Seven Sales Presentation Mistakes and Tips to Avoid Them



Here are seven sales presentation mistakes JP has made over the years, how he overcame them, and actionable tips on how you can avoid making them yourself.
Mistake #1: Not being prepared. I didn’t know the prospect or the people I was speaking with in the room. I didn’t look them up on LinkedIn to see their bio and how they are connected in the organization. I also did not look up the association or the company to learn more about them, the services that they offer, and the people that they serve. Does it look like they have been growing?
If you’re calling on associations you have a lot of opportunities. Look at their 990 documents to see if they have been growing on an annual basis or if they have been in decline. What does their membership revenue look like? There’s so much information out there for you to go in and be prepared. It’s inexcusable not to do the background work. It’s the first thing that I do now: look at the people and the company before I ever walk into the room.
Mistake #2: Focus on benefits and services rather than the problems that we solve. We tend to spend a lot of time on, “Oh, you get a 15% discount on this book and you get to register as a member for 50% off of the price of a non-member.” All these kids of benefits and services actually make you less strategic, move you down in the organization to talk to low-ranking staff members instead of talking about strategic problems that you fix that are more of a priority of the C-Suite folks. So, my point here is, find examples of how you helped solve problems for the prospect. I know that I did research on that association, I know that they have been declining in memberships over the last three years, I’m going to tell them a story about how I helped an association grow their membership and stop the decline. Rather than tell them about how we do it, the methodology, and the benefits and services. I’ve addressed one of their key issues. That’s a C-Suite problem. And that’s how I stay focused on the C-Suite level executives that can actually make the decision and stroke the check.
Mistake #3: I didn’t have a compelling reason to call. I just called because they were a big company. It made sense for us to call them because they’re in our industry and they’re a large company so they must want to join the association and I had no idea why. You’ve got to have a reason, a compelling reason, to contact them. Therefore, when the first outreach happens it’s based on something important rather than, “Hey, you’re on our list so I thought I’d give you call!”
Mistake #4: I’ve wasted time on large prospects that did not want to buy. This happens in associations all the time. You get this list of big companies that have never joined, never expressed interest in joining, and have never been connected to the association in any shape or form. And your boss expects you to go sign them up?! What’s the reason for Wal-Mart to be part of this organization? How are you going to help Microsoft solve some of their problems? When that is addressed is when I’m going to make the contact.
Mistake #5: Using a sales brochure and not having an authentic story to tell. That’s why so many people are focused on what the collateral information looks like because they want to sell off of a brochure. I want to sell off of authentic stories. If I’m working with an association I ask them how their members have benefited exclusively by being a part of their association and I want the specifics on how they helped them navigate a regulatory process, how they connected them to new business opportunities, and how they introduced one executive to another leading them to become business partners. I want those stories specifically because I don’t want to represent your association in a general way. Like, “Hey, we do advocacy! Hey, we do networking! Hey, we do education!” I want to know the specific benefits and solutions that that occurred because those things happened.
Mistake #6: Being lazy about referrals. Here’s what I mean by that, “Oh my gosh, that was such a great meeting! They loved us! And they nodded their heads a lot and they said, ‘Oooh, that’s very interesting.’” And then I never felt like I need to ask for a referral or a testimonial from the client. And I guarantee I did it every time. In fact, it would help me close the deal if I went to them and said, “Hey, can you give this organization a call? They need exactly what we did for you.” They’d be delighted to do it! And I never asked.
Mistake #7: Being unaware of the decision maker. I was just so happy to have a meeting and talk to somebody. I did not ask if the person I was talking to made the call. Better yet, I did not ask how a decision was made in their company. “Oh, I’ve got take it and present it the management committee.” And I would respond with, “This is a great introductory conversation but the fact of the matter is let’s get in front of the management committee so that I can answer all of their questions and give them the perspective of how they get value in this relationship.” Not knowing the decision maker is a killer in your sales process. But sometimes we get so happy with the nice conversation we are not able, or unwilling, to decide to ask the question, “Hey, are you the person who makes the decision and writes the check? Or is it a group of people? Or is someone entirely different? It’s okay with me, I just wanted to know how the process works so that we get in front of the right people.”
Those are my seven mistakes. I made them plenty of times and I hope you don’t.
What sales presentation mistakes have you made in your career?
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