Sales presentation tips: Why bad endings are good for you

by Steli Efti

When you’re preparing a sales presentation, you’re going to want to demonstrate the value your prospects get out of choosing you, all the benefits they’ll reap, and make a case why you’re the right choice for them.

But there’s something else that you should include in your sales presentation, that will make it a lot more credible, impactful and failproof. Yet, most salespeople miss it.

Make a solid case and talk about all the important reasons why they should buy your solution—and finish your sales presentation by telling them why they should NOT buy your solution!

Tell them about the main risks, the downside and the negatives of your offer.

Preempt objections by bringing them up first

If there are decision makers involved, it’s going to come up anyway! There’s always at least one guy in the room who will bring up all the negatives. I like to call him Mr. No. He’ll point out all the risks, talk about why this is a bad idea, question whether this is the right fit.

It’s a lot better if you bring these arguments up in your presentation first because then you’re in a much better position to deal with these objections.

There’s nothing worse in a sales presentation than doing a happy ballerina dance in front of your audience, telling them how awesome and amazing everything will be once they buy your solution, and then getting knocked out by a heavyweight who says your solution isn’t safe, the price isn’t right, critical features are missing and so on.

It’s very hard to recover from that.

Catch them off guard

Much better to do the happy ballerina dance in front of them, and then shock them by going into dark mode. Tell them what’s wrong and risky. Don’t sugarcoat things, but brutally point out the weak points of your proposal.

You want the little voice inside their head to say, “What’s going on? Does this guy not want to sell to us? Why is he saying theses things?”

Involve them in solving these problems

Once you’ve sufficiently bewildered them, point to solutions for these issues. Acknowledge that you’ll need to work together with their team on overcoming these challenges.

Let’s look at how to do this specifically.

Example: Pitching a large multinational corporation

A friend recently asked me for feedback on a sales presentation he would give to the board of a large multinational corporation with tens of thousands of employees. He wanted them to adopt his solution.

He has a great presentation, which made the case for:

  • The big shift in the marketplace that was about to take place.
  • How his offering would give them a chance to be spearheading this trend and reap all the benefits that come with that.
  • The big beautiful vision and the specific advantages this would translate into for their organization.

It was a masterfully crafted presentation that had all the good stuff.

But what was missing?

The bad and the ugly.

Identify the weak points

So I asked him: “What are the most critical things someone could say about your solution?”

He thought a moment and then said: “Well, no large corporation has ever worked with us, so they’d be the first.”

Me: “All right, let’s write that down. What else?”

He: “It’s probably not secure enough for their needs.”

Me: “Good, add it to the presentation. What else?”

This process is really simple. You’re probably well aware of the weak points and objections of your proposition. You know the risks, the weaknesses, the downsides.

But rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet, like most presenters do, you pull it out into the limelight.

Prepare concise answers to each objection.

Come up with succinct solutions for each weak point. This doesn’t have to be a complete solution if you haven’t figured it out yet. It can simply be acknowledging that you’re aware of the issue and are taking steps to address it.

Here’s how we addressed the first objection, the fact that no large corporation had ever worked with them:

“Every business, every new service, has to start off with the first customer that buys. We have 30 other large organizations in our pipeline, and we know within the next three months, we’re going to have five customers. You can be one of them, or you can wait for next year to buy from us. Either as a visionary early adopter, or in the future as a latecomer, either way, I’m sure you’re going to be a customer, today or tomorrow.”

Here’s how he addressed the objection of security:

“Now, is our solution really secure enough? Let me quickly take you through the steps we’ve taken to ensure security, and let’s brainstorm together what else we have to do to actually make this work.”

The result?

After my friend delivered the presentation in front of the board, he called me excitedly to tell me about it. While giving his presentation, he sensed that one of the board members really was opposed to going through with this. His body language showed that he was disengaged, and probably felt sitting there and listening to this pitch was a waste of time.

But when my friend then started bringing up the negatives that board member suddenly started paying attention. He lean forward, nodded his head for the first time since the whole presentation, and that was really the moment when the momentum shifted in my friend's favor.