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The three biggest mistakes in sales presentations
Dave Kahle
Dave Kahle

The sales presentation is the ultimate purpose of every sales process, sales call and sales system. The job of the sales person revolves around the point in time when he offers the customer something to buy.

Without the sales presentation, there can be no sale. It is, then, the foundational step in the sales process. Everything that happens before is in preparation for the presentation, and everything that happens afterward is a result of the presentation.

You would think, then, that every sales person is extremely well-trained in the science of making an effective sales presentation.

Alas, that is not the case. Left to learn on their own, many sales people make the same mistakes over and over again. Here are the three most commonly made sales presentation mistakes:

1. Lack of preparation.
In my very first sales position, I had to endure six weeks of sales training. In those six weeks, the entire training class had to memorize two, four-page sales presentations, and give them to the training class. We were videoed and critiqued, over and over, for the six weeks. At the end of that time we were thoroughly prepared to give that sales presentation.

Now that may have been a bit of overkill, but the point remains:  Preparation is the first step toward an effective sales presentation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you memorize the presentation. It does mean you organize it, secure and check your collateral (the sample, brochures, price quotes, etc that form the basis of what you are selling), and practice the presentation several times until you are comfortable with it and confident in your ability to deliver it.

Unfortunately, preparation is a discipline that seems to be fading from the routines of many sales people. The world is full of sales people who either have little respect for their customer’s time, no particular interest in doing their jobs well, or an over-inflated view of their own ad-libbing abilities. Any of these produces the sense that they don’t need to prepare, that on the spur of the moment, they will come up with the most persuasive things to say, in the most effective manner.

That’s too bad. Preparation is the first step toward a better sales presentation, and lack of preparation is endemic in the world of sales.

2. Information purging.
This occurs when a sales person thinks his/her job is to relate everything he/she knows about the product, service or proposal.

I was deeply into a training program wherein we work with six sales people every day for a week. Sales people role-played various situations, we videoed them, critiqued them and had them role play again, only better.

We were methodically working through the sales process, and it was time to make the sales presentation. The class was taught to organize the presentation on the basis of what they learned about the customer in the previous “find out what they want” role play.

One particular sales person never got that message. He thought a sales presentation was like an oral exam in school. It was his opportunity to spill everything he knew about the product. What should have been a 20 minute presentation dragged on and on for 45 minutes. Even though it was a role play in front of the class and was being video recorded, the person playing the customer began to fall asleep. The hapless sales person continued on, purging himself of every bit and morsel of related information. I had to finally step in and put an end to the tedium.

While that may have been a dramatic example of this mistake, it occurs in smaller ways thousands of times a day. It occurs when sales people feel the need to tell the customer everything they know about the product or service they are presenting, whether the customer cares or is interested in that feature or not.

The problem is greater than just “too much information.” Sales people who do this disrespect the customer, as they don’t take the customer’s interests and requirements into account in the presentation.

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