Avoid These Common Pitfalls For a Winning Sales Presentation

Avoid These Common Pitfalls For a Winning Sales Presentation written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Terri Sjodin, a seasoned expert in public speaking and sales presentations. As the principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, Sjodin has spent over 25 years coaching Fortune 500 companies, industry associations, and even members of Congress […]

Avoid These Common Pitfalls For a Winning Sales Presentation written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Terri Sjodin, a seasoned expert in public speaking and sales presentations. As the principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, Sjodin has spent over 25 years coaching Fortune 500 companies, industry associations, and even members of Congress on how to refine their presentation skills. During our conversation, we broke down the top three points in her latest book, “Presentation Ready,” which identifies and addresses the most common mistakes made in sales presentations. Sjodin’s research-backed insights aim to help professionals elevate their presentation game, ensuring they engage their audience and drive conversions effectively.


Key Takeaways

Deliver Presentations not Speeches. Polish comes from practice, but charisma comes from certainty. Terri Sjodin highlights several critical aspects for delivering successful sales presentations: structure your message persuasively with clear arguments and storytelling, avoid the pitfall of winging it by thoroughly preparing, engage your audience to prevent boredom, close with a strong call to action, and adapt your approach to different presentation platforms.

Drawing examples like actress Merly Streep’s effortless performances she nails on the necessity of practice, practice, practice! Don’t just conclude, close, don’t just be informed, learn to persuade and never wing it.

By addressing these common pitfalls, professionals can significantly enhance their presentations, ensuring they are engaging and effective.

Questions I ask Terri Sjodin:

[02:08] When researching this book, did your findings verify everything you knew or did you find some real surprises?

[07:12] Expand on the concept of self-admitting mistakes between rookies and veterans

[08:54] Do presentation strategies differ virtually and in person?

[10:24] How have speeches and debates prepared you and what advice do you have for alumni who aren’t in the environments with these kinds of opportunities anymore?

[15:02] Is there a methodology for people who haven’t had the training in identifying their weak spots?

[19:16] What role does rehearsal play in sales presentations?


More About Terri Sjodin:


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John (01:05): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Terri Sjodin. She’s a principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, a public speaking sales training and consulting firm for over 25 years. She’s served as a speaker and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, industry associations, academic conferences, CEOs and even members of Congress. We’re going to talk about her latest book today, presentation Ready, improve Your Sales Presentations Outcomes, and Avoid the 12 Most Common Mistakes. So Terry, welcome to the show.

Terri (01:43): Hi, John. Thank you for having me.

John (01:45): I think we should just go one through one through the 12 mistakes, frankly, because

Terri (01:49): People are so compelled. Everybody

John (01:50): Loves to avoid mistakes worse than even getting better. I just don’t want to get wrong. Right? So you did a fair amount of on top of having your own practice. You’ve done a lot of research on that you put into this book on the key findings. I always love to people that do research, did they just verify everything you knew already or did you have some real surprises?

Terri (02:13): Thank you. Actually, so great question. So my background is in speech and debate, and so I’ve always been a bit of a speech geek. So the whole concept of public speaking and presenting and the impact of that has always been near and dear to my heart After, oh my gosh, almost 20 years. So I had written a book called Sales Speak, which addressed originally the nine biggest sales presentation mistakes and so Fast Track 20 years later, I thought it was time to revisit that question, are these still the nine mistakes and if so, why? And if not, why not? And so I went back to my alma mater, San Diego State University where I competed on the speech and debate teams there when I was in college. And I shared a mini research study that I had done just internally with my clients. And I said, what do you think about this?

(03:06): And she said, why don’t we run a formal study? And I was like, that would be amazing. So thanks to Dr. Heather Canary and Dr. Rachel record and the team at San Diego State, I was able to bring the private sector data into an academic environment and do an analysis, which really brought some fresh perspective to this topic. And it just honored a promise that I wanted to make, which is if we were going to talk about the most common mistakes that sales professionals make, then there should be no research about us without us. So all of the content came from field sales professionals or people whose livelihood is dependent on their ability to build and deliver a persuasive presentation that drives conversion. So there’s a lot behind it and thank you for asking about it. I think it’s the most important part of the research in the book.

John (03:55): Okay, perfect setup. Lemme go back to my question though. Were there any surprises from it?

Terri (04:02): Yeah, so the way that we posed the questions, we said, all right, we have this incredible audience. So we asked them, looking back over the last six to nine months, was there anything that you felt you did that cost you a win or a deal or an opportunity? And 94% of the people said yes. And we said, great. Okay, that’s really helpful. So now we’re looking at that original nine. Are these still the nine mistakes? And if not, why not? And what were people going to share with us? And there were three new mistakes that were added to the list. So the nine morphed to 12, and yet there were these three mistakes that always rose to the top. And everybody’s like, what are the big ones? What’s number one? But it kind of depends. So there was a tiny variance whether you sold a product, a service or cause, but all three were always the top three.

(04:50): In addition to that, the top three were always the same regardless of generation or number of years of experience, which we thought was really surprising. So I’ll start with the number three, which was a bit of a surprise. The number three biggest mistake that most business professionals self-confessed, this is based on their own self-observation, was that they included at the end of a meeting or presentation but did not close. So they concluded but did not close the number two biggest mistake that most people self-confessed. And these were really close two and one and two were really tight. But number two was that most people confess they’d become far too informative in nature rather than persuasive. They didn’t build a compelling case. And the number one biggest mistake that most people self-confessed is that they wing it when they roll into a meeting or presentation. So those are the big three.

John (05:45): I would say just in listening to that, and maybe this fits in there somewhere, I don’t ask enough questions, I talk too much perhaps. Is that somewhere on the list?

Terri (05:54): It really depends. There’s a balance. So depending on where you are in the process will depend on how much more you speak versus listen. So for example, one of the questions that people always ask is why did you focus on the mistakes? And so then I’ll say to them, look, we can’t course correct what you don’t recognize as a problem. So it just helps us to get to the point faster. And that notion of getting to the point faster is really the gift of going back to your issue, which is do you not ask enough questions or do you just date a dump or are you talking too much? Again, I don’t know where you are in the process. There is a part of the meeting that does require you to do your homework first and then ask a lot of questions so that you can customize your talk to meet the needs of the listener. But then there is a really important point where you have to create, present your case, who are you, what is your proposition? How will you save them time or money or sanity? And so that’s where you would be required to speak and present more to build and deliver your case versus the q and a period. So the answer is two things can be true. And so I’d have to probably look at your overall presentation, John, before we beat you up on that.

John (07:12): So I was curious, you said there wasn’t much difference in self admitting these mistakes, at least between rookies and veterans. I’m curious how can that really exist? I mean, if I’m a rookie and I recognize these things by the time I’m a veteran, I know better or do better.

Terri (07:29): I know that is such a great point. And you would think that would be the case. However, whether the veterans had different reasons for doing the same thing. So a rookie might say, yeah, I wing it. I just didn’t have enough time to really learn or prepare to get into it. And so I just kind of rolled in hot and experienced sales professional has a tendency to wing it for a different reason, but has similar problems or consequences. They might say, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, I can do this in my sleep. And then they just kind of wing it and roll in hot and they can get beat by somebody who did prepare was really in the game and didn’t kind of rest on that 25 years of experience without really customizing. And we kind of give some really great examples of that in that first chapter on winging it.

John (08:18): And I expect also that veteran maybe has some biases and some false assumptions. Perfect.

Terri (08:24): Spot on. That’s exactly how it happens. Sometimes they’ll say, you know what? I went in prepared to deliver based on my previous experience with this client. I had no idea that they really wanted to go in a different direction. And so because of that bias, they might have just kind of winged it. They felt like they knew what they needed to say. So excellent point.

John (08:43): So we have a lot of potential mediums today for making presentations, right? Used to be a telephone maybe and in somebody’s office was about it. Do different completely different strategies, tactics, techniques apply whether I’m on the phone, whether I’m in a zoom call, like something like this, whether I’m in person.

Terri (09:03): Yes. So the second phase of the study, so the first phase of the study, by the way, was done entirely in a pre pandemic environment. And it was most of the data, it touched on virtual environments, but it was predominantly in person or over the telephone. Phase two of the study was entirely based on virtual presentations. And then phase three of the study focused on in-person virtual and hybrid, where you may have one or two people in front of you, but you could have five, six as many as 25 or more people that are offsite that are also participating in that same meeting. And so each of those platforms does change the game not only the way that you present, but how you connect with the listeners and how do you keep their engagement levels up and how do you manage the time? Because the time parameters, as we all are very familiar now with the brutal hard stop, which dramatically impacts how you present your content and how you ease your way in and out, which is a huge variable that doesn’t have the same consequences when you’re in an in-person meeting. So yes, the answer is there are different situations, how you set it up, how you lay it out, how you manage that time, and then also how do you keep people engaged. So a lot of variables that depend on your platform or your modality.

John (10:24): Obviously speech and debate is a lot about training that you did, which is probably an amazing environment for somebody who really wants to get better at this. But some of us are out of high school and out of college now. So first two part question, what was the best part about that in terms of just raw training for you? And then secondly, how does somebody get that when that environment no longer exists?

Terri (10:49): Oh gosh. I was going to thought you were teeing me up for saying that is why you should read presentation ready.

John (10:55): Well, that’s a fair answer based on what I said.

Terri (10:59): So again, well, so let me answer that from two perspectives. What debate teaches you is really how to structure a persuasive message. One of the things we touched on in the beginning is that people have a tendency to be overly informative versus persuasive, and they’ve really not been taught how to structure a persuasive message. Over 55% of the participants in our research study said that they had little to know presentation skills training over the course of their career. So what that means, John, is that most people are doing the best they can with what they know. So the first part of your question is, does it make a difference or how does debate and presentation skills training impact your long-term career as a leader, as a sales professional or anybody who’s in business development, it has a significant impact. We know from the research that your public speaking and presentation skills are an immediate demonstration of professional competency within a company or an organization.

(11:58): And yet we know that it’s also a class that most people don’t want to take. But we know that most people don’t want to work on this skillset. And when you are put in a situation where your presentation matters, it can cause a great deal of anxiety. People equate it to fear, to kind of piggyback that. The confusion sometimes around the words public speaking is that people think it means you’re speaking to a large group. The size of the audience isn’t important. The most significant presentations typically take place one-on-one or small group. Does that mean that your delivery skills are less significant? Heck no, they’re equally important. But we kind of equate this kind of group notion or group theory about public speaking. And so I just like to call it presenting and try to get a little bit of the fear out of it and then strategically help people to craft their message in a persuasive way. And by using speech and debate strategy in a business or selling environment, we hit one of the biggest issues, which is brevity. Because debate teaches you about presenting in soundbite sound bites. How do you get to your point in a shorter period of time with evidence and storytelling to build your case?

John (13:14): I suspect also because I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and I’ve never really gotten other than surveys at the end, or did they hire me again, I haven’t really gotten direct feedback about what I could do better. And I mean, that’s a huge element of speech and debate, isn’t it? That somebody is immediately going to tell you, you need to do this better or this didn’t work, or you lose.

Terri (13:36): Oh, absolutely. And one of the things you earn, you learn early on in speech tournaments is that it’s a pretty level playing field. When you roll into a tournament, there’s no matching uniforms. Everybody’s given a number. You roll into a meeting or kind of your heats, your rounds if you will, and six or seven participants give their talk, and then the judge will assess that. And at the end of three preliminary rounds, the individual with the best scores advances to semi-finals or finals. And I didn’t always win. I wished I did, but I didn’t. And so you’re really left. You can look at the feedback on your judging cards if they were kind enough to tell you why you didn’t win, but most people don’t tell you why you didn’t win. And then I would go home and I would course correct and I would kind of tweak the things I felt like I could do.

(14:25): And the takeaway here, as you know, is really so important, but really very simple. You don’t go back to the next tournament with the speech that didn’t win. And the same thing applies in businesses and in sales. We shouldn’t go back out into the field with the sales presentation that didn’t get the deal, the win or the opportunity. And that’s really what presentation ready is designed to do to help lay out for the reader what the most common mistakes are very quickly so that you can do your own self-assessment, make those changes, and then go out back out into the field with a presentation that wins and works.

John (15:02): Given that a lot of people haven’t had the training that you talked about, is there a methodology for identifying here are my weak spots that I need to work on? Because I mean, sometimes it’s content, but sometimes it’s just body language. I mean, there’s so many elements. So how do I find my weak spot?

Terri (15:19): Yes, perfect. So there are three areas that you would want to look at in assessing your presentation. So first you want to look at pace, how you build your message, what is your persuasive offering? Did you have structure, evidence, logic? And then the second element is looking at one’s creativity, the stories, the anecdotes, the humor, the drama that you use in order to bring it to life, how do you place visual aids? All of that timing, all of those elements are critical under creativity. And then the third piece that we look at are the issues under delivery. And that includes, of course, your eye contact, your body language, the way that you speak, and that could include any verbal missteps, which might be saying or are pillar words being a close talker, all those things that relate to the actual execution or performance of your presentation. And what we know from the data and from the observations of listeners who participated in this study is that, well, I gave you the three mistakes that are very common that people self-identify at the beginning of our conversation. The number one mistake that other people identify is really none of those three things. So the number one mistake, I’m sure you’re going to ask me well, is I’ll let you do it. Go ahead.

John (16:47): I was actually going to ask you with a book title that says 12 most common Mistakes, which one’s your favorite? That’s sort of the same thing, right? Yes.

Terri (16:56): The number one biggest mistake that most listeners notice or that salespeople notice because we ask salespeople, okay, look, you’ve looked at all these things, who better to judge salespeople than other salespeople? So what’s the number one thing that you notice? And it probably is close to my favorite. I have two favorites. But the number one mistake that people notice in others is that they’re boring. Boring. And so it’s really hard to get around and get through to anything else if the talk is perceived as boring by the listener. And when we ask people, okay, did it feel like it was boring when you were reading the room? Did you feel like it was boring? And they’ll say, yeah, I did kind of feel like it was a little bit boring. Or when I watched the playback of my own presentation, I felt like it was boring.

(17:41): And then we’ll say, well, if you felt like it was boring, how come you kept going? And they’ll say, well, Terry, I have to get through the material. And my question is, what’s the point of getting through the material if nobody’s really listening to what you’re saying? So that would be the number one identified and the one that I think is the most glaring, but the one that I love helping people build and work on is actually mistaken number two, which is being overly informative versus persuasive. Because if you can structure a clear, concise, and compelling case, once you understand the process of the difference between an informative talk and a persuasive talk that is empowering. I know that there’s a lot of conversation about you’ve got to have storytelling and that’s important, but how many of you have ever been to a party or listened to someone and they’re telling a story and you’re like, where are you going with this? So let’s land the plane. So your story has to pair with a compelling argument in order to make your case. And so there’s balance of all three. So case creativity and delivery, all of those are important. It’s hard to say which one is the one that’s going to stand out the most because it’s the one that cost you the opportunity. That’s the one that’s the most important. Right.

John (18:58): So my last question today, a lot of people see a great, somebody they see as a great presenter or a great public speaker, they get paid lots of money to get up there on stage, and they just think, man, they’re just really good at that. I think people underestimate how much rehearsal the true pros put into that. What role does rehearsal play in the presentation sales presentation role that you’re defining in the book?

Terri (19:24): I love that you asked that question. So when I’m coaching someone and I ask them to at least block certain content pieces, block a paragraph, really write it out, think about how you want to say it, and then rehearse it and take it to memory. Sometimes I’ll get pushback. Well, people say, I don’t want to do a memorized thing. It’s canned. And I’ll say, look, if you don’t work on your languaging, if you don’t practice the words you want to say and the way that you want to say it in the most beautiful way, it’s very hard to hit the time parameters. And again, you can always riff a little bit later, but my illustration is I ask people to think about Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep will take a script for a performance in a movie or a play, and she’ll take that narrative and she’ll commit it to memory.

(20:11): And then she practices and practices until it’s so beautiful that when you see her deliver that line in a movie, you think, oh my gosh, that just flowed so beautifully off the top of her head. But it wasn’t that it was because of her commitment to the level. And so when your memorized material sounds canned or stiff, it’s because you didn’t take it far enough into the preparation. And my favorite line, and we can close with this, is that Polish comes from practice, but charisma comes from certainty. It’s owning the material in a very different way. And when you pair your case and your creativity with a charismatic delivery, whether you’re a one-on-one small group or large group, that’s when you’re presentation ready.

John (20:59): Awesome. Well, Tara, I appreciate you taking a few moments to join the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Is there someplace you would invite people to connect with you and obviously find a copy of Presentation Ready?

Terri (21:09): Thank you. Yeah. Well, the book is available internationally, of course, on all platforms, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, through any of your audible. Now, it’ll be available on, gosh, I guess next week. Next week on Audible. If you prefer an audio book recording, or you can always visit my website@terrisjodin.com. That’s T-E-R-I-S-J-O-D-I n.com. And if you’re interested in getting the research study results, you can download complimentary copies of both phase one, phase two, and now phase three as well, of all three of the summary reports of the State of Sales presentations research study.

John (21:50): Awesome. Well, again, I appreciate you taking a moment, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

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