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Are you guilty of making sales presentations that YOU love, but that your prospects don’t?

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a busy week giving sales training – something I really enjoy. I’ve been working with a new client’s three-person sales team, and they are in an industry where they frequently end up pitching for business in a bit of a “beauty parade” process where they are usually up against 3 or 4 competitors.

This gave me such vivid flashbacks to one of my BIGGEST MISTAKES IN SALES that I told the story as a cautionary tale to the team, and I’m going to do the same for you!

Although it happened almost 10 years ago, it made such an impression on me that it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. It relates to sales presentations, and I’m going to tell you why they are NOT the great route to winning business that many people think…

Feeling good, looking good…

So, there I was with a fantastic opportunity. We’d been selected as one of only 2 companies to quote for our service to a very large media company in London. You’re almost certainly very familiar with their work!

I was buzzing about this one because I knew that I’d done absolutely everything right.

Yes, I’d qualified them properly, and I knew that our solution and this client was a perfect fit for both of us. Yes, I had made sure I was dealing with the key decision-makers. Yes, they were ready and willing to go ahead with the right provider straight away.

This was a lucrative and significant bit of business for us, not only with the business now, but with a great opportunity to build a lasting and mutually beneficial long-term relationship. The pitch that I was going to make was for about £45K of business now, with lots more potential on the horizon.

As you can imagine, I was very much “up for it” as they say!

So I did what most of us would do in the situation where you’ve got a “big pitch” to make. I dropped everything else and spent two solid days (including one very late night) preparing a really comprehensive presentation on everything related to our systems. I wanted to make sure they knew how we built it, how it worked, how secure it was, some of our proprietary technologies and clever code tweaks and how great those were, and how flexible it all was.

Not only did my slides explain why our system was the obvious choice, but I made sure they looked damn good as well. Clean, professional, some nice graphics and illustrations.

I have to say, I was quite proud of it.

So, with my laptop clutched proudly in hand (and armed with a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive as well, just in case) I went into that pitch feeling extremely confident.

After all, I’d covered every possible angle and question, I’d had some great emotional engagement with the prospect, and I’d done my qualifying really thoroughly. To cap it all, I knew there was only one other firm competing with me and they were far too big to be trying too hard on this deal.

In the bag!

Pitch Perfect?

As I walked into the room I felt fantastic. I was so well-prepared that I wasn’t nervous. I looked good (new suit!) but I also knew that, more importantly, I looked like someone who knew his stuff and was confident in his product and in his customer service.

I felt even better walking out!

Which is why the bottom dropped out of my little world when two days later I was told that we had lost the business to the opposition.

I was gutted.

And then I did a good thing. I reached out to my contact, the one that I’d had that good emotional connection with during qualifying, and I asked them to tell me what had gone wrong? What hadn’t I covered? What question didn’t I answer?

Always try and get feedback in sales – it’s such a valuable learning tool.

“Your presentation was good, James,” he said. “You showed us everything your product did and everyone was impressed. It looked great! It’s just that our MD had a concern about the size of your business compared to the other guys, and thought that, in the end, it would be less risky to go with them.”

I silently swore to myself and told him “I never knew that was a concern of his, otherwise I would have covered that in my presentation!”

The reply was as powerful as it was simple:

“James, you never asked him what was important to him. He would have told you if you had asked.”


Presentations are important – of course they are – but it doesn’t matter how fantastic they look, how great the content, or how brilliant you are at presenting them if none of that addresses the key concerns of the people sitting across the room from you.

Remember the Key (Power)Points!

So, the next time you sit down to put together a brilliant deal-winning deck, make sure you’ve thought about these key factors:

  • Who are you presenting to and what’s important to them?

If you don’t know the answer to this then you need to find out long before you’re at the actual presentation! This is a key prospecting question you need to ask early on in the sales process.

  • Use time at the start to do a final qualify and clarify.

At the beginning of the presentation, ask: “Before I start, can you let me know the key aspects that you would like me to cover so I can make sure it’s going to be a good use of your time?”

This makes you sound like a professional who wants to make sure that their potential client has all their questions answered and won’t waste their time.

  • Use your Emotional Sales Intelligence (ESI LINK)

By being self-aware – and prospect-aware – you can make sure that everything you’re doing in the presentation is angled towards covering off what they want to know. 

By regularly asking questions like: “What parts of this area of the solution are most important to you?” you’ll allow the prospect to confirm that you’ve answered questions or covered concerns that they have.

Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more about ESI and how important it is in improving your sales results.

  • Always ask a wrap-up question – your last chance to get it right!

You must never step out of a presentation without saying something to the effect of:

“What haven’t I covered today that’s of interest or concern to you?”

Present for the prospect, not to the prospect

Really successful sales professionals know that it should always be all about the prospect. I’ve seen people win multi-thousand-pound deals using nothing more technologically advanced than a couple of sides of A4 paper.

Why? Because they concentrated on solving the prospect’s problems, answering their concerns, and addressing their needs.

You can have the world’s slickest-looking multimedia presentation, complete with full lighting rig, surround sound system and dancing girls, but if it doesn’t address what the prospect wants it’s useless!

Let me how what lost a sale for you in the past? Have you been guilty of going full “death by PowerPoint”? Have you got a vital sales presentation coming up that you would like some input on, or perhaps you recognise you need some sales training on this?

You can get in touch with me by writing to [email protected] You can also always get hold of me on my business and social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – by searching for “jameswhitesales”.


James White

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