As a master of ceremonies for CEO summits, I get to view dozens of sales presentations delivered by vendors to a gathering of these C-level executives.  Vendors pay tens of thousands of dollars each to get in front of this elite group of potential clientele to pitch their wares.


Here are five key mistakes the ineffective presenters make (and what they could easily do to correct them):

Mistake #1: Start the presentation talking about your company.

The amateurs begin by delivering information like:

* When the company was founded
* Where it is located
* What products are services are offered
* What awards they have won and certifications they have earned
* How many customers they have

Yes, this seems like a logical place to start, as a result most sales presentations do.

But why doesn’t this work?

Because the presenter has not even given the prospect a reason to care yet!  Although the potential customer may be smiling or nodding, he or she is probably thinking, “Yet another sales presentation!  So what? When will this dog and pony show be over?”

Instead . . .

Invite a real-life customer start your presentation for you.  The prospect is more likely to bond with someone who seems a whole lot more like themselves rather than listen to someone whom they perceive to be yet another salesperson.

And having someone there who is an actual customer helps the prospect to address that all-important first question that must answered before you can proceed to the sale:  “Can I trust this salesperson?”

Mistake #2: Show all of the products and services that you offer.   

In other words, expecting the customer to self-diagnose their problems and pick their own solution.  Certainly something among the cornucopia of offerings you are now spewing about should fit their bill!  Just choose one.

Instead . . .

If you can’t have an actual customer begin your presentation, deliver a case study on their behalf.  Say something like, “You know, company X came to us because they had a challenge, something that you may also be facing.  When we started talking with them here is what we found . . .”

Mistake #3: Death by PowerPoint

Many presenters use PowerPoint simply as a substitute for note cards.  They have slide after slide flash up on the screen with bullet points that remind them what to say next.

This would be similar to going to a movie, and rather than placing action on the screen to engage us, the producer has simply elected to put the actors’ scripts up on the screen.

I discuss “Death by PowerPoint” in more detail here.

Instead . . .

Take a lesson from Hollywood.  After all, Americans willingly spend billions of dollars to go to the movies each year.  Yet no one has ever spent even a dime to see a PowerPoint presentation.

A movie is a story.

Use PowerPoint to provide images that reinforce your use of stories.   Tell a story about a customer.  Make the customer (not yourself or your company) the hero of that story.  Your potential customer will identify with the customer and see how, if they choose you, they too can become the hero in their own story.

Mistake #4: Educate the prospect on the detailed features of your products and services.

Chances are that if they really wanted to gain this information, they’ve already done a Google search.

Instead . . .

Discuss industry trends.  Show them that you are knowledgeable about the marketplace.  Illustrate how to conduct a comparison between your offerings and those of your competitors without bad-mouthing the competition.  Provide epiphanies and value.

Your prospects aren’t suffering from a lack of information.  What they need is an expert who can give it context.

Mistake #5:  Tell the prospect why you have the best products and services.

Marketing guru Dan Kennedy says that the number one marketing mistake he sees his customers make is a lack of collecting and using testimonials.

Of course, we expect you to say you’re great.  But who else says so?  Is it someone I know or trust?  Is it someone whose opinion I value?  That will always be worth more than your own marketing puffery.

Instead . . .

Show the prospect what your products or services did for the customer in your case study.  If possible, quantify the results.  Then have the customer tell in their own words what their relationship with you did for them.  Discuss how their interactions with you solved their problems.

As a result . . .

Now your potential customer will logically want to learn more about you, your company and your products and your services because they now view you as part of their solution.  Customers don’t want to buy the products and services that you spent so much time in sales training learning about.  What they want to purchase instead are solutions to their problems.

Why avoid these five critical sales presentation mistakes?

You will find that rather than your prospect drifting off during your delivery, your audience will become more engaged with you.  Once they become engaged, your presentation will become more of a conversation and less of a monologue, putting you more at ease.

But more importantly, once the prospect finds that you have put the focus on them and their needs and not on yourself, you will more likely get the sale.  And shouldn’t that be the objective of your sales presentation?