A friend of mine just got back from Switzerland.

He was attending The World Economic Forum, this fancy-shmancy international event for big corporate, government, and social leaders of the world.

People like Bill Gates, John McCain, and the ever present Bono go to this thing for real.

Now my friend is a smart successful guy, but he’s no Bono.

While at this event, my friend gave a presentation to some of these high powered people.

One of the things that impresses me about my friend is the ease he has in making presentations.

He doesn’t prepare much before presenting. Maybe a few minutes at most. And he’s not one of those "natural" public-speaker stage-hound types. Heck, he’s an engineer by training and trade.

His typical preparation involves choosing a story he wants to talk about, and then writing down 2 or 3 keywords to remind him of where he wants to take the talk. That’s it.

He can do this because he knows his stuff.

A few years back in my sales career, I noticed one day that presenting was easy when I knew what I was talking about.

That may seem like a stupidly obvious statement, but there is wisdom there.

There’s wisdom there because if you’ve ever been new in sales job, you know just how hard it is for the first 3 to 6 to 9 months precisely because you don’t know what you are selling that well.

And until you’ve closed some deals, the information that you get in company training and from reading sales brochures just makes you someone who can talk about features.

Well if you want to be one of the people who can talk to any prospect with confidence and ease, to be able to speak at a moments notice in front of 2 people or 20 people, and to actually interest and persuade your them you will need more depth than just feature knowledge.

What I finally figured out after switching around sales jobs more times than I care to count, was that the interesting knowledge was with my customers.

See by the time I was in a job 9 months to a year or more, I had closed some sales. I had some customer success stories of my own. I knew why they bought it, what they were using it for, and why they didn’t buy from the competition.

Once I hit that magical point, selling and presenting always got much easier.

And 90% of my sales presentation anxiety went away.

So what can you do to speed up this process?

Go talk to your current customers yourself. Don’t just read the "success stories" on your company website or in your corporate literature.

Go find and talk to some real customers. Preferably in person. Or on the phone though if that’s the only way.

If you are a sales manager, arrange a field trip and/or some conference calls for your sales people with your customers.

Spend an hour or more each with at least 3 customers and you’ll cut 3-6 months off of the sales experience-learning curve.

That’s how you get to the point where you can sell like you are the owner of the company.

Sell with Pride,

Shameless Shamus