Presenting sales pitches can be a nerve-racking experience for anyone, even those who sell products for a living. Everyone says practicing the sales pitch will make things go smoothly. Yes, that may be true, but it is only half the truth. Practicing sales pitches not only requires practicing what you’re going to say, but it also requires you to receive feedback on the content, delivery, and structure of the pitch.

How you deliver insights, ideas, and solutions affects how your clients think about them. A study by Marie-Line Germain and Manuel Tejeda in the summer 2012 HRD Quarterly pointed to the importance of subjective factors such as self-assurance and confidence in whether clients see a presenter as an expert. To gain the advantage of a confident delivery, practice and ask for feedback not only on your strategy, content, and structure, but also on your delivery (e.g., demeanor, pacing, style, tone, dress, and body language). And this is especially important when you are delivering new or provocative ideas or selling high-ticket, high-visibility solutions.

Why This Matters

Clients want to hear and see what you bring to the table. They are not impressed by a pre-packaged set of slides. Don’t use a deep stack of PowerPoint slides, especially in a dark room. Of course, well-developed and edited slides and technology can enhance presentations, but you, not they, are the presentation. Your clients must feel your recommendation comes from you and not a screen. Slide presentations often communicate to clients. To win, communicate with clients.

If you could magically peek in on a competitor’s presentation, how would you compare? Would you come across as professional, confident, and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the client to get the job done? While you can’t see your competitors’ presentations and make comparisons, your clients can and are doing precisely that as they make their decisions.

How to Practice

As you practice, pay particular attention to the pace and emphasis of your words. Separate your language. Move with a sense of direction. The best teacher captures the class not only with good, clear content but also with intonation, pacing, and movement. A senior executive wondered why the presentation he worked very hard on was received so poorly by his audience of corporate leaders. A review of the videotape of his presentation provided the answer: the content was strong and current, yet all but impossible to follow. There was no emphasis or pausing, and his arms seemed almost as if they were flapping.

Use your voice to drive home key points and emphasize what is important. There should be a beat to how you present. Pauses show you want clients to absorb what you have said. Two seconds of silences before answering a questions shows you are considering the question. Your gestures orchestrate how your clients should listen Use them to accentuate and delineate the points you make.