WHENEVER and whatever you are pitching, dozens of factors will figure in the final decision of your prospects. All else being equal, you have an edge if you can establish a personal connection.

Connect emotionally and intellectually, so people like and trust you more than your competitors.

Here are some tips on how you can get your prospects to like you:

* Focus and be sincere

If you appear nervous or unsure, you may seem devious or incompetent. If your sales presentation does not respond to their concerns, and you grind on with a prepared pitch, they may think that you don’t care about them and their problems.

Look people right in the eyes and convince them that you stand 100 per cent behind the ideas, products or services you want to sell them. Pick up on their concerns and address them.

* Divide and conquer

If you are doing a sales presentation, shake hands with everyone as they enter the room. Connect with them so you see them as individuals, and you become more memorable to them too. People are usually more wary of groups of strangers than one-on-one contacts.

* Don’t drown your sales presentation with technology

PowerPoint can keep you on track, but it can’t establish trust.

* Keep it simple and memorable

When your prospects have a debriefing afterwards, you want them to remember what you said more than anything your competitors pitched to them.

Break your talking points into snappy sound bites that are easy to write down and remember. Make them interesting and repeatable.

* Steer clear of technical jargon

Rehearse your presentation in advance with your spouse or an intelligent 12-year-old across the dinner table. If there is anything they don’t understand, it’s too complicated.

* Tell great stories

People are trained to resist a sales pitch, but no one can resist a good story. Let’s say you are trying to get money to fund your software company. Tell a story about how the prospective investor’s life will change when you bring the product to market.

Say: “Imagine that a year from now you’ll come to work and use this software to do in five minutes what now takes you 45 minutes. I don’t know what that would do to your life, but in all our test markets or pilot programs, people tell us...” Then add more stories.

Take a lesson from Hollywood. Give your stories interesting characters and dialogue, plus a dramatic lesson that your prospects can relate to.

Don’t say: “Certain companies have used our software” or “IBM has used our software”. Instead, say: “Joe Smith at IBM said to me, ‘If we don’t increase sales turnover by 20 per cent, we won’t make our projections’. We guaranteed them they could if they used our software. Six months later, Joe called and said: ‘You guys saved us.’”

If you are pitching a product that has not been made yet, build a story about what it will be like for someone using it. Everything else being equal, you are way ahead of any and all your competition when your prospects relate to you, like you and trust you.