Sales Training: Your Sales Presentations Are Terrible — Here’s Why
By Chris Duprey
Your sales presentations are bad.
While I may not have viewed yours specifically, I feel pretty confident in making a broad generalization here: Most sales presentations are awful. If they’re anything like the ones I’ve seen from my early-stage clients — and the hundreds I watched as a COO — they’re boring, overstuffed, and tone-deaf.
Picture a first date when you hear the person drone on and on with what sounds like a resume, all while you’re trying to finagle an exit.
Yeah, many sales presentations are the business equivalent of that.
You think you’re owning the room, but you’re actually losing prospects in the first few minutes — and a whole bunch more are falling off along the way.
This has reached epidemic proportions, and as a business coach, I see it as my job to stage an intervention.
The first step is understanding that you have a problem.
So say it with me: My sales presentations are bad — and I’m going to make them better.
The pitch is lazy (and outdated)
I see what you’re trying to do, but you’re going about it all wrong.
You think that your buyer wants to see slide after slide of features and details to prove the quality of what you’re selling.
No. They don’t want that.
A sales pitch is a firehose of information, with a bit of cajoling thrown in. Whether your pitch comes in a packet, a slide-deck, or a talk track, the effect is the same: Even the most interested prospect may start to glaze over.
People don’t take in information that way. And you’ve chosen the wrong time to share it.
‘But Chris, don’t you say we need to educate our clients?’
Yes, you do. But here’s the thing: The sales meeting is not the time to be educating. Let me repeat that: Do not waste your precious time with a customer droning on and on about what you sell.
You should use the time before and after the meeting for education.
During the meeting itself: Focus on listening and asking questions. Tune in to the prospect’s problems and challenges. Ask follow-up questions to get to the heart of what they’re struggling with.
Spend 30% of your time talking and 70% listening.
Do this, and you build a relationship. You’ll be seen as someone who understands the client’s needs. Someone they can trust.
Be the salesperson who listens. Be the salesperson who’s trustworthy.
Let your buyers self-educate before the sales meeting
Too often, sales reps treat their pitch deck like a secret treasure. They hold it close to the vest, not letting anyone see it before the meeting starts.
What’s so bad about sending all the information to the buyer ahead of time so they can review it? That way, you don’t have to talk through everything. They have the reference materials they need to find the information they’re looking for.
Or, split it up and share some details after the meeting. Imagine if, at the close of the meeting, you say, “Now that I better understand your needs, I’m going to send you some information about our product and how it could help.”
Compare this to how you’re ending meetings now.
You’re making yourself look like an idiot
If you ever hear salespeople at your company say something like, “I got this, I know how to sell X, I’ve given that presentation a hundred times,” you’ve got bad sales reps. You might have an inept sales team.
Running through the same tired routine is the quickest way to show prospects you’re phoning it in.
I swear, these over-confident sales reps are the same ones who seem blindsided by questions, and bungle their way through the presentation they’ve “given a hundred times.”
They’re often inept with technology, too. They struggle to share their screen, they can’t remember if other people in the call can view their mouse. They stumble through the basics of their presentation. They seem blindsided by questions.
Honestly, how is it possible to be so confidently over-prepared in your mind and so totally underprepared in practice?
Let me say this once and for all: A sales call is not the time to be screwing things up in front of your potential customers.
A different kind of preparation
The most successful salespeople prepare and rehearse so they’re ready for the call — and they leave plenty of room for conversation. According to research by Gong, the best sales reps listen much more than they talk.
The right kind of preparation involves meaningful rehearsal and role-playing ahead of time so you can go into a meeting:
- Knowing when you plan to share your screen (hint: it should be as little as possible)
- Knowing how the technology works and how to troubleshoot on the fly
- Anticipating questions the prospect might ask (so you can address them before they’re even asked)
- Having memorized the names of everyone at the meeting
This is the kind of preparation that matters. It keeps your buyer at the center of the meeting.
Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about your buyer
The sales pitch is a holdover. A dinosaur. In the pre-internet age, salespeople had all the information — and they were the conduit to provide that information to customers.
Things have changed.
Today, buyers spend most of their time self-educating, so by the time they reach a sales meeting, they are pretty well informed. According to research from Gartner, customers spend less than 20% of their “buying time” actually talking to a salesperson.
At that point, they don’t need a pitch or an over-stuffed presentation. They need a real conversation about meeting their needs.
Until you’re ready to do that, your presentations will continue to suck.
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