Three Big Presentation Mistakes

By Heather Baldwin

It’s no mystery that sales professionals make mistakes during presentations – we’re only human, after all. But did you know that regardless of the product or service you’re selling, chances are you’re making at least one of nine big mistakes? If you want to start closing more sales with a more dynamic presentation, learn those nine errors and fix them, says Terri Sjodin, principle of Sjodin Communications and author of New Sales Speak: The 9 Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes & How to Avoid Them (John Wiley & Sons, 2001). Here are three of the most egregious errors.

Information vs. persuasion. Most salespeople are far too focused on dumping out all the information they can – their company history, its mission, technical details of their product. But that doesn’t sell, says Sjodin. Instead you need to create a persuasive argument. “You need to build a logical case for why they should work with your company and why they should do it now,” she says. Your great customer service is not a persuasive argument; telling the client that you have 24-hour live technical support where an actual human being will answer the phone while your competitors’ systems are automated, is persuasive. So take a look at your presentation – are you shoveling out information or are you persuading?

Provide support. Follow through with all persuasive arguments by providing support for your points. In other words, don’t just tell the client you have 24-hour live technical support, pick up the phone, put it on speaker so the whole room can hear and call the technical support line. Show the audience the type of customer service they can expect to receive.

Bor-ring! In her presentation workshops, Sjodin videotapes her clients giving their presentations, and then plays them back and asks what they think. “They say all the time that they thought it went a little long and got a little boring,” she says. “I’ll ask them why then did they keep going if they thought it was so dull, and they say: Terri, I had to get through all the material.” If it’s that dull, do you really think the prospect is going to remember any of that material? No way. Ditch the canned data-dump and liven things up. Add stories and anecdotes. Be animated. Be charismatic. “Sales professionals have a responsibility to be somewhat entertaining when they’re absorbing the time and attention of the people they’re talking to,” says Sjodin. Not only that, but if you’re putting them to sleep, they’re unlikely to want to buy from you.