During the recent presidential debates, it became common knowledge that each candidate rehearsed his answers for hours until the responses became second nature. There was no question that they were ready for every possible question thrown at them.

We, too, can learn from the candidates. When we go out to sell our products, we should prepare sufficiently to be just as ready to present our products and overcome objections to them.

Develop the presentation in writing

Let's pretend you've just developed a new corporate travel program that includes several features designed to attract business travelers at a special discounted rate. The marketing team developed a flyer that you can use to directly sell the program to local companies.

Before you do, take the time to develop your presentation. I like to develop presentations in group settings in which everyone contributes their thinking as to the features and benefits that should be included in the presentation.

The next step is to have one person write it out word for word. After editing, each person memorizes the presentation word for word and rehearses it with a partner.

Even though the words are the same, it's amazing how natural each presentation sounds when delivered in the sales person's own style.

I normally suggest that each hotel work to create several presentations: Five-to six-minute introductory presentations (by market segment) with pictures to be used at a prospect's office, a one-minute presentation to introduce your hotel over the phone, a presentation to use on a tour of the hotel and presentations to overcome the objections that come up most frequently.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

After a salesperson is trained to make an effective call — whether it be in the hotel, on the phone or at a prospect's office — the most effective thing you can do is rehearse, or skill practice, the situation several times before allowing the sales person to actually make the call on a single prospect.

I personally have taken part in role plays dozens of times with people who have never made an outside call on a prospect.

After they've learned the skills, salespeople will generally do a fair job on the first role play, a much better job on the second and in cases where they've had time for a third role play, it is always unbelievable to me when I see how great a job they do. It really proves the axiom that practice makes perfect.

Make the design and redesign of presentations and role plays a part of every person's ongoing training. Prearranged PowerPoint slides on your laptop computer are a great way to take you through each presentation in an orderly fashion.

Let's remember what the presidential candidates learned. Great dress rehearsals are worth your investment of time and results in better on-stage performances.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-379-4488.

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