Sales Presentation Skills Revisited – Book Review

New Sales Speak: The 9 Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them -“ Second Edition. By Terri L. Sjodin. Published by: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey; January 2006, 271 pages, $19.95.

Terri Sjodin is the president of Sjodin Communications and is a well-known consultant for sales training and persuasive presentation skills. This new book is a revision of the book she published in 2000. The principal changes from the first edition are the addition of a section on using the “elevator speech” (a two-minute presentation of your key point) and highlights from several interviews with sales professionals intended to validate her approach.

The core of her argument is that sales professionals are guilty of nine common mistakes that inhibit delivering a successful sales effort. The errors as she explains it are:

-¢ Winging it -“ lack of preparation for the opportunity.
-¢ Being too informative versus persuasive -“ lack of direction.
-¢ Misusing the allotted time -“ lack of organization.
-¢ Providing inadequate support -“ lack of proper research.
-¢ Failing to close the sale -“ lack of movement to a decision.
-¢ Being boring -“ lack of focus on the customer’s interest.
-¢ Relying too much on visual aids -“ lack of clarity in materials.
-¢ Distracting gestures and body language -“ lack of personal observation.
-¢ Wearing inappropriate dress -“ lack of attention to details.

Sjodin’s approach to improving sales presentations is based on the skills she honed participating in university level debate. The ideas are sound, the techniques are positive, and she includes several outlines that can be useful in developing presentations.

In one section she recommends using a courtroom model as the basis of a good sales presentation. The design she suggests is appealing. The outline is as follows:

-¢ Build an opening argument.
-¢ Present data and evidence, including the features and the benefits.
-¢ Present a closing argument focused on a decision.

Sales presentations based on this approach would be much better than those which deliver information in the vague hope that the product will sell itself.

The author has developed a good primer on sales techniques and improving presentation skills. But the book has some limitations, the content being aimed at the novice sales person. While sound, it lacks the depth a seasoned professional might seek.

The book may be very useful to a business professional not working in a full-time direct selling capacity. The approaches Sjodin recommends could make a positive difference in how individuals develop presentations to encourage acceptance of ideas and positions. Her observation that everyone sells something is valid, and familiarity with the ideas she presents would help any professional deliver their message with greater impact.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.