During the last 17-plus years, I have been part of, or have watched, hundreds of sales presentations. More recently, I viewed a series of sales demonstrations, and all but one of four sales teams opened their presentations the same way.

Here are three openers you need to avoid when starting your sales presentation:

1. Social chit-chat. Contrary to popular belief, engaging the prospect in social chit-chat at the beginning a sales presentation is not a good use of time. You may think it’s important, but your prospect is busy and wants you to get to the point — quickly — so he can get back to work.

There are two exceptions to this rule…

  1. If you are doing a presentation for multiple people and you are waiting for someone to arrive, it is perfectly acceptable to engage in small talk. However, once everyone has shown up, get started immediately.
  2. If your prospect engages you in small talk, then it makes good business sense to participate. Otherwise, don’t waste their time or yours.

2. Thanking the prospect. Most of the sales presentations I have observed start with the salespeople thanking their prospects for the opportunity to present their solutions. This behavior diminishes your credibility and puts you in a submissive position. Plus, it doesn’t add any value to the presentation.

3. Talking about your company. This is perhaps the worst mistake. The vast majority of sales presentations I have seen open with the sellers talking about their companies.

  • How long they have been in business
  • The clients they have on their roster
  • The awards they have won

And the list goes on. After more than 17 years working with salespeople, I still don’t know why sellers think this is an effective way to open a sales presentation. Your prospects don’t want to hear you toot your own horn.

First impressions are critical. And if you make the wrong impression in the first vital moments of a sales presentation, you run the risk of losing that opportunity.

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