Super Power #2 – Selling

Not a super power you say?  Well whether you are telling the team about the product vision, giving a demo to a group of users, or delivering a project proposal to a steering committee you are selling.  It becomes a super power when you are selling WELL.

Selling is just influencing others to your view.

If you are like me, you grew up thinking that ‘selling’ had to include being slimy, smarmy, or at least pushy. But somewhere along the way, I was made to realize that every day you are selling. This is because ‘selling’ is just influencing people to your viewpoint.  Why should you care as a Product Owner?

Let’s take that last example…if you are successful as a product owner, sooner or later you will need to pitch a new idea to the powers-that-be so your team can get funding right?  So, please put aside your previous concept of ‘sales’ and get psyched for your big presentation.

1. What have you done for me lately? The very first thing you need to do is tell them why they should listen.  They are busy, just like you and me, and if you start with the ‘why’ you will be sending a message that you are not wasting their time.  This isn’t rocket science — in journalism they say, “Don’t bury the lead,” and in agile it is, “Start with the most important stuff,” yet when many people create a presentation they have the important stuff on the very last slide for the ‘big reveal.’  Don’t do that.  Put it first.

2. Focus on one clear idea.  If you don’t do this, the whole presentation will likely get muddled and you may not accomplish any goal.  Resist others suggestions to expand their agenda into your presentation and resist piling in a bunch of other aims.  Simple succeeds.

3. For Pete’s sake, don’t be technical! Try delivering the pitch to your mom — if she can’t get it, they won’t get it.

4. Repeat after me, “Less is ALWAYS more.” Do NOT write your speaking points on powerpoint slides and then read them!  Use slides like a table of contents for your speech.  I like to use the notes section to write out talking points and then bring that version (just for me) to the meeting.

5. Rehearse it, then rehearse it again. When the day arrives you need to be polished so you can focus on the interaction and on being dynamic.  If you are reading or are ill prepared, they will know it and you may leave a bad impression.  Even if you think it is a waste of time right now, go into a room and pretend to present — I guarantee you will make improvements after your first run-through.

The very nature of the PO role is that you are always communicating, so I say we need to embrace it.  Join Toastmasters, read a book, practice with your fellow teammates, but DO work at this.

For our part, my team will be practicing impromptu speaking at our weekly forum — just a quick 1 minute demo of some random prop I bring.  Then we tell them what they did well and what they could do ‘even better’.  This is very similar to what Toastmasters does to give everyone the opportunity to speak every meeting.  The fantastic part about it is that, even in a 1 minute demo you need an intro, a body, and a conclusion. Practice helps make that automatic — it strengthens those speaking muscles.

How about you?  Any “C-level” presentation tips I’m missing for this super power to be complete?

(And don’t forget to come back next Friday — Super Power #3 is all about the energy you bring to the team and how critical your leadership is in helping them see the value their work brings to your organization.)

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