Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Top Ten Things To Avoid When Making a Sales Presentation

How do we appear experienced and mature, when we’re not?

The above question was asked recently by a young man as I was giving feedback to a group of new hires during a sales-presentation class. He and the other participants in the class were very bright, talented individuals, but they needed to play down their youthful demeanor. Their customers wanted to buy from sources who presented themselves as credible and mature.

I suggested that they eliminate discounting, immature mannerisms from their sales pitches to appear more self-assured and confident. Seasoned professionals also can check their presentations against this list.

Here are the top ten things to avoid when making a sales presentation:

1. Don’t use the words “hope” and “hopefully.” You don’t want to appear unsure. A number of the presenters said, “We hope you will choose us,” and “Hopefully we can work together.” Act confidently and say, “We look forward to working with you.”

2. Stop using “You guys” when referencing audience members. Do I really need to explain this one? It’s very casual, young person's language.

3. Don’t introduce yourself with your first name only. If you are not introduced before you make your presentation, give both your first and last names when introducing yourself. Your full name gives you more standing.

4. Avoid the phrase “to be honest with you.” Customers want to believe that you are always honest with them.

5. Eliminate the monotone voice. You need to be enthusiastic. One presenter said: “We’re excited about the turnaround at our firm,” but she didn’t sound as if she believed it. Occasionally, emphasize key words to animate your sentences.

6. Don’t play with your pen or rubber band when speaking to others. This distracting mannerism conveys nervousness. Keep your hands empty. You want to appear self-assured.

7. Do not dress inappropriately. Do you want to be remembered for what you wore or for what you said? Appearance matters in the business world. If you look like you just got out of bed, you won’t appear to be taking your customers’ business seriously. Don’t ignore your grooming. One woman had chipped blue polish on her nails, which was very distracting when she gestured.

8. Don’t use filler words. If your audience is counting the number of “ums” in your talk, they are not listening to you. Plus, you appear nervous and unprepared.

9. Avoid “I think” or “we think.” When you say “I think,” you are telling the audience that you don’t know. One presenter said, “We think we are a much stronger company today.” Speak with conviction and say, “We are a much stronger company today.”

10. Don’t get caught by the tough question. Try to anticipate every difficult question and your answer, or you will appear unprepared.

Additional information on presentation skills can be obtained from Pachter’s book, When The Little Things Count, or from Pachter & Associates' presentation skills seminars and coaching.