6 of the Biggest Mistakes Salespeople Make in Their Presentations

Salespeople are incredible. Like Hollywood actors, whenever they open their mouths, they are putting themselves and their company on the line, taking a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome. Just like actors, even the best, most experienced salesperson can use some coaching and polishing now and then.

Here are the 6 most common mistakes that my sales clients are making at the beginning of our coaching sessions. By the time we’re through, they’ve learned how to avoid them.

1. UNCLEAR THINKING.  If you can’t describe the objective of your interaction in one sentence, you may be guilty of fuzzy focus, trying to say too much at once. You’ll confuse your listener, and that doesn’t make the sale. Decide exactly what you want and need to accomplish in this contact. What would be a positive outcome? For example, imagine that a busy executive says, “You have exactly ten minutes of my time to tell me what you want me to know about your company. In one sentence, tell me how I should describe your benefits when I talk to my managers tomorrow.” At any stage of the sales process, you should know in advance why you are interacting, what benefits you are offering your prospect or client, and what you’d like the next step to be.

Patricia Fripp sales presentation skills trainer and coach
Patricia Fripp sales presentation skills trainer and coach

2. NO CLEAR STRUCTURE.  Make it easy for your prospect to follow what you are saying, whether in a casual conversation or a formal presentation of information and ideas. They’ll remember it better–and you will too. Otherwise, you may forget to make a key point. If you waffle or ramble, you lose your listeners. Even for a conversation, mentally outline your objectives. What key “Points of Wisdom” do you want the prospect to remember? How will you illustrate each point? What colorful examples will your prospect be able to repeat three days later? What phrases or slogans do you want to guarantee they will repeat afterwards?

3. TALKING TOO MUCH.  Salespeople often talk too much about themselves and their service or product. They make a speech rather than having an exchange or interaction, otherwise known as conversation. The key to connecting with a client is conversation; the secret of client conversation is to ask questions; the quality of client information received depends on the quality of the questions–and waiting for, and listening to, the answers! In fact, a successful encounter early in the sales process should probably be mostly open-ended questions, the kind that require essay answers rather than just “yes” and “no.” And don’t rush on with preprogrammed questions that pay no attention to the answer you’ve just received. Learn to listen, even pausing to wait for further comments. Silence draws people out.

4. NO MEMORABLE STORIES.  People rarely remember your exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images your words inspire. Support your key points with vivid, relevant stories. Help them “make the movie” in their minds by using memorable characters, exciting situations, intriguing dialogue, suspense, and humor.

5. NO THIRD-PERSON ENDORSEMENTS.  There’s a limit to how many bold claims you can make about your company and product results, but there is no limit to the words of praise you can put in the mouths of your delighted clients. Use case histories of your clients’ success stories about the benefits they received from your service or product. When you are using their actual dialogue, you can say much more glowing things about yourself and your company than you could if the words were your own. Your endorsement stories should use the same ingredients as a good Hollywood movie: create memorable characters, use vivid dialogue, and provide a dramatic lesson learned.

The dramatic lesson learned in your Hollywood story will be the benefits of doing business with you. Choose characters that your prospects can connect with. It helps if the star of your story holds a similar position to your prospect. You can’t say, “Do business with me, and you’ll get promoted,” but you can give a specific example of someone who phoned, e-mailed, or wrote you that this happened to them. “Just last week,” you might say, “I heard from Mary Smith. She’s the Payroll Manager at Amalgamated Systems. She said that changing their payroll system to our company not only made them more efficient, but they cut their costs 10%. She told me, ‘You made me look good in the eyes of management. Thanks to you, I received a promotion!'” That’s an emotional connection.

6. NO EMOTIONAL CONNECTION.  The most powerful communication combines both intellectual and emotional connections. Intellectual means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned arguments. Emotion comes from engaging the listeners’ imaginations, involving them in your illustrative stories by frequent use of the word “you” and from answering their unspoken question, “What’s in this for me?” Obviously, a customer is going to justify doing business with you for specific analytical reasons. What gives you the edge–what I like to call the “unfair advantage”–is creating an emotional connection too. Build this emotional connection by using stories with characters that they can relate to and by providing a high I/You ratio, using the word “you” as often as possible and talking from their point of view.

My recommendation is that you make telephone appointments with your happiest clients. Tell them you would like to use their stories about working with you as an endorsement, and ask permission to tape record your conversation. Then just let them talk. The more they say, encouraged now and then by a question from you, the better their stories and quotes will be. Finally, select the best quotes from what they’ve said.

If you want to learn more about good sales presentation skills and learning materials…



Outperform your competition through better sales presentations training and coaching. Even experienced salespeople do not always know how to deliver an important business presentation.