Perfecting Your Two-minute Personal Sales Presentation
Whether it’s an interview, a career-networking event or a chance encounter with someone who has the potential to be a business mentor or employer, your two-minute Personal Sales Presentation (PSP) can make the difference between getting to the next step—or not.
In the above situations, you are faced with having to promote yourself—your strengths, your skills—quickly, efficiently and effectively. Because opportunities can knock on our doors both in expected and unexpected ways, it pays to have in mind a prepared response to such questions as "What do you do?" or "Tell me about yourself."
Now is a good time to formulate and review your PSP to make sure it is conveying your strengths in the best possible way. If you already have one, are you certain it is working for you? Does your PSP take into account any new skills you have acquired in the past year?
You may think that two minutes is not enough time to relate your qualifications and skills, but in today’s society, where we are used to 15-second sound bites from the TV news, two minutes is a long time. Here’s how to make each word count.
Illustrate What You Can Do for the Company
"The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it."—Dale Carnegie
If you’ve ever stumbled over or are not sure how to answer an open-ended question like "Tell me about yourself," keep in mind what the person is not asking:
Your life story, neither professionally nor personally
Any personal details not relevant to the opportunity on hand
What the person really wants to know is, What can you bring to the company? What benefits would someone get from working with you?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Focus on that person’s wants and needs. Then reply by revealing something about your achievements and how they relate to the opportunity in question. Have ready three to five things you have accomplished that prove you can help your listener solve certain concrete problems.
Reciting a list of your attributes ("I’m a team player, organized, hard working") is a waste of your two minutes. Make your attributes come alive by providing specific and relevant examples. Consider the following hypothetical PSPs. If you were a hiring manager, which is more likely to get your attention?
PSP #1: I’m a seasoned quality manager with more than five years’ experience handling a large volume of quality issues.
PSP #2: As a quality manager for more than five years, I analyze over a dozen quality issues daily and determine possible solutions. I also interact with the engineering team to resolve customer issues, work closely with operations to ensure standards are met, and partner with the sales team in closing new customer business.
While PSP #1 is general and doesn’t offer much of value, PSP #2 shows that
you have analytical abilities and are a problem solver;
you are a team player;
you have done something tangible to boost your company’s bottom line.
In PSP #2, you have clearly stated your contributions and demonstrated your competency. Note how much more effective it is to show how you put your attributes to work rather than just listing them.
Here is an example of another hypothetical PSP.
Interviewer: So Mary, what do you do?
PSP 1: I currently support manufacturing as a senior buyer. I became certified as a Six Sigma Greenbelt last year.
PSP 2: As a senior buyer and commodity team leader, I am responsible for all phases of procurement including managing, negotiating contracts, pricing and terms for materials and services totaling $65M/year. As a certified as a Six Sigma Greenbelt, I renegotiated contracts worth over $15M in cost savings.
Many job hunters think, "My skills are listed on my resume, so I don’t need to specify them in an interview." Or someone should just "get it" from your resume how qualified you are. But people who make hiring decisions are often very busy, see many job candidates and may not have had the chance to review your resume thoroughly. Don’t make someone dig for your skills—tell them. If you have a knack for writing technical manuals, say exactly that in your PSP: "I have a knack for writing technical manuals" and back it up. If you have done something outstanding, include that in your PSP.
It is important to note that the above hypothetical examples would serve as just part of your PSP. You have two minutes to fill, which gives you time to tout other relevant achievements and to answer any questions your listener might have. Listening is also part of your PSP—getting the other person’s feedback and reinforcing your skills.
Just as you would with a cover letter and resume, it is helpful to have different PSPs for different positions and industries. One PSP does not usually fit all. List up to five achievements for each position/industry and five selling points. Regardless of how many PSPs you have in your arsenal, always emphasize any accomplishments that show you have reduced costs, increased profits and saved time.
Remember that your focus should always be on the benefits you can bring to a company, and not the other way around.
Make Your PSP Dance
Practice your PSP until it sounds natural—neither too wooden nor too loose. Seek those you trust to provide an honest assessment. Don’t get so caught up in what you’re saying that you discount how you’re saying it. If you want the opportunity, show it. Make your PSP dance by infusing it with enthusiasm. Speaking in a monotone does not benefit anyone, least of all your listener.
Remember too that you are engaging in a two-way conversation. Give the other party a chance to speak. Keep your statements short and focused. Draw your listener in. If, for example, you have communicated how you’ve cut costs, ask your listener what is the biggest expenditure he or she faces. Then reinforce how you can help reduce that cost.
End Your PSP with a Question
If you are presenting your PSP during an interview, the final step is to ask a question designed to get feedback or a follow-up meeting. Ask for a business card. If no card is available, be sure you have the correct spelling of the person’s first and last name and the name of the company. Get a number if possible. And follow-up either with a letter or a phone call.
The Final Word: How FPC Can Help
It can often be difficult to look outside of ourselves and "sell" ourselves to potential employers. We might not even know what our major accomplishments are. When you work with an FPC recruiter, they can help by assessing your skills and strengths and drawing out instances where your attributes have translated into real-life contributions in the workplace. Your FPC recruiter can also work with you to tailor your PSP to specific industries/jobs and provide an impartial, honest assessment of what’s working, and just as important, what’s not.