Time to Sweat the Small Stuff: Part 2 — More Minor Presentation Failures that lose Sales

You know it’s time to sweat the small stuff when your sales team is walking into the in-person presentation for a large dollar contract. Better do the fine tuning beforehand because winging it in front of evaluators won’t cut it.

If you missed the first set of fatal but minor presentation failures, they’re here. This is the second set of minor failures that put sales teams on the 2nd place podium. That’s why we’re starting at #4.

Don't Hog the Mic

#4) Don’t Hog the Mic

Avoid one sales team member doing the majority of speaking. That’d be you Sales Lead! Your sales team should be made up of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) so let them speak to their area of expertise; that’s what they’re there for.

You’d think this would be an obvious failure to avoid. But think about it; every sales team has a Sales Lead who should have:

  • Deep inside knowledge of their firm
  • Broad exposure to different customers’ operational situations
  • Public speaking ability, likeable personality & strong interpersonal skills

Now picture the rest of the sales team. Generally, they’re SMEs who are most likely left-brain, logical types, and who may lack speaking skills and/or confidence when presenting.

Even if your SMEs don’t conform to this prejudiced view, they’re only in the room because of their specific expertise, and as a result they shouldn’t be the best person to lead the presentation.

And this is the problem: when the Sales Lead looks around the room at their own SME gearheads, they worry about losing the evaluators’ attention and try to figure out how to stop SMEs from losing the sale.

So what does the Sales Lead do?

Go on; guess — yes, that’s right, they take over far too much of the speaking role.

But this failing is easy to fix. Get the Sales Lead to rehearse their sales team by providing instructive, supportive feedback that makes everyone better.

Get it wrong #4

Get it wrong and this is where it’ll hurt…

You know you have a problem when the Sales Lead does more than 33% of the talking because the same voice, same intonation, same rate, same volume, same tone, same facial expressions, and hand gestures are as good a soporific as a double dose of Ambien.

Putting evaluators asleep within 20 minutes is never a good sign. As Sales Lead, trust your team, be smart, and share the spotlight. Your evaluators will be glad you did.

Don't let SMEs get lost in the weeds

CAVEAT to #4) Don’t Hog the Mic

As important as #4 above is for the Sales Lead not to hog the mic, please don’t overdo it and let SMEs get lost in the weeds.

The reason SMEs are in the presentation is to speak to their area of expertise. But a SME talking on and on for five minutes or more can be way too much of a good thing, and may be damn near fatal for the presentation.

Again, this is easy to fix. Prep your SMEs to keep their speaking assignments on topic and equal in duration: think 1-1/2 to 2-1/2  minutes max. per topic (unless of course evaluators are interested and keep the topic going with follow-on questions and/or observations).

As a guide, here’s a four part SME discussion guide. Rehearse them so they have this down cold for their topic(s):

1st —describe what will be done for the customer (of these four parts, make this the majority of the SME’s allotted time);

2nd — briefly explain the rationale why you’re doing it that way;

3rd — touch on the benefits customers will receive, and lastly, if time allows;

4th — share with customers your evidence of where you’ve done this before, use a short illustrative story rather than a factoid data dump

Don’t Let Your Sales Team Talk in Generalities

#5) Don’t Let Your Sales Team Talk in Generalities

The purpose of a sales presentation (and your proposal) is to serve an individual customer’s specific needs, solve individual problems, and bring about their desired outcomes. Everything should be specific to the customer in front of you because they’re the ones ready to buy now.

Selling is about specifics; it’s not a marketing exercise speaking to anonymous customers who may or may not be in the market to buy.

Selling is the time for now: Be specific.

And words matter — it’s how we communicate the majority of our message. Use them intentionally.

Don’t let your sales team (SMEs) describe what you’ll do for the evaluators by saying:

“…we work with clients to implement ABC (generic solution) and achieve XYC (generic outcome).”

Instead, train and rehearse your SMEs to focus on specifics when describing their topics. These specifics should have been laid out in the proposal so your team doesn’t lack the information. For example, have SMEs speak to:

“…for your global HQ, we will implement this detailed, specific, customized solution and achieve these hyper-specific, valued outcomes by this specific date, and you’ll know we have because we will provide you these deliverable metrics as evidence that we did.”

Get it wrong #5

Get it wrong and this is where it’ll hurt…

In presentations, if sales teams talk in generalities, customer evaluators have to connect those generalities to how they serve their specific buying needs. Why would you leave it to them to make that connection? Share on X

That’s a huge risk to take. It puts lot’s of daylight between your offering and evaluators’ final choice; goodbye chances of winning the sale.

Don't Speak to the Back of Their Heads

#6) Don’t Talk to the Back of Their Heads

Is this an all too common problem, or what? Let me describe it here and see if you haven’t been guilty of it as well.

In the conference room, your sales team takes the seats farthest away from the video screen/panel so your team can look straight at the screen. Of course you do, it’s so your team can speak to the content that’s up there.

Here’s the rub. The evaluators must now sit between you and that same video screen/panel.

#6 Don't Do It This Way

For them to see what’s on the screen, they must turn from you and face the screen/panel.

This breaks your sales team’s eye contact with the very people you want to communicate with.

How can you see evaluators’ reactions to what you’re team is saying? Are they interested, disbelieving, bored?

You can’t tell because you’re staring at the back of their heads while you’re talking.

Save yourself from this minor but painful failing (painful literally for evaluators, painful figuratively for your sales’ chances).

Give your evaluators the best seats in the conference room so they don’t have to turn their heads to look at you and then turn back to the screen

Don’t talk to the backs of their heads because you want to make steady (not continuous) eye contact with them.

Besides don’t you and your team already know what’s on the screen anyway? It is your presentation deck isn’t it?

Get it wrong #6

Get it wrong and this is where it’ll hurt…

Recently I sat in on a sales presentation as a remote participant via web meeting. The camera was in the screen/panel the evaluators faced. They were facing me but the sales team had taken the far seats where they were behind the evaluators.

I could tell by the facial expressions when evaluators got bored or disbelieved the sales team’s statements. But the sales team couldn’t.

Also, evaluators will get tired of the tennis match after repeatedly turning from the screen to face you and then back to the screen.

And when they’re tired, they’re less likely to take in all the goodness your team is sharing.

When the sales team isn’t making eye contact, how can they know when they’ve lost evaluators’ trust or interest?

Summary - Avoid these Minor Presentation Falings


Here, in reverse order, are the first six of nine minor presentation failings that lose sales. Avoid these, please, they’re minor when looking at them here but during a sales presentation they have a cumulative effect that’s just not good for any sales win.

#6) Don’t Talk to the Back of Their Heads

#5) Don’t Let Your Salers Team Talk in Generalities

#4) Don’t Hog the Mic

#3) Don’t Forget to Acknowledge Each Evaluator’s Importance

#2) Don’t Mismatch Their Team

#1) Don’t Intimidate with Numbers

Questions or Ideas?

Send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
Time to Sweat the Small Stuff — Small Failures that Condemn Sales Presentations to 2nd Placesweat-the-small-stuff-title Part 3