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Epic Sales Presentation Failures


When I say sales presentation, I don’t just mean any sales presentation.  This is the big one.  Maybe you’re one of three finalists for a 5X deal (i.e. five times larger than your average deal size).  Perhaps retaining your largest customer depends on your ability to convey why your customer should remain loyal to you against a sea of competitors.  When it comes to TOP Line Accounts™, your biggest and best opportunities often include a sales presentation.

Before we dive into a few uncommon tips, I bet you’ve seen these unfortunate presentation situations before; I know I have.

Top Ten Ways your Presentation Can Get Derailed 

  1. Key attendees (like the executive you’ve been working so hard to cultivate) arrive late or have to leave early or don’t come at all.
  2. Your agenda is hijacked.
  3. There are snipers in the audience trying to sabotage your best efforts.
  4. Your allocated time is cut in half.
  5. The audience is not engaged. (not necessarily asleep but not entranced either)
  6. You fall prey to any number of technical difficulties.
  7. The presentation ends with everyone just wandering off or signing off.
  8. There are no questions whatsoever.
  9. You missed the mark on your message.
  10. You fail in your attempt to gain agreement for next steps.

Less Common Presentation Solutions 

By focusing on both the strategic impact areas and the tactical essentials for each stage of the presentation process, you can avoid these show (and sale) stoppers.

Prior to Presentation

Prior to the presentation, there are a couple of strategic ‘must do’ activities to get the process started on the right track.  The first is to determine your Win Themes™ or those 3-4 key messages you want to convey as your overall objectives.  These important ‘bullet points’ can be found at the intersection of your audience’s priorities and your strengths.  Once developed, these give you your messaging framework, which translates into a more focused agenda and ultimately an impactful (and influential) presentation.  In fact, the internal account team should lose the term ‘presentation’ and replace it with ‘interaction’ to strike the right cord.

On the tactical side, a formal dry run, at least 2-3 days in advance of the presentation, will give the team time for critical review or refinement of the finished product.  Have an objective person like a sales manager or sales coach attend to offer honest feedback, especially on Win Theme™ impact.  (Trick: don’t tell this person what your Win Themes™ are, but ask them to tell you the top 3-4 things they remember most from the presentation.  This will give the team an excellent gauge on Win Theme™ effectiveness.)

Day of Presentation

On the strategic side, there are a couple of tips to really enhance your presentation, starting with the introductions.

Of course, it’s polite to have the audience introduce themselves first, but when it comes to your teams turn, have them frame their introductions around an impact to the customer.  In other words, instead of simply stating your name and title, add your role or impact as it relates to the customer and their needs.  Maybe you’ve been involved with the account for many years, helping in the background to secure important resources.  This is an extremely impactful element to include in your introduction.

The second suggestion to enhance your presentation is to have at least one example or story per every 2-3 slides.  The only caveat is that every example or story must be 100% relevant and have the customer or prospect at the center.  In other words, your stories become their stories.   The audience will really connect with this approach, and by challenging yourself and your team to weave engaging examples and stories throughout, you will not only capture their interest, but hold it securely for the duration of the presentation.

Post Presentation

Lastly, there are some critically important items to consider doing once you finish your presentation that can often be forgotten in the aftermath.  Follow up on action items, additional information and thank you notes is a must.  In addition, circling back to your sponsor to ask them if the presentation hit the mark will yield valuable feedback and open the door for further interaction and opportunities. And certainly not least, for successful outcomes – celebrate!

If you want to ring the bell more frequently with TOP Line Account™ victories in 2019, then avoid epic presentation failures and commit to excellence when it comes to all customer and prospect presentations.


The TOP Line Account™ Sales Success Model

Common close ratio: 25%

Add consistent pre-call planning: +20%

Add account strategy work: +20%


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About Lisa Magnuson:

Lisa Magnuson is an expert in corporate strategic sales and TOP Line Account™ revenue building. As a respected sales consultant and author, Lisa works with clients to build successful strategic sales programs that drive revenue from large new accounts and enable growth from existing high-value customers. Learn more at

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