The Most Common Mistake of a Sales Presentation

Christopher Witt —  March 7, 2013

When people — either individuals or groups — make formal proposals for large contracts, they almost always begin with two or three slides titled, “About Us.” And that’s a mistake. A big one.

You know what those slides look like. They brag about the company’s size, its history, the scope of its services, the quality of its offerings (products, services, technology, tools, people) which are always cutting edge or best of breed. Blah, blah, blah.

There are two reasons why starting a sales presentation talking about yourself and your company is a mistake.

First, the people you’re talking to already know as much as they want to about you. If you submitted a written proposal in advance, they’ve already read about you. If you haven’t sent a written proposal, they’ve undoubtedly checked you out on the Internet.

Second, and more importantly, when you begin by talking about yourself, you give the impression — rightly or wrongly — that you and your needs come first. It’s like beginning a first date by saying, “Let me tell you about me, me, me.”

So how should you start a sales presentation? What should you talk about?

Them. Them. Them.

Begin by telling them your understanding of their situation and of what they’re looking for, whether it’s a new provider, a building project, a service, or a solution to a problem. What exactly do they need? Why do they need it? What don’t they want? What special challenges are they facing? What are their constraints? What are their fears and hopes?

You’re not telling them anything they don’t already know. But you’re showing them that you care about them.

If you can’t get this first part right — if you can’t make them nod their heads and say “They really understand us!” — don’t go any further. Why should they trust that you know what’s best for them, when they don’t think that you know them?

First, talk about them. Then, spend the rest of your presentation showing them how you will help them get what they need and want.

Finally, you can, if time permits and if it’s helpful and if you really think it’s necessary, show your “About Us” slides.


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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.