Presentations - Sales

Top Sales Presentation Mistakes as Seen by Senior Level Decision Makers

Don’t blame the audience

As part of my research for my forthcoming book, Strategic Sales Presentations, I interviewed dozens of senior level executives to understand how they perceive the presentations they receive from salespeople. One of the questions that really got most of them talking was “What are the top mistakes that you see salespeople making during presentations?” Here are the Top 10:

Try too hard to sell me. When you reach my level, you have been vetted by people in my organization whose opinions I trust, so make your presentation educational and factual. Teach me something new.

Talk too long. “By slide #2, most salespeople have already used up 75-80% of my patience and I’m looking for the exit.” Get to the point. On a related note, don’t use too many slides, especially about your corporate “story”. Sometimes even you look bored with it.

Ask me what keeps me awake at night. That’s one of the most overused questions in sales. You should already have a pretty good idea of my problems.

Be too sure that you know all about my problem already. This is the opposite extreme of the previous one. If you act like you know it all, we will push back and expose what you don’t know. Be humble and ask a lot of questions.

Not listen. Don’t be so wrapped up in getting your message out that you don’t listen to us. If we interrupt you to ask a question or say something, there is a pretty good reason for it.

Try to circumvent our buying process. “Don’t force your sales cycle on me.” On rare occasions, we will bend this rule, but you’d better have a damn good reason to do it. Also, “If you get in too easily to see me, that’s not a good sign. It means everyone else can too.”

Be too canned. We like to talk to real people who know our business. If you’re too slick or too “coiffed”, we’ll get suspicious.

Use “$75 words”. When you make something more complicated than it is, it “makes us think like you’re full of it.” On a related note, a CFO said that you should not use terms like ROI and payback unless you really know what they mean.

Bring too many people. Too many teams bring in many more people than are necessary. If they don’t have a reason for being there, or don’t play an active role, leave them home. If you have that many people to spare, I may end up paying too much.

Wear a Gator tie when selling to the University of Georgia. Yes, this actually happened. The big picture point is that you should know your customer and tailor your presentation to them. On a related note, don’t show me a generic slide presentation that could have been seen by anybody.

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