According to Microsoft®, 30 million Microsoft® PowerPoint presentations take place every day. And, as a salesperson/consultant, presenting is a regular and integral part of your job.

Delivering a successful presentation, persuading your audience, and getting your point across in a succinct, confident and interesting way does not come naturally to everyone. But your performance as a speaker is often used to make judgments on your overall ability to do your job.

Right or wrong, people form a perception about how competent you are by how you present yourself when you stand and speak. They also form perceptions about your company, based on your performance. Public speaking is an easy way to set yourself apart from your competition.

Remember, you want your client to think of you first.

A confident person in front of a group gives off an air of competence, and a person who fumbles will leave a negative impression.

The Top Five Mistakes Salespeople Make

Mistake #1: Attitude

Audiences evaluate a presenter within the first 120 seconds of the presentation. The presenters who make a bad first impression lose credibility. Clients always remember the bad presenters, along with the good ones. Here are some of the mistakes salespeople make:

The salesperson is giving what is apparently the same presentation they have given over and over – and it shows!

  • They are slouched in their chair because they don’t want to stand up and give their canned pitch.
  • It feels like they don’t want to be there and are just going through the motions.
  • They are looking at the screen, not at the audience.
  • They are skipping over some of their slides because they do not apply to the client – so they say.
  • They seem bored and want to rush through it.
  • If they are standing, they are addressing the wall and it is difficult to hear them.
  • Their appearance and dress is not appropriate

If you aren’t excited about the presentation, why should your audience be? Enthusiastic presenters are the ones we remember most, which makes them the most effective!

Mistake #2: No Planning

If you don’t know your audience and what they should do at the end of your presentation, there is no need for you to present. Closing your presentation is extremely important. The close allows you to tie up the presentation and spell out what you want your audience “to do”.

A weak close can kill a presentation. The salesperson who spends little, if any, time working on a planned outcome does not have an answer to: “What do I want the client to do…next?”

Knowing your objectives is the key to developing an effective presentation.

Mistake #3: Little or No Preparation

The best presenters prepare for every presentation. Those who prepare and practice are more successful in presenting their information and in anticipating audience reaction. Practice does make perfect!

Many salespeople have not done their homework on the client or company. They do not know or understand the client’s problems, markets or pressures.

Poor grammar and misspelled words invalidate the purpose of your presentation and jeopardize your credibility. Before you finalize the content, print out a hard copy and edit. Better yet, have someone else check it for you.

Mistake #4: Word Presentations

Visual aids are designed to reinforce the main points of your presentation. I have seen slides that fill the screen with text paragraphs. Remember what word processing software is used for, and do not confuse Microsoft® PowerPoint for Microsoft® Word.

Mistake #5: Disconnected from Audience

The easiest way to turn off an audience is to keep them uninvolved. Use audience involvement to gain “buy-in”.

  • If you don’t make eye contact with the audience, they will not take you or your message seriously.
  • The only thing worse than using no gestures are using too many gestures.
  • “Ah” and “um” distract from a presentation’s content and make you seem unprepared.
  • Don’t talk to the projector screen, whiteboard, or flipchart. If you need to refer to a visual, do so with a 45-degree angle.

Annoying movements are also big distractions, for instance:

  • Playing with jewelry
  • Licking and/or biting your lips
  • Constantly adjusting your glasses
  • Popping the top of a pen
  • Playing with facial hair (men)
  • Playing with/twirling your hair (women)
  • Jingling change in your pocket
  • Leaning against anything for support

Now that we have identified mistakes, let’s look at putting together a winning presentation.

What do you want me to do?

Imagine it is the week after your presentation and a key meeting is scheduled with your prospects or clients. What do you want to say or do? What do you want them to say?

  • “That was a very informative presentation that we heard last week.”
  • “I think we need to go to the next step, as suggested at last week’s presentation.”
  • “The presentation last week really hit home. There was good insight on the problem and the solution made sense. What is our next step?”
  • “Based on last week’s presentation, let’s move forward.”
  • “I think last week’s presentation has put your company in the lead for the contract.”

Whatever the case, you must decide beforehand what the result will be from your presentation. The result or outcome is decided first. Your choices for an outcome usually fall into the following categories:

Communicate information


Motivate or persuade your audience to take some specific action.

What I need (WIN)

You know what your prospects are asking themselves as they head into the conference room, “Do these guys under­stand what I need?” or “Is this going to be a waste of my time?” What I need (WIN) means “my rules for me and your rules for you” not “my rules for me are my rules for you.” Here is what you need to find out and prepare for:

Who is coming?

You will need to know who will be attending and, hopefully, you have already met with them to get a P+R=S worksheet completed. If you have not, schedule a meeting with the attendees beforehand. If this is not possible, collect information from someone else within the organization.

WIIFM (what’s in it for me)

Each of the participants is there for a reason, and it is important to understand their role and what the payoff is for them. Payoff comes both personally and professionally and you need to understand both.

Why are you in business?

Rarely have I seen a salesperson tell their audience what problems they will fix or how they will fix them. They start out with a background of the company, when it was formed, organization charts, products or services they sell, locations, etc. Here is the question to ask yourself after each slide: “Why is this important?” If it doesn’t help you achieve your objectives, get rid of it or change it.

The prospect wants to know “What business problems do you solve?” and “How do you solve them?”

If you are IBM, you might be thinking everyone knows what IBM does. Do they? Log onto their website and you will see two links: one is for products A through Z and the other is for services A through Z. There are 233 entries for products and 335 entries for services. IBM has a total of 568 products or services to choose from. So, what business are they in? Is it mainframe computers, consulting, e-commerce, PC’s, or is it software? Difficult to determine, isn’t it?

Remember, just as we discussed “in rapport,” we want the audience to connect to you and your company. This will set up the answer to the question your prospect has, which is: “Are you qualified and do you have the experience to solve my problem?”

Many companies do not take the time to prepare a USP for their own business so, next, you will prepare your company’s P+R=S statement.

Why you are here

Determine the action step you want the client to take as a result of this presentation. Let them know what you will be talking about and what they will get as a result.

If you have been fortunate enough to be around a good keynote speaker, you know that, at the very beginning of their talk, they will tell you what they are going to talk about and what benefits you will derive.

Do you understand the problem?

People do not want to waste their time in presentations, unless they benefit from it. Right in the beginning, you must establish yourself by presenting the problem, as you know it. Always look for, and ask for, confirmations. Do not say “your problem is,” but say, “I believe your problem is…” and then ask, “Is this right?” You quickly gain credibility, because you understand the problem and engage them in confirming or providing additional insight.

How will you solve the problem?

We develop our solution by filling in the gap between the problem and the result. Now we are able to show the client how this will be done. It is important to show your tactic as part of the solution.

How will they know you solved the problem?

Many times, we are faced with presenting the invisible. It is like saying, “Imagine having a solution that absolutely will solve your problem.” It has not happened yet, but you have to convince them that you will be able to prove it. What is needed is evidence proof that you will not be making mistakes personally or professionally. How do you do that? You use the specific criteria you were given. This is the “How” from the getting to the results chapter.

What makes you different?

“Why should I trust you?” would be another way of stating this question. Now is the time to utilize the USP that you developed specifically for them, which should be contained in your presentation. It shows your understanding, your solution, and your tactic. This is your leave-behind. This is what you want them to think of when they think of you, your company and your offering.

A Call to Action

Restate the opening and give them a recap of each of the items you covered and the benefits. Then, give them your call to action.

What language are they speaking?

Who is scheduled to show up? Are they visuals, auditory, kinesthetic? Are they motivated by the carrot or stick? Do they need feedback or do they just know when making decisions? More than likely, all of them will be showing up. All of the different channels and motivation triggers.

So what are you to do? You will need to talk in everyone’s language and think of yourself as the UN. This is not as difficult as it seems, as we discover in the next step.

Graphics, Animation, Words ~ Which ones do you use?

Let’s establish right at the beginning that Microsoft® PowerPoint is an aid in getting your message across. It is not meant to be a channel for written documents. That is what word-processing applications, like Microsoft® Word, are for.

Animation is good at the movies, but generally is distracting in a business presentation. You can present some animation to make a point, just as if you were using an overhead, but not for every slide.

How do we satisfy the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic people in the audience?

Following is a shortened version of how I present project management:

  • Slide heading: What is required to have a successful project outcome?
  • Slide Graphic: A jigsaw puzzle in pieces (visual).
  • Slide Script (auditory): What are the pieces of a project? You need a foundation! The client needs to understand the requirements of what you want to do.

Pointing to the bottom left piece, “Imagine building a house without a blueprint and not knowing if you want three bedrooms or four? What kind of a house – two ­story or ranch design? You wouldn’t do it. You would have no idea of the cost.”

Pointing to the upper left-hand piece, “You need people, not just any people, but those with specific skills.”

Pointing to the bottom right piece, “You need to have a budget and a time frame.”

Pointing to the upper right, “You need a project manager whose job is to get things done through other people.”

Transition to slide two:

  • Slide Heading: Same, no change.
  • Slide Graphic: Jigsaw puzzle with the pieces together.
  • Slide Script: “What you need, more than anything, is a project plan, where all the pieces come together” (procedure).

Project management is your insurance policy (away from) for getting the objective met. It accomplishes your goal, freeing you up to get other things done (options).

Nothing is better than having a team work together and feeling that they have accomplished what they set out to do (kinesthetic).

Here comes the interesting part. I have a copy of the slide with the jigsaw in pieces, which I show later in the presenta­tion to emphasize what needs to occur. I point to each piece and ask what it represents and the audience will tell me. I do not have any identification on the pieces, but people have a picture in their mind.

In my workshops, I illustrate this by first having a slide without graphics, just words, with the same points. I go to the next slide that says, “What did I just show you?” How many of them do you think remember all of the words … None. Then I show the ones with graphics and their recall is amazing.

If you have ever heard a good speaker, do you remember the slides or what they told you? Did they use slides with lots of words or did they have a graphic with a few words?

Using a laptop, each time I press a key to go to the next slide, I see the slide on my laptop screen. There is no reason for me to turn my back to the audience.

If I point to something on the screen, my eyes are on the audience, as I stand at a 45-degree angle.

Rehearse and Record

How well you do at the presentation, very likely, decides if you get to go to the next step, get invited back, or never hear from the client again. The client or prospect has no idea of how good your product or service is or how many good people are back at the company making sure they produce high quality work. They only have one gauge, and that is you and how well you present with meaningful content.

This will separate you from the rest, so rehearse your presentation. Record it and listen to it. Rehearse in front of your colleagues, who are more critical than any client will ever be.


  • Preparation is a must
  • Know the call to action before preparing the presentation
  • Talk all languages
  • More graphics, little or no animation
  • Microsoft® PowerPoint is a visual aid and does not replace Microsoft® Word
  • Rehearse is a must


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