Reader Beware

The following is adapted from the book, The Worst Salesman in the World, a compendium of bad sales behavior that all too many of us have practiced or experienced ourselves. Study well what this article has to offer — and learn to do the opposite. Meanwhile, let each “Then Again” box help to point you in the right direction. The wisdom they contain will lead you to happier buyers and increased sales.

Be a Whiz at Sales Presentations

Wing It

Make each sales presentation spontaneous and exciting by “winging it” – making it up as you go along. Flying by the seat of your pants you’ll soon discover just how exciting sales can be. You’ll present a spontaneous, off-the-cuff image. And your courage and daring will be sure to impress. Don’t sweat the details and don’t sweat the prep. Say whatever comes to mind and hope it’s something good.

Then Again...

If you’re afraid to “wing it” – and you should be – learn to be a Boy Scout presenter:
Be prepared.

Fail to Appreciate in Advance
Flaws in Your Product or Service

Once again, better to “wing it,” responding to objections with spontaneous quips like: “Gee, you're right.”

Then Again...

Be prepared.

Anticipate objections and create well rehearsed responses designed to stop them in their tracks.

Can It

If you’re afraid to “wing it,” fully prepare with a canned presentation. Write out a script and memorize it word for word. And be sure to rehearse every gesture and pause.

Think of yourself as a flight attendant giving pre-flight instructions: Know when and how you will move your hands, head and eyes, and never stop to entertain question. You’ll deliver a polished, poised, professional performance, causing many in your audience to actually wonder: Is this person live or is he on tape?

Demonstrate Poorly

The best way to show your product is superior is to demonstrate, giving them “proof” that what you say is true.

Suppose you want to prove how the flashlight you’re selling is indestructible. Simply take your flashlight and throw it to the floor. When it shatters into a million pieces, you’ll get a good laugh. Then say: “Well it’s not really indestructible. What is these days?”

Next, take your competitor’s product and do the same thing. When it doesn’t explode tell them: “See how honest I am? I’ve just shown you the absolute truth!”

Then Again...

Eager as you may be to “wow ‘em” with an impressive demonstration, to avoid embarrassment (like having to apologize for an exploding flashlight) do what the pros do: Practice at home.

This bit of advice comes from a croupier in Las Vegas. After a college age player at the craps table accidentally threw the dice off the table twice in a row the croupier whispered in his ear: “Why don’t you practice in your bathtub at home?”

I took his advice to heart and have never been sent to my bathroom again.

True Story

In 1991 a Canadian inventor named Gallant met in New York with the game and puzzle buyer for F.A.O. Schwarz. Without saying a word he took a replica of a well-known Canadian building and tossed it in the air. It fell to the floor, but remained in one piece. Then he picked it up and started taking the interlocking pieces apart, demonstrating that it was really a puzzle. To which the buyer said, “Wow, where did you get that?” (No sweeter words were ever heard!) Immediately, the buyer placed an order for 72 puzzles and they have been stocked by most of the company's stores ever since.

Six years later, Gallant’s company, along with Hasbro, turned out more than 10 million three dimensional puzzles. And it all started out with Gallant’s ability to demonstrate with panache.


Joel Saltzman is a speaker, facilitator, and consultant who teaches people in business to Shake That Brain! - for winning solutions AND lots of fun. Look for his latest book, Shake That Brain!, to be published by Wiley 2/06. Joel can be reached in San Diego at (619) 543-9432 e-mail:
Visit his website: