Sales presentations – don’t lose at the very end

Sales presentations

Sales presentations

Unless you have done a good job selling value throughout the buying process, it is unlikely that even a great sales presentation will turn the tide.  However, even if you have done a superb job selling value, a bad presentation at the end might be enough to lose a deal you could of won.

There are some basic techniques that can minimize that misfortune from occurring:

  • Be ruthless about clarity.  Sales presentations must be compelling, engaging, or memorable.
  • Add emphasis to key points Present targeted success stories and examples.
  • Weigh the importance of each portion.  Sometimes you need to triage on the fly.
  • Customize the sales presentation.  There are no generic customers hence there are no winning generic presentations.

But there is a fifth area where the game is often won and lost and it’s one we find account executives often spend less than sufficient planning time – getting the Q&A session right.

The Q&A session is a full-fledged part of any sales presentation.  And, it requires the same attention to preparation as the rest of the presentation.

Some tips:

  • Most questions can be anticipated. This means that salespeople can plan and rehearse answers.  It is not only what you say, but also how you say and what you don’t say that makes the difference.
  • If you don’t know the answer, don’t fake it.  The best approach is some variation of “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” One of these pops up in almost every presentation.
  • Focus on information that is fact-based vs. personal opinion If it is a fact based point you need to make sure that the backup information is in a “hip pocket.”
  • Don’t back away from a challenging or confrontational question. But – never argue. Rather, begin your response by asking a simple question that helps you to better understand the concern – like “Could you just tell me a little bit more about that?”  It is often the case that you don’t quite understand the challenge or the reason behind it, hence without a more information it is difficult to come up with a compelling answer.  Plus, this approach gives you a little more time to think.
  • Follow the 6-second rule. Don’t panic if you don’t immediately get a question. Wait 6 seconds – it might seem like an eternity but it’s very like one will pop up.  If you actually don’t get any, considering proposing a question yourself – “ In similar situations we often find the client will ask about the onsite support that is an important question because….

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©2013 Sales Momentum® LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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2 Responses to Sales presentations – don’t lose at the very end

  1. Hank Barnes says:

    Excellent post. At Gartner, we recently surveyed 503 buyers of IT solutions (B2B focused, 1000+ employees). We specifically asked what type of interactions/activities would cause a buyer to disqualify a provider. The top three were:

    58% would disqualify based on poor direct interactions with the Provider

    52% would disqualify based on bad customer references

    37% would disqualify based on poor sales presentations

    So, losing a deal because of a bad presentation is a harsh reality.

  2. Dick Ruff says:


    Thanks for the statistics. I suspect if companies spent a little more time in their sales training efforts focusing on presentations they would be better off. Over the years most of the folks that I have observed are okay but very few are able to do a superior job.

    And thanks for the great work – Gartner continues to add significant work to the field.

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