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Business Communication Expert Dianna Booher helps sales people with more successful presentation skills.

Sales professionals rarely face buyers without getting questions. Yet most will tell you that although they may spend hours, or even days, planning for the formal part of a sales presentation, they often give little thought to the Q&A period.   Yet seasoned sales professionals use the opportunity to respond to questions to increase persuasiveness and credibility.   The most successful avoid the following mistakes:


Mistake #1:  Failure to Anticipate and Prepare for Routine Questions

Sales teams frequently spend hundreds of hours learning to position their product against the competition––but no time in anticipating and perfecting answers for routine questions. This situation should be labeled sales malpractice:   If you’re in sales, put yourself in scenarios where colleagues fire product or service questions at you until you can think on your feet well enough to answer those typical buyer questions with substance.  Consider Q&A part of your presentation preparation.


Mistake #2:  An Information Dump

If you’ve ever gotten caught in the never-ending trap of “Send me some information, and I’ll take a look,” then you know that information does not necessarily persuade.  Buyers do not need more information. Most have far too much information. They’re paralyzed by information.  They need someone to help them make sense of the information at their fingertips.  Become their guide and interpreter.  Take a stand.  Recommend.


Mistake #3:  Talking Rather Than Listening

I just experienced one of the worst sales pitches ever—from someone who bills herself as a business development specialist geared to selling at the C-level.  A mutual colleague had set up the introductory teleconference. After my colleague’s introductory comment, salesperson April opened with, “I’ve been to your website.  Is there anything you want to tell me that you think I wouldn’t already know from looking at the website. I’ve prepared 25 minutes of material. So unless you have a comment or question, I’m ready to go with my presentation. Is that okay with you?” She talked non-stop for the next 25 minutes—and was totally off-topic of my interest.


Mistake #4:  Jargon

Jargon builds a barrier.  Rather than marking you as a leader with broad knowledge, jargon categorizes you as a specialist with limited perspective. Profound people strive for simplicity and clarity.  Persuasive sales professionals simplify their answers and key points so buyers “get it” quickly and can move on about their real business.


Mistake #5:  Failure to Cut Through the Clutter

Cut through the clutter to the core message.  What can your product or service do for the buyer?  With tweets limited to 140 characters and people texting in syllables and letters because words take too long (R U OK?), people have little patience with those who can’t “say it in a sentence” and stop. Summarize succinctly.

Communication experts recommend sales professionals practice good body language. 

Mistake #6:  Body Language That Sabotages Success

Sure, Q&A can be unnerving. But beware body language that says “I’m a loser.” Slouching posture suggests defeat.  The look says, “Poor, poor, pitiful me.  Please feel sorry for me. I can’t help myself. ”

 Other negative body language reveals signs of inward stress and shouts, “I’m nervous; I need reassurance”:  foot-shuffling, hair-tossing, sleeve- or cuff-link adjusting, watch-band adjusting, lint-picking, ring-twisting, necklace-fondling, coffee-cup shuffling, holding your own hands in front of you or behind you (in imitation of having a parent hold your hand).

When standing during your sales presentation, a few more gestures scream “I lack confidence”:  crossing one or both arms across the chest for protection, locking your arms behind your back, clasping your hands tightly in front of or behind you.

None of these postures or gestures gives the buyer confidence in you, your offering, or your organization.

Responding to questions can be your biggest nightmare—or your chance to showcase your expertise, build rapport, and customize your offering exactly to what your buyer needs.


Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 45 books, published in 26 countries and 20 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication.

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12 thoughts on “Presentation Skills: 6 Mistakes Salespeople Make in Answering Buyer Questions”

  1. Body Language can sometimes be a forgotten communication tool especially for live person to person sales.
    All the sales persons that are really good often have there hands out and are “Expressive” with gestures of excitement or servitude. With video becoming even more popular people will have to take there body language skills to a digital arena.

    Good Post.

    1. Agreed, Zahib. Most salepeople are expressive with their body language. Video messages require even extra knowledge of body language. In fact, that gives me an idea for another blog. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Denise, you’re not alone! You focused on the most common trap of all–focusing on talking points rather than anticipating questions and preparing answers. I hear that same thing inside the largest sales organization. But now that you know the pitfall, you can reverse how you spend you time–and reap the rewards!

  2. The first and second points were especially useful reminders. Anticipating potential questions is essential, although not easy. And too often I want to appear neutral or unbiased which can result in an information dump. You’re absolutely right: prospects want to know your recommendation!

  3. I believe #5 is especially important! You should always have your message – and your answers – succinct and ready to go! I also think it’s funny that all the comments thus far have different “favorite” mistakes! Shows just how important they all are!

  4. I agree, we shouldn’t paralyze them with information… not to mention, we’ll lose their attention if it goes to long. Short, sweet and to the point works best for me.

    1. “Analysis paralysis” became a cliche for good reason–and we inflict it on our customers all too often by too much information!

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