Here’s a quick tip you can use to help salespeople sharpen their presentations.

It has nothing to do with style or content. It’s all about how the presenter feels.

And lest you think we’ve gone all soft and touchy-feely, be advised that this technique is backed by solid research.

In an experiment, researchers had students submit to an admissions interview for business school. Though the interviews were simulated, they were were run by actual recruiters and were designed to mimic real-life interviews.

The students were told that their mission was to convince these recruiters that they had the drive, skills and experience to succeed in the program. In other words, they had to make a sales presentation, with themselves as the product.

Before the interviews, the students were broken up into three groups and given an exercise.

The first — the “low power” group — was asked to write about a time when they felt powerless.

The second — the “high-power” group — wrote about a time when they felt powerful.

The third — the control group — was asked to prepare for the interview however they liked.

After the interviews, the recruiters were asked to make an admissions decision based solely on the interview.

The acceptance rate for the high-power group was 81 percent higher than than that of the control group and 162 higher than the low-power group. And the high-power students were rated up to 58 percent more persuasive than others.

Of course it makes sense that people who feel powerful will be more persuasive. What’s surprising about this study is how little it takes to create that sense of power. A short, simple reflection exercise primes the brain for success. That’s a technique that reps can easily apply the next time they’re giving a sales presentation. It can also be used with other kinds of sales communications — for example, a prospecting call or writing an e-mail.

One caveat: In the study, the students were asked to write down their reflections. While other studies show that mental rehearsal can also be effective, there seemed to be something powerful and purposeful about creating a written reflection — perhaps because the act of writing requires a deeper level of concentration and engagement than mental reflection.

Lammers, J., et al. (2013). Power gets the job: Priming power improves interview outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(4), 776-779.

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