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Selling Online: Avoid The Five Most Common Mistakes

February 8, 2011 - 3 Comments

Tom Drews

Tom Drews is the CEO and founder of What Works! Communications. He helps sales people to design and deliver effective virtual sales presentations so that they can beat the competition and close more business. We are presenting Tom’s information in a series of blogs. Today, in part two, he talks about the five most common mistakes people make when selling (or persuading) online. Click here for part one. You can listen to the entire WebEx event here.

Here are the five most common mistakes I see people make when selling online:

1. Not having a structure.

So many people don’t have a beginning, middle and an end. They don’t state a clear objective like, “Here’s what I’d like you to get out of our presentation today, and here’s what I’d like you to do.” When you don’t have a structure, the participants don’t know what to expect from your meeting.

2. Death by PowerPoint.

Most of the presentations that I see have too much information. The problem with having too much information on the slide is that we are naturally inclined to want to read what’s in front of us, and that is a major distraction if you have too much information. Here are some other classic Death by PowerPoint complaints:

  • “Presenters talks about themselves too much.”
  • “Too much focus on pain point.”
  • “Set up of things I already know and live with.”
  • “Not getting to the point.”
  • “Not prepared.”
  • “Weird fonts makes it hard to read.”
  • “Reading the PowerPoint.”
  • “Speaker gets ahead of the presentation.”
  • “Presenters who talk a lot around the topic instead of focusing on the topic itself.”
  • “Lack of interaction.”
  • “Jumping around.”
  • “Lack of enthusiasm.”

3. Poor use of voice.

I have experienced people use cell phones to call into an online session – which is probably the worst thing you can possibly do. Your voice is your most powerful tool for an online meeting and you don’t want to do anything to compromise the quality or clarity.

4. Demonstration (not selling).

Classic mistake: doing a demonstration that focuses 95% on features and functionality instead of value. I would have to say, without question, this is the biggest mistake I see people make. You’ll probably hear me say that more than once, but if you’re trying to sell a product or service, you need to focus on value. Feature and functionality is going to target the button-pushers and they are typically not the ones that make the decisions.

5. No objective.

This is important: why are you having this meeting? Is it to answer questions? To ask for the order? Qualify the account? Too many meetings are scheduled and attended without everyone being clear about the objective. Without a clear objective, no one is sure about what needs to be accomplished.

We’ll post part three with Tom’s 10 Tips for Online Selling Success later this week. In the meantime, you can download this whitepaper from Bersin & Associates on Online Business Training for more insights and tips.

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  1. Hi Jennifer, Thanks for the quick response. Yes I have used them, quite a bit, both as presenter and as audience. I think you're very right that the challenges of audience participation are even more enhanced when presented in 2-D, on a small screen, with no reverse camera, and the ever-present temptations of email, twitter and another cup of coffee. Two tips I'd add for helping (and again, they're the same as 'live'): stories, and compelling visuals. Put a picture up, tell a story, and you'll get recall; add more than a line of words and you've lost it.

  2. This is a pretty good list, I think. But I'm wondering what exactly is different in this on-line list from a list of common mistakes presenting in-person? Apart from the cellphone example in #3, what's different? I think it's all good, I'm not criticizing the content, just wondering if you can add something to the unique situation facing presenters delivering online. Or, perhaps you mean to say the top five problems are the same, whether online or live? That would be an interesting statement too. Thoughts?

    • Charles - I agree, it is a good list and yep, I would use it for in person meetings as well. I think the biggest challenge in an online meeting is keeping the attendees engaged and getting to the point. It's interesting, when we monitor something like Twitter to see what people think of WebEx, the feedback is usually not about the product but about the presenter. I think people forget that it's so easy to be distracted when looking at a computer screen and that interpersonal skills are even more essential to make a connection (I like to use the web cam to make sure I can see people). In the last part of Tom's talk, the gives 10 tips for doing it well online and keeping the participants engaged is a huge part of his talk. Have you used online meetings before? I am interested in your experience...