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How to avoid the cardinal sin of selling

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What is the worst way to open a sales conversation, meeting, appointment or call (warm or cold)? This was the question I asked attendees at a recent sales training workshop. The answer? To talk about your company—your background, history, number of locations, how long you’ve been in business, client list, awards you have won or anything else of a self-serving nature.

The same concept holds true for your slide decks. Most companies insist their logos be prominently displayed on every single slide in the deck. And it’s not uncommon for marketing departments to insert a dozen slides at the front of a deck, each focused on the organization.

Needless to say, this was a tough concept for some workshop participants to swallow. I heard a lot of “Yeah, buts…” For example:

  • “Our marketing team says we have to open with those slides.”
  • “Our prospects don’t always know who we are, so we need to tell them right away.”
  • “It shows how diverse we are.”
  • “My boss says every presentation has to start this way.”

But, here’s what your marketing team or boss may not understand: Your prospects don’t care about that stuff. They don’t want to know about your company, and telling them about it will only annoy them. They care about their businesses and problems, which is why they have agreed to meet with you. The sooner you stop talking about yourself and start talking about them, the quicker you will get their attention and stand out from the competition. Sounds simple, right?

I will be the first to admit that it can be tough to get others in your organization to comprehend this. One company I worked with began every sales presentation with a slide entitled “The Four Reasons We Exist.” No matter how much I encouraged them to eliminate this slide, their sales manager refused, saying, “Our prospects need to know this.”

But, in my 12 years in private practice, I have never had a prospect say, “I didn’t see anything about your company in the presentation.” Nor have I ever lost a sale because I didn’t provide prospects with information about my client list.

Here’s a suggestion which might help you unlearn the bad habit of talking about your company: Ask a few of your existing clients if your corporate marketing slides, brochures and accolades affected their decision to work with you. I think you’ll be surprised by the answer.

By the way, here’s what happened after last week’s workshop: One of the participants decided he would put this idea to the test. That night, he reached out to a prospect he had been trying to connect with for several months. He introduced himself, asked the prospect a few questions about his business and secured an appointment.

Focus more on your prospect the next time you need to give a sales presentation or make a sales call. I guarantee you they won’t object!

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Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at


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