Sales pitches and presentations are the heart and soul of business. After all, without them, there wouldn't be any business!

However, it's pretty easy for a sales pitch to fall flat or scuttle the opportunity, especially when the presenter uses any of these dumb phrases:

1. I apologize in advance for...

Never start a presentation with an apology. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, an apology says that you're a loser who feels the need to lower the audience's expectations.

For example, suppose your luggage got lost and you're wearing your grungy travel clothes. Rather than apologize, adapt to circumstances, remain self-confident and give your best.  

2. Our mission/vision statement is as follows...

You may think your company's stated intentions are impressive, but everyone knows that most mission and vision statements are honored in the breach rather than the observance.  

Even if true, mission and vision statements are generally full of trite promises that everyone's heard a thousand times. Boring your audience with biz-blab and corporate speak blunts everything that you subsequently say.

3. Our product has the following comprehensive list of features...

Clueless salespeople use feature lists in the hopes that something will "stick" and match a real customer need.  Clueless marketers trot out feature lists in the forlorn hope that customers will be impressed by their sheer magnitude. 

These "spray and pray" sales pitches force customers to mentally map what you're selling into something that they might need.  Do your research!  Figure out what the customer really needs and pitch that... and only that!

4. Our product will increase revenue and reduce costs...

There are millions of business-to-business products and services and ALL of them make these exact same promises. In sales, the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Such statements fail utterly to accomplish this.

5. Our product will save you time and money...

Time and money are fungible so saving one is the same as saving another, right? Beyond that, though, what business-to-business product or service doesn't save time and money? Boring...

6. We have the highest quality product and best customer service...

According to whom? It never ceases to amaze me that some salespeople and marketers continue to mistakenly believe that expressing their own positive opinion about themselves is an effective sales tactic.

If you can't prove it, don't promise it.

7. I'll go through the next few slides quickly because we're getting short on time...

Rushing through your slides makes you sound like a babbling idiot or, at best, identifies you as somebody who can't follow a train of thought without using the slides as reminders. 

Prune your slides down to 1 per minute, maximum.  I.e. only 40 slides for a 40-minute pitch, 10 slides for a 10-minute pitch, etc.

8. That's an interesting question but I'd like to hold it until the end of the presentation...

In other words, you don't want to answer the question and you're hoping that the asker will forget that she asked.  The problem with this classic sales dodge is that it leaves the asker fuming.

If a customer asks a question in the middle of a pitch, it's much wiser to give at least a partial answer immediately.  Dodging just makes you seem, well, dodgy.

9. Now that you've decided to buy, here's another feature you didn't know about...

This is known as "selling after the close." Once you've made the sale, it's time to shut up and take the order. Raising additional features can easily raise issues that the customer wasn't considering and even snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

When I was very new to sales, I once went into a sales meeting thinking I'd need to offer a discount in order to close. When the customer unexpectedly closed the sale for me ("let's do this"), it surprised me so much I offered the discount anyway.

When I told my friend (a long-time sales pro) about this blunder, his remark was: "There's a lake in upstate New York named after you. It's named 'Lake Schmuck.'"  True story.

Rather than end this post on that note of self-stupidity, here's a clip from my favorite sales-focused movie that illustrates the "no apology" concept discussed above.  Enjoy!

 

Published on: Jul 7, 2016
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