How to Deliver a Sales Presentation Without Sounding Too ‘Salesy’

February 13, 2017 Julian Gros

Deliver a sales pitch without sounding too ‘salesy’

Sitting through a bad sales presentation – a lengthy monologue weighed down by jargon and statistics – is a special kind of tedious. For those who’ve been on the receiving end of one of these pitches, you’ll know that by the end you’ve pretty much lost all will to continue a relationship with that company, no matter what they’re selling.

Even though there’s no real way to completely disguise an elevator pitch or cold call, there is a way to sell without coming off as ‘salesy’. In order to make your presentations more engaging for your audiences (and therefore increase your chances of converting valuable leads into long-time clients), it’s important to first understand why so many pitches go wrong.

What’s going wrong?

Reason #1: Speaking like a robot  

If you’re in sales, there’s a good chance that you’ve left the same message, presented the same deck and delivered the same pitch so many times that it starts to feel robotic. However, even if you’re reading from a script, it shouldn’t sound like you are. This can give the impression to your audience that you’re not confident in what you’re pitching and can undermine your credibility. People want to talk to a person, not a person on autopilot.

Reason #2: Too much enthusiasm too quickly

Whether it’s that shot of pre-presentation adrenaline or an attempt to get in your prospect’s good graces, too much enthusiasm can be off-putting. Speaking too loudly, rushing your delivery or over-gesticulating to emphasise a point can be overwhelming for your audience, and can detract from the information you’re trying to convey.

Reason #3: Turning a quick speech into a long lecture

Many pitches contain too much content. Unless it directly relates to a problem that needs solving, a business goal that needs achieving or the client’s specifically requested something, leave it out. Your prospect doesn’t need to know the entire history of your company (or your personal corporate journey), complete with organisational hierarchy and industry commentary.

Reason #4: Not giving your audience the right information

Many pitches aren’t as effective as they could be, because they don’t deliver the information that the prospect is hoping to hear. Relying on phrases like ‘you need’, ‘you should,’ or ‘you want’ can be a turn-off: if you start making assumptions about their business straight away, they will be less likely to trust you and less likely to buy your product.

Reason #5: Focusing too much on the product rather than the experience

Instead of explaining the benefits your product/service provides, too often in sales the focus is only on how much money there is to be saved. Massive discounts! ‘For a limited time only’! If you don’t explain the experience (i.e. how the product/service will enhance their way of life), the significance of saving money will be lost.

During a sales pitch be relaxed and have a conversation not a lecture.

It’s simple enough to avoid these pitfalls and turn your pitch into something unique and captivating that will ultimately get you those leads.

Make every word work

As the old saying goes, less is more, and this is especially true when it comes to sales. When writing or crafting a sales pitch, be critical with your word choice. Remove terms or phrases like ‘cutting-edge’, ‘once in a lifetime’, ‘innovative’, etc. – terms whose meanings have become somewhat muddled by their overuse in marketing.

Word choice will directly affect how your potential new buyer will feel about your product/service. Victor Cheng, strategic adviser and former McKinsey & Company consultant, discusses the impact of using the term ‘competition’ in sales pitches. In ‘Being Influential Through Word Choice’, Cheng writes:

One of the challenges my CEOs were struggling with was they felt that since their product and service offerings were much better than their "competitors", they should be generating a lot more revenue… In your companies, I want you to ban the word "competitor". Instead, whenever any one of your employees is tempted to use the word "competitor", I suggest you have them use the phrase "all the alternatives to buying, including doing nothing".

So as you’re thinking about your next pitch, consider how your word choice could affect a prospect’s interest, and avoid these clichéd business phrases.

Take prep time

If you tend to get a bit anxious or nervous before pitches, factor time into your schedule to relax before you present. Matt Abrahams, a lecturer in organisational behaviour and author of Speaking Up without Freaking Out, writes in his whitepaper ‘Tips to Get Rid of Anxiety and Nerves Before Your Next Presentation’:

Attitude and anxiety influence perceptions of confidence. Most speakers – upward of 85 percent – report being nervous when presenting. Managing this anxiety is key to confident and compelling delivery. Rather than get anxious over your nervous symptoms, greet your anxiety as a normal, reasonable response to delivering a presentation.

Put those nerves to good use: instead of visualising mistakes or the bored look of an uninterested buyer, imagine the outcome you want. Imagine what winning their business would look like. Imagine how a successful presentation would look like. Take a minute to think about what’s making you nervous, and then do what you can to minimise each individual stress. Take ten minutes before you present to practice deep breathing – or even meditate! – to make sure you don’t talk through your deck too quickly.

Have a conversation instead of a lecture

Instead of reading verbatim what’s on your slides or in your notes, make your pitch a conversation rather than a lecture. Speak with your prospect rather than at them. Ask them questions throughout, and really listen to the answers they give: this will demonstrate that you’re truly invested in how you can help them achieve their particular business goal or solve their problem.

Structure a story

In general, people respond more to stories: this infographic demonstrates the difference in spending when messaging was changed to incorporate a narrative. For example, a survey asked participants to choose between two landing pages for a bottle of Chardonnay. The first simply listed the wine’s tasting notes; the second also included a short story about the winemaker. Participants were 5% more likely to choose the product written with the winemaker’s story, and were willing to pay 6% more for it.

Stories help you sound less salesy, and can actually boost your sales without any additional investment on your part. Make sure your pitch has a narrative structure to it, or incorporates some kind of story element, to keep your audience engaged.

Timing is key

In every sense of the word, timing is imperative: keep your pitch short and sweet. The average attention span is just 8 seconds (even lower than that of a goldfish!), and you want your pitch to be as memorable as possible.

Timing is also significant in a larger sense of the word. It’s important to gauge the prospect’s interest level before going straight in with your 30-second hard sell. 63% of people who ask about your company today won’t buy anything for at least three months – and 20% will take more than a year to buy, according to HubSpot. Don’t try to rush a sale just to hit your quota: nurture your leads with a content marketing strategy driven by content that aims to solve the prospect’s problems. This will not only help you sound less salesy as a result; it will boost your credibility as a genuinely beneficial resource.


Keep sales pitches short to make your presentations memorable.

For more reading on refreshing your presenting skills, boosting lead gen, and getting those sales, check out these articles:


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