Presentations: The more you talk, the less you actually communicate
  • sales
  • Blog post

Presentations: The more you talk, the less you actually communicate

All you want to do is help. You’ve invested countless hours studying your customer’s problems and coming up with ways to solve them. You’ve learned a lot, and you’re eager to share it in your presentation.

Problem is, there’s so much to communicate, and you have so little time. So you talk fast. Or push past your allotted time. Meanwhile, your customers’ eyes have glazed over. They stopped listening half an hour ago. And the more you try to cover, the less they’re likely to retain.

Yadda, yadda, yadda
Why do salespeople keep talking when nobody is listening?

Simple. Not because they’re egotistical (though some are). Not because they’re in love with their own voice (ditto). But because they’re terrified that they’ll leave out that one point that just might be the key to winning the business.

Sell from the gut
Before your next presentation, ask yourself, “What can I take out to make my message stronger?”

It takes guts to leave stuff out of a sales presentation. Guts and a rock-solid insight into what matters to your buyer. But if you’ve done your homework and understand your buyer, you’ll know what to talk about. And you’ll feel comfortable leaving all the rest behind.

Here are some signs that you’re trying to say too much:

The grocery list trap
Mom sends her son to the grocery store for milk. The boy brings home the milk.

Next time, she says, “Get raisins, Drano, butter, milk and some hundred-watt light bulbs.” Junior comes home with everything except the milk. But milk is what the family needs most.

Salespeople fall into this trap all the time. They reel off a grocery list of reasons to buy. They assume that more benefits will create more value. But benefits that the buyer doesn’t care about don’t add value. Instead, the buyer forgets the main point and remembers a supporting message that hardly matters.

The variety trap
You know the guy at the office who tells the same joke over and over. Nobody wants to be that guy. Especially not in front of customers.

So sales presentations should have lots of variety, right? You shouldn’t repeat yourself, right?

Wrong. Prospects need to hear the same message again and again before it sticks.

Consider: Driving down the highway, you hear a song on the radio for the first time. You like it. But you don’t remember it.

It’s the songs we hear over and over that become our favorites – or at least the ones we remember and can sing along with.

In sales presentations, keep coming back to your main point. For example: “We’ve talked a lot today about peace of mind. You’ve told me how important it is to you. So let me show you how our Worry-Free Warranty adds to that peace of mind.” Peace of mind. Peace of mind. Peace of mind.

The next day, you want your prospect telling somebody: “The most important thing we need is peace of mind.”

The adjective trap
Luxurious! Dependable! The best! If you use lots of adjectives to describe your product or service, your buyers will tune out.

Kill those modifiers.

After thousands of years of civilization, our primary form of entertainment is still the dramatic narrative – the story. If you really want to get your prospect involved, put away the glowing adjectives and tell a story about your product or service.

Adjectives make you think. Stories make you feel. They work because they’re about people. And people are interested in other people.

Adapted from Harry Beckwith’s “Selling the Invisible,” published by Warner Books. Beckwith Partners consults for clients like Microsoft, ServiceMaster, AD and Merck. Info: 612-305-4420 or

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