Ever find yourself in the middle of a presentation, thinking, “This is really boring,” or realizing that you’re telling a story suited for Baby Boomers to a Gen X prospect? Do you have this unshakeable anxiety over public speaking? Is PowerPoint more your enemy than your friend? If so, not to worry. You are hardly alone.
Most professionals, regardless of their industry, and even those who must make presentations for a living, commit at least one of what communications guru Terry Sjodin considers to be nine crippling sales presentation mistakes. Sjodin’s presentation, “Small Message, Big Impact,” was a kickoff presentation at NAILBA 31 and was part of Prudential’s “Women in Brokerage” session series.
According to Sjodin, the nine biggest sales presentation mistakes are:
#1: Winging it. “Your professional credibility is evaluated within the first seven seconds of meeting somebody based on how you dress,” Sjodin said. “Immediately following that, every element is based on or tied to your public speaking skills. Are you articulate? Compelling? Boring? Most people wing it rather than prepare for presentations and don’t think of the missed opportunities they could have benefited from if they had just stopped to craft concise, compelling and clear presentations.”
#2: Being too informative versus being persuasive. Performing a data dump feels safe because nobody can tell you “no” while you are doing it, Sjodin says. But the role of a presenter is not to inform so much as to persuade. She recalled how, once she applied her skills as a debater to her sales presentation, her sales numbers improved. By being clear, concise and compelling, one can make a classy sales presentation that doesn’t feel overbearing or a dreaded hard sell.
#3: Misusing the allotted time. Respect the amount of time you have for the presentation. Rehearse beforehand. Don’t bring too much information or underestimate how long your presentation takes.
#4: Providing inadequate support. Make your points and then back them up. Focus on a compelling argument. Why does the listener need you? Focus on getting to that point. And then provide the evidence that proves it. Just keep the evidence short and simple.
#5: Failing to close the sale. Adults have a short attention span, Sjodin says, and most failed presentations stem from a failure to move the listener through what she calls “the logical sequence.” Grab their attention with something that intrigues them. Once intrigued, define what they need. Deliver a way to satisfy that need. Get the listener to visualize taking action. Then take that action.
#6: Being boring. “If you are thinking while you make a presentation that you are being boring, guess what?” Sjodin said. “You are.”
#7: Relying too much on visual aids. Sjodin recalled a sales professional who relied on a 220-page slide deck when making routine presentations. “Text on a screen is not a visual aid,” Sjodin said, and got the entire room to repeat out loud. “Text on a screen is not a visual aid.” Visual aids are not for presenting what can be written or said. Keep them few and keep them simple.
#8: Distracting gestures and body language. Sjodin suggests videotaping one’s presentation at least once a year to review any strange or off-putting habits. She recalls one sales rep she coached who, during presentations, would roll up his pen in his tie, even before clients. Tape your presentation. Review it. Be frank with yourself and make the changes you need to make.