Top Sales Presentation Mistakes as Seen by Senior Level Decision Makers


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As part of my research for my forthcoming book, Strategic Sales Presentations, I interviewed dozens of senior level executives to understand how they perceive the presentations they receive from salespeople. One of the questions that really got most of them talking was “What are the top mistakes that you see salespeople making during presentations?” Here are the Top 10:

Try too hard to sell me. When you reach my level, you have been vetted by people in my organization whose opinions I trust, so make your presentation educational and factual. Teach me something new.

Talk too long. “By slide #2, most salespeople have already used up 75-80% of my patience and I’m looking for the exit.” Get to the point. On a related note, don’t use too many slides, especially about your corporate “story”. Sometimes even you look bored with it.

Ask me what keeps me awake at night. That’s one of the most overused questions in sales. You should already have a pretty good idea of my problems.

Be too sure that you know all about my problem already. This is the opposite extreme of the previous one. If you act like you know it all, we will push back and expose what you don’t know. Be humble and ask a lot of questions.

Not listen. Don’t be so wrapped up in getting your message out that you don’t listen to us. If we interrupt you to ask a question or say something, there is a pretty good reason for it.

Try to circumvent our buying process. “Don’t force your sales cycle on me.” On rare occasions, we will bend this rule, but you’d better have a damn good reason to do it. Also, “If you get in too easily to see me, that’s not a good sign. It means everyone else can too.”

Be too canned. We like to talk to real people who know our business. If you’re too slick or too “coiffed”, we’ll get suspicious.

Use “$75 words”. When you make something more complicated than it is, it “makes us think like you’re full of it.” On a related note, a CFO said that you should not use terms like ROI and payback unless you really know what they mean.

Bring too many people. Too many teams bring in many more people than are necessary. If they don’t have a reason for being there, or don’t play an active role, leave them home. If you have that many people to spare, I may end up paying too much.

Wear a Gator tie when selling to the University of Georgia. Yes, this actually happened. The big picture point is that you should know your customer and tailor your presentation to them. On a related note, don’t show me a generic slide presentation that could have been seen by anybody.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jack Malcolm
Jack founded Falcon Performance Group in 1996 specifically to combine his complex-sale expertise and his extensive financial background to design and implement complete sales process improvement initiatives at top national and international corporations.


  1. Hi Jack,

    It’s funny that when we observe seasoned salespeople giving presentations, they commit some to many of these mistakes. Yet they consider themselves good presenters.

    I’m looking forward to your book coming out.


  2. Jack: thanks for this insight. Whenever salespeople can gain insights on how their actions are perceived, it helps to reset some of the many assumptions we make in our face-to-face conversations. It would be great to learn the “mirror image” of your findings to discover which sales actions are perceived the best.

    Your points were corroborated in a panel presentation I attended in which three CIO’s shared their firsthand impressions of salespeople. I shared their comments in a blog I wrote in October, 2011, What do Tech Buyers Really Think of Salespeople? Three CIO’s Tell All

  3. You’re right Andy. I asked that question and got some great insights, which I will share in a different article.

  4. Jack
    great list of mistakes, i think you have to have gone through them all to understand! they seems so obvious but in the middle of n importnant pitch it all blurrs sometimes!

    Hence experiience and practice, i look forward ot your book and could be very useful for some clinets i know who pitch a lot!


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