At the conclusion of every sales presentation the salesman will have achieved one of three results: a sale is made, a sale is lost or valuable information is gleaned that can result in building a relationship. The third result can be called identifying the “hot button”. Obviously, the purpose of every sales presentation is to close the sale, and this is the only acceptable outcome any good salesman expects. However, identifying the hot button that will motivate a prospect to purchase can lead to a successful closing in a subsequent meeting.

The great salesman identifies the customer’s hot button by asking questions, listening closely to the answers and ferreting out the prospects true objections, pain, or fear about dealing with your company or your product. This is accomplished during the first meeting. Sales people never want to risk having to wait for a follow-up meeting to secure a positive result. Too many things can happen between the initial and second presentation, all bad.

However, realistically not every salesman is great, and the opportunity to re-tool a presentation based on data learned at the initial meeting can enable ordinary sales people to successfully close. Learning the customers hot button issue allows a sales man to craft a presentation that specifically addresses these open points. Not identifying and keying in on the hot button issues that are so important to buyers is the equivalent of commercial self- immolation.

Entrepreneurs must be able to sell. Golf, tennis, the trombone, driving, sailing, carpentry, indeed every activity is honed by practice. The same is true of developing crucial sales skills. You must practice, learn from mistakes, practice more and perfect a set of selling skills.

When sales people call on me I am always keen to hear the presentation and grade the effort. To say that there is a dearth of sales skills today is an understatement. When I experience a weak presentation I will cut off the presenter and tell them why they have lost the opportunity to have my business. If I am sitting through a weak presentation, but the sales person is obviously trying, I will stop them and give them pointers as to areas they might improve upon.

Invariably, not seeking, or discovering my hot button is usually the deal killer. I want to know how a product will satisfy a need I wish to address. What does it do for me? What does the product do that my current widget does not do? Is there a saving for me of labor, energy or maintenance? Does the item feature a storage, portability or multi-use advantage? There are many more features that might be relevant to my making a decision. It is the sales person’s responsibility to discover my hot button need and directly overcome my hesitance with a soundly presented response to each objection.

Notice I did not include cost in my list of hot buttons issues. Price is never, repeat never, an acceptable reason to lose a sale. Raw materials of like quality are price sensitive. However, a commercial product, technology or service should never be sold on price alone. The seller who touts a cheaper price alone as a reason to buy will not last long. There is always someone willing or able to sell more cheaply.

There is one exception I allow to my mantra to close every sale on the first presentation. I call this the “Naked Salesman”. In specific situations, usually when I need more background on the prospect than I can find in the marketplace (and this happens rarely), I go to the meeting as the Naked Salesman.

The Naked Salesman goes into the meeting with no briefcase, no bag, no folio and no sales collateral. This tends to disarm the customer. Sales people always appear as if they are ready to negotiate the terms and conditions for building the pyramids. The buyer always expects to be sold something they do not want and tends to build a barrier that the sales person must overcome.

Here is how the Naked Salesman might handle the meeting. Consider the following talking points:
• I am not here to sell you a thing.
• I simply want to learn more about your firm, your needs and how I can customize a program that increases your profits.
• My product (service, technology, invention, etc.) is too important to both of our companies for me to present without more knowledge of your application requirements.
• Can I borrow a pen and pad to make some notes as we talk?
Why does this approach succeed? Simply because the Naked Salesman has expressed more interest in the clients needs than the client expects. This is called relationship selling. The Naked Salesman wishes to customize a program that enables the client to enjoy features and benefits their product will provide. The classic armor that sales people utilize (brief case, Mont Blanc fountain pen, power point presentation, etc.) is replaced by a conversation. And this conversation is solely about what you can do to address the customers needs, wants and problems.

The Naked Salesman will return (with a briefcase, folio, sales collateral, no longer the Naked Salesman) enjoying a different relationship with the client. The return meeting promises the deliverance of a plan to address the stated hot button issues learned by the Naked Salesman. The psychological barrier so often placed between seller and buyer is greatly minimized or eliminated. In my experience the receipt of the details contained in the customized presentation is appreciated and anticipated by the buyer. The close should be completed after the presentation is completely reviewed, all aspects discussed and each issue of concern at the initial meeting fully answered.

Do not let analysis paralysis ever become a part of your, or the customers, decision making process. The sales person has a product. The customer has a need that must be discovered and addressed. The sale should then be closed as soon as possible. All parties should leave feeling that they received a fair deal. Over analyzing the market, current business conditions, industry trends, or hundreds of other paralyzing excuses are not countenanced.

I often ask the following question of a difficult customer: “If I could give you my product for free, would accept a unit”? The answer is almost always, “yes, of course”. My next question, “How would you use my product”? The answer almost always leads to the REAL hot button you could not pull from the prospect during the meat of your presentation. Listen to the response, adjust the close to address the answers you are hearing and then reopen your effort to close the sale.

Ability to close sales is equivalent to the performance of a MRI for your business. Selling is job number one. Answering objections and differentiating between real and phony objections is crucial to sales success.
The hot button issue is the key to concluding a successful sales presentation. Find the real hot button, answer it directly and watch your business expand exponentially as selling becomes easier and even fun.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.