How to Sell...I Mean, Present Work

By David Baldwin Posted on Aug 22, 2011

Maybe the most important thing you have to do in this business, besides thinking up ideas, is to sell them through.

Many people say they hate selling. It’s understandable, but realize that you pretty much spend your day selling. If you are trying to get friends to go to a restaurant they don’t want to go to, you’re selling. If you’re trying to get your significant other to go hiking on a weekend, but they want to go to the pool, you’re selling.

Most of us are selling all day long. The trick is to not be ‘selly.’ Because if you’re being ‘selly’ you’re not being authentic and you just may come across like an ass.
So here are a few (by-no-means scientific) guidelines I use when I present work.

1. Articulate your idea. The first place to start is to very simply articulate the idea. If you can’t get it into a sentence (and trust me, you can) you haven’t done the upfront work. It drives me crazy when someone fumbles through an idea. I guarantee there’s a simple core to whatever you’ve thought up. Once you’ve identified it you can build a case.

2. It’s all about you. When presenting many people think that the work will speak for itself, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s all about you. Whatever kind of presenter you are, boisterous and fun, quiet and shy, or nervous, if you’re authentic in the moment it won’t matter. You are the content even when you have great content. One of the best strategic set ups I ever saw consisted of three slides with simple visuals and only a few words per slide. It took about ten minutes and was riveting. Why? Because the person speaking was the content, and he was fantastic.

3. Don’t present from opinion People are generally hardwired to listen for disagreement or flaws in what you’re saying. Sad but true. So instead lay out the facts and your audience will come to your desired conclusion themselves. Here’s an example:

You want to convince your friend Steve that your friend Andy is a jerk.

YOU: Man, Andy is a jerk.

STEVE: What? He’s always been nice to me. I don’t think he’s a jerk.

Andy, indeed, may be a jerk but you just ran up against Steve’s perception of him and you didn’t change that perception. You just made an assertion.
So, instead start with the facts.

YOU: Hey, did you hear about Andy?

STEVE: No, what happened?

YOU: Well, I gave him 200 bucks to fix his car three weeks ago and not only has he not paid me back, he told me he’s never paying me back. Oh, and he killed a cute bunny rabbit.

STEVE: Wow, what a jerk.


4. When all else fails present from opinion.

So you’ve articulated your idea, you’ve laid out your case and they’re still not buying. The only place to go is your passion and authenticity. Creative people are passionate about their own ideas, if nothing else is working, use that.

Presenting work is a capricious thing and it isn’t scientific but you can apply sense to the process. It just takes a bit of time. Otherwise, you may commit the biggest sin and have to rely on, “We did this because it was cool.” And then you’re dead.

David Baldwin is founder and creative director of Baldwin& in Raleigh, NC.


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