Five Surefire Ways to Sabotage Your Next Sales Presentation: Simple Steps to Crashing and Burning

Preparing for that big sales presentation next week? If you’re looking for a can’t-miss way to really screw up, follow these five surefire steps to failure. One or two of them should work fine, but if you’re shooting for an unforgettable crash-and-burn experience, try all five.

General Unpreparedness
One big mistake many people make when approaching a sales call or a presentation is lack of preparation. They think, “Oh, I can just wing it; no one will ever know the difference.” Well, think again. If you’re unprepared, people will know.

Improper Grammar
Nothing turns off a potential customer like a dreadful command of the English language. Of course, you could get lucky and your prospective client’s grasp of the language could be worse than yours.

If you really want to mess up your chances at success, practice these lines: “Me and my colleague are going to tell you why you need our product.” “Myself and my partners have been in this business for years.” “Him and me can answer all your questions in a moment.”

Spelling Gaffes
If you’ve just printed five dozen handouts for a presentation or – worse – spent half of the company’s marketing budget on ten thousand copies of a brand-new brochure, only to notice they’re loaded with spelling errors, you’ve got problems. If you think, “Oh, I’m sure no one will notice that teensy error,” you’re wrong. People do notice. Maybe not all of them… but many of them will. And that reflects badly on you – and your company.

Distracting Vocalized Pauses
When listening to someone speak, few things are as annoying as vocalized pauses. I mean, they’re like, you know, really annoying. They make you like wonder if, um, the speaker like really knows what he’s like talking about… ya know?

Trying to Be Someone You’re Not
Attempting to sound “down with da homies” is fine if you’re hanging out on street corners with your posse or spending your time in hip-hop clubs and after-hours venues – not when you’re trying to woo a new client.

To avoid these pitfalls, follow these five suggestions – and get ready to knock the ball out of the park at your next sales presentation!

Be Prepared
There’s something to that Boy Scout motto. If you waltz in to that boardroom cold, you’re going to leave in disgrace, with your tail between your legs… and without a signed contract. Take the time to know with whom you’re meeting; that includes having the correct spelling of the company name – and, for goodness’ sake, know the names of the people you’ll be presenting to. How embarrassing is it to call the Director of New Business Acquisition Bob or Henry because you didn’t take the time to double check that tiny detail that his name is actually John? How much more mortifying is it for your PowerPoint presentation (which otherwise looks great, by the way) to consistently show the name of the target company spelled incorrectly?

Speak Well – And Correctly
If you want your verbal presentation to shine, consider taking a business English course through a local adult-education program. Or check online for someone who can offer language-skills training. Often, you can arrange a corporate rate for these sessions, so your entire outside-sales team can participate in the training experience.

Check Your Work
Don’t gloss over even the most minor spelling errors. One of the biggest mistakes business people make is failing to proofread their marketing collateral before they forge ahead in a dizzy rush to get them printed and distributed. Take the time to ensure everything is correct – and that includes your company name, phone number and web address.

Make Every Word Count
Well in advance, make a video recording of your presentation – and then review it. Listen to your speech patterns; recognize when you tend to insert vocalized pauses, and realize they’re nothing more than crutches. You don’t need to rely on these vocal crutches. If you’ve hit a mental wall or lost your train of though, don’t fill the space with an “um” or an “uh” or a “ya know.” Practice your verbal presentation until you’re comfortable with its content. Know what you’re going to say – but don’t sound robotic and over rehearsed. As you begin to feel more comfortable with your words, they’ll flow more easily and you can eliminate the vocalized pauses from your speech altogether.

Look & Act the Part
If you’re trying to present a professional image to grownups with real jobs and real money to spend, lose the street lingo and ditch the ‘tude. It may not bode well for your “street cred,” but projecting a polished personal image will take you much further in the boardroom.

If you follow these five recommendations, your next presentation will take you further than you could have expected or envisioned.

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