February 6, 2016

7 Points for Sales Presentations


Technology changes everything. Right?

I’m not so sure. Tech enables, but does not always change the basics. Especially for the small business owner.

Your Business Blogger was in the market to buy a software solution. I sat through a conference call/web based sales pitch by Brand X for creating a wiz-bang presentation to promote one of my companies. The presenters made a number of mistakes.

I stopped counting at 7.

1) Start the presentation on time. Brand X could not immediately locate the CEO as pitchman for the assembled prospects waiting on-line and on the phone. If you can’t find the presenter, the show — the sales presentation must still go on — with an understudy if need be.

2) Never let ’em see you sweat. So Brand X’s lead presenter was lost. There appeared to be a very capable VP on hand to provide information, asking qualifying questions, giving a warm-up act. Say most anything, but don’t tell potential clients you can’t synchronize an Outlook calendar and don’t know what to do next. Fill the dead air with some anticipation. See The Consultant’s Jargon Generator. Unless it’s part of the act, don’t let on that your hair’s on fire.

3) Don’t tell me how smart you are. Brand X’s very accomplished CEO couldn’t tell us quick enough about his Ivy League degrees — sounding too much like a college sorority sister establishing a pecking order. I know he was smart because he told me so.

4) Never introduce yourself. Let someone else do the bragging. I am leery of any forty-year-old man telling me what University he attended. Particularly when “attend” means grad-level “certificate” program. (Unless it’s Oxford. Like me.) Brand X’s CEO should have had his very capable VP’s whisper as an aside, confidentially, “You know, he went to Harvard.” Find an accomplished Ed McMahon or a good second banana to say, “Heeereee’s Johnny!!!”

5) Never discuss religion or politics. Brand X has pet causes that alienated — something about rainforests, peace in our time, landfills, I think. And Starbucks. I was left with the impression that the Brand X commune sits in a circle in Oregon and sings Kumbaya, which must be very impressive to creative media potsmokers. But not to decision makers with a five figure buying authority.

6) Never provide backup/proof unless the client is skeptical. Brand X sent me eleven (11!) pages of landfill of client testimonials. A few blurbs, sure. And the client list. But pages of telling me how smart you are instead tells me how insecure you are. Which I learned from the Brits. (While at Oxford.)

7) Do as I say; Not as I do. Brand X highlighted their product as avoiding the need for those pesky salesmen calling and bothering and trying to sell you something. Then I get two follow-up sales telephone calls from Brand X. Now, I love sales guys — I started off selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door 35 years ago — but don’t put salesmen down, then use them when (appearing) desperate.

Bottom line: I didn’t buy. The Brand X manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $17,500. But! if you buy now! now! your investment! is onlyninethousanddollars….I had a low four figure budget and Brand X did not close the gap between my needs, my money and their software solution. Which was actually very good.

From web to telephone to trade shows to a one-on-one face-to-face, sales presentation basics are timeless.

Web based presentations are a tool to exchange labor for technology. Remember, sales basics are independent of platforms.

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Jack Yoest

Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

9 Reactions

  1. The Consultant’s Jargon Generator link above is actually tongue-in-cheek. I’m currently reading the Guerilla book at that link and one page in the book lists similar cliched terms and instructs us to avoid them and to use ‘plainspeak’ instead. Perhaps a ‘song and dance’ would be better :-)

  2. Vladimir, I’m a bit confused. I thought the Consultant’s Jargon Generator was real…

    Next you’ll tell me that Professional Wrestling is fake.

    You’re right: ‘song and dance’ would be better.


  3. Ouch! Generally if the right people don’t show up within 1/2 hour I end the meeting. I turned down a $75K software purchase because the sales folks set up a net meeting that required they gain control over my PC to do a demo. Beyond their flashy presentation with canned responses I found they could not answer the questions I asked, but kept referring to how cool their product was and how I would look like a hero to my boss. The software package we chose ended up costing $150K and has everything we need including real people for support.

  4. Jack, one I learned long ago was NEVER APOLOGIZE for any mistakes or error or gaffs that you have. Probably relates to never let em see you sweat above.


  5. Steve, your advice of to “never apologize” is most often (never) seen by on-air talent and performing artists. Usually a flub on stage is missed by the audience — an apology merely calls attention to the mistake. The best performers never apologize.

    I think the beginning of this was with one of the grown Henry Ford sons. Driving drunk, caught with a woman not his wife. Interviewed in jail: a reporter pesters with questions. Ford answers, “Never complain, never explain.”

    The idea to “never apologize” should be taught in business schools.

  6. The other lesson I learned early in my business career that is related to this is ‘business composure’ people respect that composure even when circumstances are hectic. My belief is composure is not stilted never out of control, passion yes, anger no.

  7. Hey, I don’t have much to say, but that was great! It reminded me of all the meetings and presentations and sales baloney that I used to have to sit through.

    I’ve noticed the point about letting other people speak for you before. In particular, the more smart you want to be, the more important it is that you don’t try to “prove” you are smart… it just takes a credible person to talk you up to accomplish that, and if you do it yourself you just invite scorn.

    Too bad talking yourself down doesn’t accomplish the reverse as well…

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