October 1, 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.

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39 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…

  8. “Never let them see you sweat”- This is important to remember while presenting a product or an idea. Yes, this is easier said than done, but with the help of rehearsal you will be able to work with your nervous self.
    Practicing in front of a mirror or a group of friends will help you convey your message more fluently.
    Confidence makes people believe in what you are saying. If you focus too much on your emotions, you will not articulate your message effectively to your audience. They will be distracted by your weird body language and forget about you are trying to promote. Visualization complements a presentation.

  9. Although technology can change and enhance presentations, there are certain fundamental rules that will never change when a person gives a presentation. I think that the mistakes that were mentioned are key rules that everyone should keep in mind and never break when they are giving a presentation. For example, a person should always start his or her presentation on time. Timeliness is essential, and a person should never be late because it gives an initial bad impression. In addition, a person should remain calm and present his or her competency without simply stating that he or she is smart. A person should show that he or she is smart without having to say it, and he or she should not let his or her nervousness get the best of him or her. Furthermore, a person should not have to introduce his or herself. A lasting impression is likely to be caused by someone else introducing you. Discussing religion and politics is extremely controversial, which is why it should never occur during a presentation. One could easily ruin his or her presentation by doing such. Also, one should not have to exhaust another with facts about his or her point. If a person is confident, then he or she will only have to give evidence and proof when needed or requested. Lastly, it is important for a person to not contradict his or herself. A person should not be seen doing something opposed to what he or she said in his or her presentation. If such is done, a person and company could immediately lose credibility.

  10. Christine Loughery

    “Sales presentation basics are timeless” and “independent of platforms.” While technology is an advancement that offers convenience and alternative options, especially in the business world, it does not change the fundamental principles of business practices. During a sales presentation on the web or by phone, the presenter should be prompt, prepared, professional, and focused on the needs of the buyer, just as he or she would in a presentation done in person. These aspects are crucial for all sales presentations, regardless of the platform, in order to be successful. Technology is not a reason to discard standard business practices that have been proven to work. This article allowed me to see how important it is to uphold standard sales basics regardless of the nature of the platform.

  11. Nicholas Joesten

    Time is of the essence, a phrase I have been accustomed to but not for contractual reasons. But punctuality is very important in the business world and can make or break decisions and valuable deals so I was quite surprised to hear that the presenter was late for his presentation. Obviously it would be ideal for him or her to start things off on the right foot. Also the concept of “Don’t tell me how smart you are” stuck out nicely to me and intrigued me. History in recent years has shown that you don’t need to earn a degree to be successful, although it does help a lot. Michael Dell , CEO and founder of Dell didn’t earn a degree and turned out very successful, so there is no need to gloat about alma mater.

  12. These seven points for sales presentations are basic, but necessary. I think the two most important takeaways from this article is to start on time and to never let the audience see you sweat. The first shows professionalism, while the latter shows confidence. Professionalism in business is necessary in almost every business transaction. The presenter is not only showcasing the product or idea, but he is also representing the company of the product. He has to embody someone with respect, integrity, and intelligence in order for the audience to take his sales presentation seriously. Confidence when pitching an idea is also key. Confidence in giving a speech is not easy to attain for everyone. It takes practice, knowledge, and skill. Confidence can also be instilled when the presenter actually believes in the product/idea he is pitching. More so, the presenter must convey his personal reliability to the product in order to convince the viewers that the product truly adds value to his life. Thus, this same product can also add value to the consumer’s life.

  13. MacKenzie Gardner

    “Never let them see you sweat” I believe that is one of the most important points in making any type of business presentation. It goes hand in hand with another saying, “fake it until you make it”. The people you are presenting a pitch to would rather listen to someone who at least sounds confident in what they are speaking on rather than hearing someone apologize for not having their act together. All in all this article highlighted many important key points that I agree with.

  14. So it seems that technology does not change as much as you think would in the business world after all. In terms of proper business etiquette, technology can help prepare you for tasks you have to get done in business or a presentation you have to make but you can not use the technology in the business world to help make yourself look professional. The only thing that can make yourself look prepared and professional especially in the case of a presentation is yourself… a computer can not do this for you, nor can any other technology. The most important part of the article in my opinion is to always be on time. Nothing can look worse than not benign time because the rest of your presentation will not be able to be as good as a result.

  15. Business presentations are meant to be quick meetings that attract the customer into the idea of buying your product or service. The more you throw at them all at once the more they know and can make a decision but, if you present yourself (product, or company) with limited information they will have to wonder and do research on their own or come to you for more. Also more than one person should always be present who knows the information inside and out so if someone does get nervous or is unable to perform the presentation is not wasted, you can continue with ease and without worry, but if you come off sounding arrogant or to smart, meaning that you’re just spitting out information then you can and will turn people off of the idea.

  16. I completely agree with this article. Technology has given us the ability to bring the aspects of design and creativity to our presentations. However, we tend to use it as our “crutch” instead of as an addition. We spend so much time creating a visually appealing piece to pitch our project that we begin to overlook the fundamentals of presenting. It is so important to remember that just because we have the tools to create a great pitch it does not mean we can slack in the basics of business presenting. If we are able to follow these 7 very basic steps along in addition to a great use of technology your presentation should absolutely impress your prospective buyer.

  17. The point of having a back up plan is probably the most crucial. If you are missing your lead spokesman, which happens more than anyone would think you are at a loss for marketing your product. Also its easier to find someone else in advance and show them the information than to last minute throw someone on stage and say go speak. Its not to your benefit to be scrambling since it causes an atmosphere of nervousness and hesitation among the company, showing weakness and faults. Even if you have a great product if you show weakness in your business strategy people will not invest or buy product. A last aspect that I think is important also is that you shouldn’t play all of your cards immediately, give them enough information to want to know more and to get involved.

    • Jack Yoest

      Logan, you are right — we must always have the back-up or plan B or a fall back position. We need to be in control of events or events will control us.

      As the Methodist missionaries would say, “On a moment’s notice, we must be able to preach, pray or perish.’

      Preparation can help us look death in the eye.

      Well done,

  18. What you published made a bunch of sense. However, what about this? suppose you wrote a catchier title? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog, however suppose you added a title that grabbed folk’s attention? I mean 7 Points for Sales Presentations is kinda vanilla. You ought to peek at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create post headlines to grab people interested. You might add a video or a related picture or two to get people interested about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it could make your website a little livelier.

  19. Chelsi Marcellana

    According to this article, those who are giving sales presentations must stay humble and always act like they know exactly what they are doing. It says to “never introduce yourself” or “never say how smart you are” because you want those in the presentation to know through others. Through word of mouth, it better reflects the professionalism of the presenter. This is good advice anywhere in the workplace, especially keeping poised when things aren’t working out as expected.

  20. Mary Margaret Sheridan

    It is important to note that even with all the changes and advances in technology, the basics of making sale presentations don’t change. I think one of the most important points is timeliness. This is such a basic thing and should be common sense, but it really says a lot about someone when they are not on time. This is a sign of respect and it essential in all business situations. Another point that I think is important is to not tell your potential client how smart you are. A sales call should not be the time for you to brag about your accolades. If you are smart and qualified, it will show in the way you speak and carry yourself. These tips are pretty basic but very important to remember for sales presentations.

  21. Mahmoud Al-Attas

    I really learned a lot from this article, these 7 points for sale presentation are very interesting. What caught my attention was “ Never let ‘em see you sweat’’. In my perspective, this shows that you’re not confident about what you are saying and never under estimate your capabilities. The third point was not to brag about yourself. For instants, to keep on repeating about how smart you are. Lastly, people tend to like other people brag rather than me bragging about myself. Thank you for sharing this amazing article!!

  22. Starting a presentation on time is vital. If you are set to present information to someone or multiple people, you want to start on time without having them wait. If the presentation begins 10 minutes late, people could see that as them not being important. The third point you mentioned of not telling them how smart you are, is also key. People do not want to hear someone brag about their education unless they ask you. How you present should show them how smart you are. Let the presentation speak for itself.

  23. Sometimes it’s the simple things in a presentation that can lead to leaving the best or worst impressions when it comes to conference calls or web based sales pitches. The seven points that are made in this article are not earth shattering discoveries, but are completely necessary when you are trying to sell a product. The three points that stand out to me the most are “start the presentation on time”, “Never discuss religion and politics”, and “Don’t tell me how smart you are.” So many people refuse to adhere to these points and as a result leave a sales pitch with a bad impression and a missed sale.

  24. I think that the most important point for these sales presentations is to not let them see you sweat. You have to show the people that you are speaking to, that you’re not nervous and make it look like you’ve done it before. If you’re in front of people and talking to them they are going to listen to you. So even if you are nervous, it is very important to at least look comfortable up there. Showing that you are confident in what you’re saying. It is also very important to have confidence in yourself. I also agree a lot on the point to always start the presentation on time. It is essential not to make people wait. Even if there is something that is preventing you from doing your presentation as you planned it, you should be able to adjust your presentation on the fly.

  25. This article is very interesting and seems very accurate. I had to laugh when it was talking about not letting them see you sweat. It is surprising how many people I have seen do that while presenting. I think it is very important to be confident and believe in what you are presenting about. If you do not look confident then why should anyone be interested or believe what you are saying. As someone who hears presentations offended I think that being short and concise is also very important. You want to keep the audiences attention and in this day and age people do not concentrate very long. I agree with the religion/politics point because everyone gets there feelings hurt when talking about that kind of stuff. The only point that I disagree with is the point about not providing proof. I think that is very critical because then the client or audience has no reason to contest what you are saying.

  26. This sounds like a terrible sales pitch, they seem to have done everything wrong. My question is, at what point do we decide to forget that business people are also human and make mistakes? I understand that all of these incidents in the article are major blunders that lost them the sale. But do we, as business people, really except every person coming to us to be the perfect sales person? If the product is impressive and the price is fair, do we not buy the product if the sales person was late because they had trouble getting their child ready for school or a different real life occurrence? I think we live in a very critical society that expects a lot out of a single person. High expectations are not a bad thing, in fact they drive people to work harder and smarter. Business people should expect the best out of everyone who presents something to them. Sales people should work hard to create their best presentation. But, we also should not forget to be understanding of small human errors.

  27. I think that’s it’s very important to not solely rely on technology when giving a presentation and to always have a back up plan when all else fails. Like the article says “don’t let them see you sweat”, if the customer sees the presenter hesitating and not being able to present the product properly then the customer will feel even more hesitant about buying the product or not buy the product at all. Also, in addition to being prepared being on time is also key to having an effective presentation. As the saying goes “time is money”, so the consumer just wants to hear about the product, not waste their time waiting for the presenters to try and get the presentation in order. I think that following these basic steps presenters can have a more successful presentation and have a higher chance of selling their product.

  28. I believe the first point, starting the presentation on time, is the most valuable out of them all. First impressions are everything, and if a presentation is not started on time that is an immediate signal to the audience that the presenter is unprepared. Just off the fact that the presentation was started late could be the reason why it is a failure. An experienced presenter knows to arrive at his destination early enough to set up and get everything prepared. This way it is almost certain everything will go as planned.
    I think the second point, never let ‘em see you sweat, is another very significant point. This point also stems off of preparation. Besides for showing up the scene a couple minutes early to set up, an experienced presenter also knows to recite and practice the presentation prior to make sure he or she has it down to a science.

  29. Having someone else introduce you further establishes your credibility. I went to the career fair last week, there was a gentleman representing DMG securities, a small brokerage firm in Virginia. He kept telling me how ‘lucrative’ his business was. When I asked him how many employees worked at his firm, he replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question because DMG securities is a private company.” I thought this was strange. He could tell me how lucrative the company was, but could not release any information on who he traded for or disclose any information on the people he worked with. Had another individual willing to share more knowledge about the firm introduced this gentleman, as well as disclose of this gentleman’s accomplishments, I may have a different opinion on DMG securities and this representative of DMG securities. Do not introduce yourself, and do not oversell yourself.

  30. When it comes to sales presentations, it is all about the impact that you leave with the consumer. You could have an awful product or a terrific product. However, if your sales pitch is not where it needs to be… you will most certainly not get the sale. This is something I learned first when I was working with a federal contracting firm this summer. Regardless of the solution provided for the federal governments problem.. it all came down to the proposal. It needed to be straight forward and highlight the solutions provided in a concise manner. Sales is what solidifies the success of your product. Without a good sales pitch, even the best of products will fall short in sales.

  31. I found this article to be amusing. You would think that those who are trying to sell something would perfect the little details. Anyway, the thing that stood out to me the most after reading was this. When I analysed the 7 pointers again, I realised that other than Never introduce yourself and Do as I say not as I do, it is five points that I feel, one should follow when at a job interview. Most definitely start on time – if not early. (One of my very wise professors once told me that if you’re on time then you’re late), Never let them see you sweat – show that you are confident, Don’t tell them how smart you are – Let your resume do that, you don’t want to come across as a big head, Never discuss religion or politics – You are there for a job not to share your views and beliefs, and finally never provide backup/proof unless the client is sceptical, you want them to trust you not doubt you.

  32. In some cases technology can be very helpful in giving a presentation, It can provide a slideshow with key points and graphics to draw in the customer. This all being said we can’t rely on technology as much as our generation tends to. The seven points made in this article are very big and crucial points. The one that I feel I can appreciate the most is to always start on time. Being an athlete I have learned that 10 minuets early is 5 minuets too late. It is crucial to always be 15 minuets early to something, because you never know what could come up. In terms of athletics you get there 15 minuets early to put your cleats on and mentally prepare yourself, where in the business world you need to be there 15 minuets early to prove your devotion to the task at hand, and prepare your presentation incase a slide got placed out of order due to a technological update. If something can go wrong most of the time it will so it is always important to be prepared for all circumstances and be prepared early.

  33. Link exchange is nothing else but it is just placing the other person’s webpage link on your page at suitable place and other person will also do similar in support of you.

  34. Making a sales presentation can be a very challenging process. Presentations all start with appearance. If you look sharp, people are going to give you a chance. If you are up in front of your audience and look unprofessional, people are less likely to listen to your presentation. The next most important thing is confidence. When you sound like you know what you’re talking about, you are going to get peoples attention. Finally giving people a chance to ask questions can help you a lot. People want a chance to talk and clear up anything you said.

  35. Sales presentations have many opportunities for something to go wrong, but always being prepared and staying on your feet I believe will allow you to pull yourself out of those tough situations. Starting on time is the most important aspect of the sales presentation, it shows you value your audiences time and attention. Also being late will just lead to domino effect on your presentation, you could feel rushed, flustered and out of order which will just make your presentation that much worse. Staying calm and confident, or like you said “not letting them see you sweat” ultimately could make or ruin your presentation. Someone who appears nervous and unsure of themselves will never make a good salesman because no one will buy anything from someone who is awkward to be around. Knowing what your selling and having the confidence that you could sell it to anyone is the best attitude to go into a sales pitch with.

  36. Victoria Principato

    I really like the way this article was organized! The 7 points makes it really easy to follow and for readers to understand the main talking points. However, I do have to say some of the points made seem a bit harsh. As Claire commented above, it is important to remember that sales people are human and make mistakes. In business, being critical in making decisions is important. However, it is also important to be understanding. Overall, we must make sure we are not just criticizing people, but learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.

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