sales. Here are the main personality types that seem to bring sales talent to the table: ESFP

  • Extroverted people like being around others and prefer social interaction to solo time, while introverts prefer to be alone. Extroversion is essential to sales, as people with this trait tend to be outgoing and have natural social skills.


  • A person with a “sensing” focus tend to process information that’s occurring in the moment, and don’t overlook the details. Sensing individuals appreciate the practicality of ideas, while intuitive people appreciate their possibilities.


  • People who are “feeling” make their decisions based on emotions and their value system. Feeling individuals are more likely to consider the feelings of other people, which is essential for sales and negotiations.


  • A perceptive person is flexible and adapts readily to change. The motto of a perceiving person could be “the beauty is in the journey.” A judging person, by contrast, likes the destination over the journey.
  • ENFJs are extroverted and feeling, which seem to be two of the main important traits for sales. These traits imply that candidates are good at social interaction, and they readily show empathy for others. These traits are essential in understanding a person’s wants and needs, and active listening forms the basis for effective negotiation. However, intuitive personality types can also be well-suited for sales. An intuitive personality type appreciates the possibilities of ideas, and he or she can see multiple paths to a favorable outcome. This can be especially beneficial for sales, a discipline that often requires quick thinking.


  • Judging personalities tend to value end goals over the process of achieving them. This, too, can be well-suited for sales. Judging personalities tend to set goals and stick to them, so they can be hard-working members of your team. On the other hand, they may need some training in learning how to adapt to certain situations, as some “judgers” can be rigid in their decision-making process.

Some personality types seem to be better suited than others when it comes to sales success. If you plan on using a Meyer’s Briggs inventory in your hiring process, look for one of these personalities.


6 Things You Should Know About Medical Device Sales Training

Jeff Cochran


Medical device sales are a complex concept by their very nature. Medical devices utilize the latest cutting-edge technology and contain highly technical aspects that a sales representative may have to condense into digestible sound bites. A medical device sales rep must also have some industry expertise and be able to provide intelligent answers to questions. While it would be ideal for each representative to be fully immersed in the multiple aspects of the business, this is rarely feasible. As a result, most trainers have to rely on a set of best practices when it comes to medical device sales training.


  1. Create Short, Easy-to-Digest Modules

Today’s sales reps are highly mobile, which means they can access modules and additional training when they’re in the field. This presents a huge opportunity to maximize productivity, but you can’t squander it. It’s unrealistic, for example, to expect reps to watch hour-long modules while they’re in the field. Instead, medical sales training should be broken into chunks that are easy to digest between sales calls. Scale content in accordance with the devices you use and the amount of downtime your rep has in a given day.


  1. Don’t Skimp on Product Documentation

Medical devices have some of the most demanding standards in the industry. Your sales reps must have exact and in-depth knowledge not only of the products they sell, but the regulations that apply to them. An encyclopedic knowledge of the product is not only invaluable to the sales process, but also in the event a product is subject to recall and you must provide documentation that you followed all the applicable regulations.


  1. Dodge the “Hard Sell”

Medical device sales are unique in that they don’t require a hard sell; in fact, this could come off as condescending. Sales professionals don’t need to harp on the benefits of a given medical device, especially when speaking with members of a health care system. Most of these individuals know what an oxygen monitor does, for example, so medical device sales trainers should teach reps to be aware of this risk.


  1. Be as Honest and Transparent as Possible

Honesty and transparency are essential tenets of any corporate sales training program, but this especially applies to medical sales training. When reps sell high-tech tools such as biotechnology, they can rest assured that their customers are smart, knowledgeable, and capable of seeing through any gimmicks. Medical device sales reps must learn that transparency and honesty play integral roles in getting customers the information they need to make a decision.


  1. Long-Term Training Initiatives

Medical device sales is an industry in which technology can have a short half-life. This means that sales skills and technical expertise can go stale faster than other businesses. While all sales disciplines benefit from ongoing training, this holds especially true for medical device sales training. Medical best practices evolve, technology changes, and the laws and regulations evolve right with them. This makes medical sales training a long-term commitment.


  1. Respect For the Client’s Time

Health care is a busy industry and professionals are often running short on time. Sales reps must make the most of every phone call and presentation, more so than for other fields. While teaching preparation is always important, medical device sales reps must take extra steps to avoid time wasters such as failing to avoid institutional policy.

Medical device sales is a highly specialized discipline, so the training be tailored. Sales reps in this industry must undergo more extensive and technical training than others. This training should be mobile and broken into easy to digest “bites.” It should also address unique product regulations and the importance of documentation. Unlike some other sales disciplines, it should avoid the hard sell and requires frequent refreshers and tune-ups. Medical device sales training is a continuous and long-term effort that requires the help of a professional.

Why You Must Master Active Listening Skills

Jeff Cochran


Effective communication can be hard to achieve, and for many it takes lots of practice. Active listening is one of the key components of communication, especially in negotiations. To make the most of a negotiation, you must understand every party’s wants and needs. Here are some simple tips for becoming a better listener and improving your communication skills:


  1. Show Genuine Interest.

Everyone comes into a negotiation wanting something. It can be hard to show a genuine interest in another party’s needs, especially when you’re focused on getting what you want out of an interaction. However, in order for a negotiation to run smoothly, you must show an interest in how the other party is feeling. You can achieve this by emotion-labeling (i.e., acknowledging the other party’s emotions as they experience them) and paraphrasing their thoughts. This shows that you’re committed to a resolution that benefits them, as well as yourself.

  1. Ask Probing Questions.

Using open-ended questions helps the active listening process by understanding a client’s needs and wants. It also encourages the client to speak longer, which provides more insight and perspective into their side of the negotiation. This better positions you to effectively respond to their needs, while still getting what you want.

You can also facilitate this process by using “minimal encouragers.” These are statements like “okay,” “I see,” and “Go on.” While they may not seem like much, they go a long way in establishing a rapport, and it encourages the other party to keep speaking.

  1. Summarize.

Summarizing has a couple of different benefits. First, it wraps up everything the person said, which shows that you’ve been listening and acknowledges their wants and needs. This helps provide validation to your client. Secondly, it provides a “stalling” tactic as you formulate your response. It buys you extra time and helps you counter, beginning the process of negotiation.

Research shows that people spend 60% of a conversation speaking about themselves. This isn’t altogether surprising, as it’s a subject in which we’re comfortable. However, it doesn’t help you much in a negotiation, since you end up talking about what you want, instead of understanding your client’s needs and wants.

By letting your client talk about their needs and wants, you motivate them and provide them with encouragement. Active listening, once you achieve it, helps your client gain a positive impression of both you and your company. By practicing good listening techniques, you can become a more successful negotiator.


The Importance of Negotiation

Jeff Cochran


Technology advances rapidly in the business world. However, some things will always stay the same. The art of negotiation is as important a business skill as it ever has been. Why is negotiation important? Strong negotiation skills can be the difference between a beneficial compromise and a loss. There will always be conflicts in life, and the ability to solve them, particularly in the business world. That’s why negotiation is important in business —  it is what creates success. What are some important negotiation skills, and why are they so critical?

  • Confidence. Don’t be intimidated; bullies know how to get their way. The business world has its fair share of tyrants, as some people intimidate their way to success. Feeling intimidated means you’re already on your way to defeat. People can sense when you’re emotionally not up for the fight, and they take advantage of it.

In the business world, this can mean lost profits, promotions, and opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated during negotiation. If the other person appears more confident, understand it’s typically not because they deserve something more than you do; they’re just convinced they do. By bringing this conviction to the table, you can win a negotiation.

  • The importance of negotiation skills includes knowing when to walk away. Some battles are not worth fighting. When business decisions hang in the balance, it’s imperative to be willing to — and know when to — walk away. If someone is transparently trying to get their way with no concessions to you, it’s best to exit the negotiation.
  • Playing fair. In most negotiations, the goal is to be fair. If both parties can understand this and be sympathetic to the others’ needs, both stand to benefit far more. A competition for money or business resources isn’t a true negotiation. In any negotiation, each side has something to offer, and some things they can reasonably concede. Be open, fair, and honest, and you can gain the most from business negotiations.
  • People skills. More often than not, it’s not what you say – it’s how you say it. By presenting your case in the right light, you stand to gain much more from any negotiation. Approaching a negotiation nervously or aggressively gives the other party the upper hand. Be calm, civil, and direct. A good sense of humor and open demeanor, as well as being a good listener, go a long way to realize a successful negotiation.

The importance of negotiation skills cannot be overstated. That’s why, as a business skill, negotiation is here to stay. But by not only understanding why negotiation is important in business, and  prioritizing having good negotiators on your team, you create the perfect environment for business success. Remember, negotiation should be approached not as a competition, but as a compromise in which everyone leaves satisfied.

18 Proven Sales Tactics That Work in Any Industry

Jeff Cochran


Developing a strong sales program is the most critical aspect of any business. Without effective sales strategies, companies will not be able to compete and grow. Sales professionals must learn how to implement proven sales tactics that work. These sorts of sales tactics do more than just help them to close individual sales; they help to generate additional prospects for future sales.

As a sales team manager, one of your responsibilities is to provide your team with effective sales training and sales strategies that will increase your company’s profits. Effective sales processes are not just about working hard and putting in long hours. In fact, many sales teams work long and hard without experiencing results.

Effective sales strategies involve employing the best strategies in the right situations. Here are 18 sales tactics that can work for sales teams in every industry.

  1. Be persistent with leads and develop the habit of following up with each customer.

    According to the latest sales research, 80 percent of sales transactions require 5 interactions after the first contact with a customer. Many salespeople are primarily concerned with immediate sales. If they do not get the sale at the first meeting, they silently give up and continue their hunt for the next immediate sale. However, savvy sales professionals understand that they must nurture viable leads until an action is taken. These ‘rock star’ sales professionals send emails, direct mail, make phone calls or send brochures to customers at designated intervals. By taking this action, your customers will think of you when it is time to make their next purchases.

  2. Solve your customers’ problems.

    Successful businesses thrive in competitive industries because they provide solutions to meet their customers’ needs. There are many sales professionals who do not fully understand their roles in the transaction. Consider this fact. As many as 70 percent of your leads are reaching out to you to solve their problems. When customers contact your sales team, your sales professionals must be able to demonstrate to them how they can quickly and easily solve their problems.

  3. Develop the ability to actively listen to customers.

    Customers have access to pages of information on the internet. In many instances, they may be as knowledgeable as your sales team. When sales professionals interact with knowledgeable customers, they might be tempted to talk constantly to show them that they are qualified. It is important to remind your salespeople that they should never get into a knowledge power struggle with customers. Sales professionals should always listen more than they talk. Simply listening to customers’ answers can be one of the most effective sales tactics in your team’s arsenal. They should ask questions that probe into their clients’ thought processes and carefully consider the responses. The goal is to make customers feel as if they are respected throughout the sales process.

  4. Use polite terms when you discuss the competition.

    Your sales team should always strive to present themselves in a positive light and use professional language. There is nothing that screams unprofessional like using derogatory terms to discuss other people or companies. Although customers may participate in the negative conversation, bad mouthing any person or company is never a good sales tactic. If a competitor does not have a good reputation, the members of your sales team should remain neutral.

  5. Earn your referrals before you ask for them.

    Sales professionals know that referrals are the proverbial ‘holy grail’ of marketing. In fact, 91 percent of customers will provide a referral contact to a salesperson that they like. Before you think about asking your customers for referrals, you should focus on providing them with a quality customer service experience. During the transaction, your goal is to develop positive relationships with your customers. After you have determined that they are happy with your services, it is a good idea to pursue the referrals. When it comes to soliciting referrals, timing is important.

  6. Ask for referrals from your customers.

    You might not believe it, but only 11 percent of sales professionals ask clients for referrals. According to this data, the majority of salespeople are leaving money on the table. Most customers are generous, and they would happily share your good customer service with friends, family members and colleagues, but you have to ask. If your sales team waits for their customers to initiate a conversation about referrals, it might never happen. Teach your sales team how to integrate referral conversations into the sales process at the appropriate time.

  7. Adhere to strict deadlines with your customers.

    Sales professionals must create a sense of urgency with customers, or the deals will take much longer than necessary. Changing deadlines according to the whims of each customer makes sales professionals lose credibility. The old adage, where there is a will there is a way, applies here. If customers want to meet the obligations of a transaction by the deadline, they will definitely find a way to make it happen.

  8. Develop relationships with your customers.

    Without customer relationships, it can seem as if you are always in the vicious cycle of trying to ‘drum up’ new business. Your past customers can be an excellent source of new transactions for years to come. When your initial transaction is completed, you do not have to end the relationship at that point. Find creative ways to keep in contact with your customers even after you close the deal.

  9. Identify your customers’ needs and meet them.

    Sales professionals should never lose sight that the only purpose of the sales transaction is to help customers. Since transactions are closely associated with money, it is easy to lose sight of this fact. Create a list of questions that you can use to pinpoint exactly what the customer needs from the transaction. These questions will enable you to save time with customers and get to the heart of the matter. Once customers believe that you understand their predicament, they will work with you to meet their needs.

  10. Be able to distinguish a lead from a customer and act accordingly.

    Brace yourself for this disheartening fact. According to a report by Gleanster Research, only 25 percent of all leads are legitimate and ready to complete a transaction. Leads are potential transactions, and you cannot bank your future on potential. You should categorize your leads and create campaigns to interact with each type. For example, warm leads should have a different marketing strategy than cold calls. Time is a limited resource. It is best to use it wisely.

  11. Solicit targeted leads.

    A difficult lesson for many sales professionals to learn is that every person with a pulse will not be a customer. Since this is the case, sales professionals must create a strategic plan to attract customers that fit their target markets. One way to do this is to make good use of technology to find leads that could use your services. For example, credit professionals who are targeting people who are recovering from bankruptcy can use the public record to find people who fit this profile. Once you have found your potential customers, create a customized sales pitch that will appeal to each demographic.

  12. Learn to uncover each customer’s pain points.

    Television advertisements are known for pushing the viewer’s hot buttons in order to get them to take action. Fear of loss is the most common pain points that advertisers address. The primary mission of every sale professional, as emphasized in our negotiation training courses, is to find a customer’s pain points and use them to their advantage. Ron Shapiro said it best when he stated, “In order to get what you want, help them get what they want.” Sales professionals can start the search for pain points by asking closed-ended questions that only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. As the customer begins to feel comfortable, the salesperson should ask open-ended questions that will prompt customers to reveal additional information. Once the vital information is discovered, salespeople can use it to help their customers take action.

  13. Master the art of storytelling.

    When sales professionals meet with customers, they are usually armed with all sorts of facts and data. Although data may seem important, studies suggest that only 5 percent of people remember statistics after a presentation. However, an impressive 63 percent of people remember stories after a presentation. Sales professionals need to arm themselves with stories about relevant experiences of people who have received favorable results after using their products and services.

  14. Stand by your product or service and offer some type of guarantee.

    If your customers are willing to part with their cash, your company should at least be willing to offer a guarantee on the product or service. The guarantee can be a refund or replacement. If you are afraid of most of your customers taking you up on a money back guarantee policy, you should not be. Less than 10 percent of customers return items each year. A product or service guarantee provides your customers with peace of mind that lets them know that they are protected in the event that something goes awry.

  15. Find prospects who want the things you have to sell.

    The best way to navigate through water is to go with the current instead of swimming against it. In sales, going with the current means that if you are selling chicken, your leads are people who like chicken. If your prospects are vegan, then it will be nearly impossible to sell your chicken products to them. If you want to be certain that your clients need the items you are selling, you should pre-qualify them before you actively market to them.

  16. Develop compelling goals and an actionable plan.

    Successful people know where they want to go, and they develop an action plan to help them propel toward their destination. Goal-setting and planning are critical to any sales team’s success. According to a study conducted by Inc. Magazine, sales teams that set goals realized a 28 percent increase in sales. Teaching goal-setting strategies should be a mandatory part of every organization’s corporate sales training manual.

  17. Show customers proof that your product or service actually works.

    When you look at infomercials for weight loss products, they often show ‘before and after’ pictures of previous users of the products. They understand that new customers are motivated by social proof. Sales professionals should keep customer testimonials in a binder or in their laptops to share with customers. When customers are able to view the visible proof, they will be more likely to invest in your product or service.

  18. Maintain a positive mindset.

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised by the number of sales professionals who develop a jaded outlook because of sales slumps. Sales professionals must make every effort to remain positive in good and tough times. Developing a positive attitude has many benefits. Customers can tell when you are not in a good mood, and it will affect the transaction. A positive outlook helps sales professionals look for solutions to pending problems. When your sales professionals are positive, they will be able to handle stressful situations.

The above list isn’t just a collection of interesting tips—these are proven sales strategies that work. In this competitive business environment, sales professionals need to learn all the tricks of the trade in order to close a deal. By using these sales tactics that work, your sales team can learn to thrive in any economic climate.

To learn more about our sales, negotiation, or influence training for your organization please click here.

4 Tips for Answering Influence Skills Questions in Interviews

Jeff Cochran


We’ve all been on that interview where a prospective employer asks you to “Give me an example of a time when…” While building rapport is very important in the interview process, it often feels as though the interviewer is just reading off a list of prepared questions. Well, he or she most likely is.

But what does the prospective employer really want to know?

These questions, also known as competency-based or behavioral interview questions, are designed to discover how you may respond in real-world situations. They’re useful for helping hiring managers weed out applicants who look good on paper from the ones who understand how to influence others and deliver the results that they need.

In almost every field, from government to project management to customer service, these negotiation and influencing skills can have a strong impact on a worker’s success. Negotiation interview questions allow prospective employees to demonstrate where these negotiation and influencing skills have helped them in the past—situations that may not show up in the applicant’s cover letter or résumé.

Some examples of influence skills questions are:
  • Tell us about a major challenge you encountered in your current position. How did you adapt and overcome?
  • How do you handle projects that require a lot of initiative and teamwork?
  • What is your approach to dealing with an angry customer? Can you tell us about a specific time when you solved this type of situation?
  • How do you contribute to your organization’s long- and short-term goals?

Even though these types of negotiation interview questions style of interviewing have become increasingly popular, questions like these can still throw you for a loop. SNI offers a variety of courses to help develop the communication skills necessary to excel in situations like these, but we’ll start with the basics. Here are four tips for answering these influence skills questions that will help ensure you project competence and authority, highlighting your value from the moment you enter the room.

Reach for the STAR

The challenge with influence skills questions usually isn’t thinking of an example; it’s organizing your thoughts efficiently and communicating them powerfully. The STAR acronym outlines four steps to breaking down an influence skills question – no matter how complex it may seem. Keep this in mind when a hiring manager lobs one your way.

1. Situation. Describe the situation or context of the example. For instance, “We were far behind our projected sales goals and had lost two key members of our team.”

2. Task. What goal were you trying to meet? What obstacles were you trying to overcome? “We had three weeks to make up 50% of the difference.

3. Action you took. Take ownership and use “I” statements frequently. Remember, they are interviewing you – not your former coworkers. “I pulled some long hours running numbers and I discovered missed opportunities…” Also, specifics are crucial here. Try to use actual facts and figures instead of generalizations. “I analyzed three months of account revenue and found 30–40 instances of missed opportunities.”

4. Results. Again, using “I” statements and specific facts, sum it all up. Example: “I restructured the working hours of the staff to allow for more coverage during high-volume times, resulting in a 35% increase in our closing rate and an additional $500,000 in revenue. My department ended up exceeding our goal by $10,000–$15,000.”

Follow STAR and the other tips outlined above. The next time an interviewer tries to surprise you with an influence skills question, you’ll be more than prepared to demonstrate your strengths when it comes to getting results.

To learn more about our sales, negotiation, or influence training for your organization please click here.

5 Things All Great Training Consultants Have in Common

Jeff Cochran


It’s difficult to ignore the benefits of professional development. Companies with training programs experience over 200 percent more income per employee compared with those that don’t offer any training, according to the Association for Talent Development. What’s more, these companies also enjoy a 24 percent higher profit margin. You know the saying: Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of you. The first step is finding a training consultant who is trained in negotiation to help.

When you’re searching for a training consultant, you might find that candidates have a few things in common: they may have relevant education, impressive experience in the field, have impressive professional accolades, and work with a wide variety of clients. Training consulting is a highly competitive field, but it is still possible to determine who stands out from the rest. Our experience has shown that great training consultants possess the following five qualities:


The best corporate training consultants will work well in a variety of environments. Their soft skills include adaptability, excellent social skills, and ease in communication. They can seamlessly blend in with various company cultures, but the best consultants go even further. A trainer will be the best fit when he or she comes in the first day familiar with your company’s mission and ready to help achieve your business goals. Ownership in a company’s success is just as important as being able to adapt to new work environments. A superior consultant will be able to show you that from the get-go.


Consultants are highly organized by nature, but the best go above and beyond. Career training consultants can adjust their work style to accommodate a company’s requirements, whether it’s budget or schedule. Best of all, these individuals can consistently deliver high-quality outcomes, even within strict constraints.

Did you know that neglecting the planning processes in corporate training can impact your project’s budget or timeline by as much as 30 percent? Find a partner who can use a proven process to ensure your training aligns with your business objectives.


There are two main reasons companies hire training consultants: 1) either they do not have the time or resources to conduct the training internally, or 2) they expect an outsider to have more expertise that their internal resources. The best corporate trainers rise to the challenge by remaining on top of current best practices and implementing a wide variety of learning strategies to accommodate each client.

Each business has different training needs and will react to different learning styles based on their company culture and ultimate objectives. Training consultants seamlessly adapt to different styles by remaining current, networking, and applying theory to practice.

Great Listening Skills

People have a general tendency to let themselves dominate a conversation. Though it’s an aspect of human nature, you don’t necessarily want this trait in a training consultant. When conducting an interview with a prospective consultant, you may want to hear about his or her accolades and business experience – but also be mindful of what he or she asks you. A great corporate training consultant will already be thinking about helping you achieve your business goals and will be asking you open-ended questions to assess your needs.

Excellent listening skills are essential because they encourage free exchange of information. This, in turn, streamlines the consulting process and helps you achieve your goals.


It’s difficult to deny that a portfolio full of varied work experience helps set a consultant above the rest. The more training experience a consultant has, the more likely he or she is to swiftly address problems, pivot to accommodate new requests, and deliver training that’s in line with your goals and objectives. Experienced candidates handle curveballs with ease and exude a natural confidence that only comes with years on the job.

The benefits of a training consultant cannot be understated because they improve your bottom line and company culture while helping you go above and beyond your business objectives. Our training consultants are trained in negotiation and are ready to help you achieve your goals.