Presentation Skills: The Two Biggest Reasons Presentations Fail and How to Avoid Them


The sales presentation is often your first opportunity to showcase your solution to prospects. That’s why presentation skills are critically important. But good presentation skills aren’t about PowerPoint prowess or knowing how to work a crowd, they are about getting your audience to sit up and listen to what you have to say. And yet the typical sales presentation is a snooze fest. So what is going so wrong? The problem is that most presentations fail due to a lack of context and contrast.

Presentation Skills Fail #1: Lack of Context

Studies show that when people are faced with a choice, they are more likely to pick the option that avoids pain, rather than the one that offers gain. The human brain is simply wired that way. But when most salespeople present to prospects, they focus on features and benefits. In other words, they emphasize what prospects have to gain.

Instead, you need to help your prospects see the threats, risks, challenges, and missed opportunities of staying with the status quo. Instead of leading with your features and benefits – which requires your prospects to figure out why they need them – you need to set a new context that shows them that there are changes ahead that threaten the viability and safety of the status quo. Once that context is set, you can align the strengths of your solution to show your prospects how they can adapt to avoid this pain. This approach enables you to present your offering in the context that creates urgency and makes your solution critical to their survival.

Presentation Skills Fail #2: Lack of Contrast

When salespeople think about contrasting – or, to use the marketing term, differentiating – their solution, they typically contrast against competitors. But way before prospects even begin to compare you with other vendors, they’re trying to decide if there’s enough reason to make a change or an investment. In other words, they are comparing your solution to the status quo. And the truth is that a staggering 20 to 60 percent of forecasted deals end up in a “no-decision” black hole where the prospect decides to stick with the status quo. This means that your prospects aren’t seeing enough reason to do something different than what they are already doing today. In other words, they don’t see enough contrast between what they are doing now and what you are offering to convince them to change.

By showing the contrast between the status quo and life with your solution, you demonstrate the value your solution offers. The higher the contrast, the greater the value. But in B2B sales, the contrast can be complex and abstract. To present contrast successfully, you need to use visuals to make a complex concept more simple and to make an abstract idea more concrete.

Corporate Visions can help you amp up your presentation skills. Our Content for Sales Enablement helps you develop the context and contrast you need to make your sales team more successful.

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.