How to Create an Effective Sales Deck (+ Free Template)

Check out the five steps for creating a sales deck that holds your audience’s attention and makes sales, plus a free template and examples.

Sales decks are slideshows that salespeople use to present or pitch their product or service in a succinct and engaging manner. If the deck is well-crafted, it can be a powerful tool for nurturing prospects through the pipeline. In this post, we’ll show you the five-step method for creating a killer sales deck. We’ll also give you a free template and some examples that will provide inspiration and ideas when creating your own.

How Sales Decks Work

A sales deck is a visual presentation in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or similar software that helps a salesperson explain a product or service to a prospective customer. It’s essentially an expanded sales pitch. Sales decks often begin by explaining a defined problem relevant to the buyer. Then they tease a problem-free afterworld and use the rest of the deck to show the buyer that their product or service can take them there.

Example sales deck
Example sales deck cover

Salespeople use sales decks in two main ways. They use it as a guide and visual supplement for their live sales presentations, or they send it to prospects who review it and learn more about the product or service on their own time. This latter function is crucial in the B2B space, especially for complex sales, which involve an average of 10 decision makers. Instead of relying on the internal champion to sell their colleagues, you rely on the deck you crafted.

Sales decks can be used throughout your sales process in a multitude of sales situations: 

  • Pitching to Leads: Send the sales deck to colder leads who want to learn a bit more about your solution but aren’t ready for a phone call. 
  • Holding Discovery Calls: In person or over a video conferencing software, use the sales deck as a backdrop to guide the discussion and help the lead figure out if your solution is a good fit for their needs.  
  • Giving Sales Presentations: Use it as a visual supplement to your spoken pitch that will help lead to a close. 
  • Saving or Upselling a Current Customer: In a meeting with a current client, use the sales deck to reaffirm your value proposition and the benefits they receive. Or use one to pitch them a new product or service.

It’s best practice to tweak your sales deck to fit each unique situation and customer. For example, a sales deck sent to a cold lead should have more written information on it than one used as a backdrop for your sales presentation to a more informed prospect. As a rule of thumb, as the prospect gets further into the sales process, the deck should be increasingly personalized to their unique business needs and situation.

Free Sales Deck Template

Here is a free generic sales deck template below that you can use as a guide when crafting your own. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll be using pictures of slides from this template along with real-world examples to illustrate the common elements of a sales deck and the five steps to creating an effective one.

Sales deck template
Free sales deck template

If you’d instead like a complete list of sales deck templates for a variety of situations, plus an example for each, you can also check out our sales deck template article. There, you’ll find the full list, letting you custom tailor your template to your specific need.

Common Elements of an Effective Sales Deck

Regardless of your industry, customer, or selling situation, there are some common elements you should include in your sales deck to make it most effective. They should appear in sequential order, starting with the cover slide and ending with the call-to-action.

Here are the five key elements of any sales deck:

  • Cover Slide: The first slide in the deck where you introduce your brand. 
  • Elevator Pitch: A 30-second pitch that explains your main value proposition.
  • Narrative Structure: The way you’ll structure your story about why customers need your solution. 
  • Proof: Stats, testimonials, or case studies that back up your claims or lend credibility to the picture you’re painting of the industry. 
  • Call-to-Action: The final slide where you ask the prospect to take an action, whether that’s booking a follow-up meeting or buying your solution.

Now let’s go through each element in a bit more detail while also looking at some image examples for each one.

Captivating Cover Slide

A cover slide is the first slide in the sales deck and the first thing your customer sees when they sit at your meeting table or open the deck in an email. The cover slide should therefore make it immediately obvious that your company is relevant to the viewer’s needs and specific industry. Place your logo and company name on this slide for branding purposes, and grab their attention with an appealing visual or provocative title or keep it simple, as shown below.

Template cover slide
Template cover slide

Elevator Pitch

Most sales decks will open with an elevator pitch that presents the thousand-foot view of your solution. An elevator pitch is a short statement describing who you help, how you do it, and the benefits buyers see. It acts as an outline of what’s coming next in the deck and gives prospects context. An effective elevator pitch might also include a unique selling proposition (USP): a statement of the main reason people should buy from you over your competition.

Template elevator pitch

An example of an effective elevator pitch for an accounting company might be “At {Company Name}, we handle the entire tax filing process for small businesses and, unlike most accounting services, provide them with an online platform where they view their tax information and ask questions in real time.”

Narrative Structure

The best sales decks engross the audience or reader in a story. The story helps them see how your solution brings them from their current, problematic state into their desired one. Humans understand information best when it’s delivered in a narrative form. Not to mention, stories are interesting to humans, so your prospect will be more engaged throughout.

There are two main types of story structures you will see in a sales deck: the problem/solution structure and the industry change/opportunity structure. Let’s look at both.

Problem/Solution Structure

This structure begins by highlighting the problems and costs relevant to the buyer. Then, it shows how their life or business would be better without the problem (otherwise known as the promised land). Finally, it explains how your product (the hero) helps them get there. In the images below, DocSend’s deck includes all three of these components. The problem/solution narrative is great if you sell a simple point solution that solves a specific, well-defined problem.

Example problem introduction
Example problem introduction
Example costs of problem
Example costs of problem
Example promised land
Example promised land
Example solution introduction
Example solution introduction

Industry Change/Opportunity Structure

This structure begins by introducing a sweeping shift in the industry and opportunities to capitalize on it. It then shows how its product or service can help the prospect be one of the winners in the aftermath of this change. If your industry is experiencing a disruption or change, or if you sell something complex, such as B2B technology, use the market change/opportunity structure to illustrate the big picture benefits your prospect receives if they take this initiative.

In these slides, LeadCrunch explains the industry change, the consequences of failing to adapt, and the way LeadCrunch helps the potential customer avoid those negatives and take advantage of the shift.

Example industry change
Example industry change
Example cost of not changing
Example cost of not changing
Example new opportunity
Example new opportunity

Proof That Your Solution Works

Show the prospect that your solution can actually solve their problem and produce the benefits you promise. You can list your proof in a single slide near the end of your presentation or weave it throughout entire deck. Specifically, include research data, case study summaries, testimonials from clients, and/or other forms of social proof (like a quote from an expert in the field) to back your claims.

Pro Tip:

If you feel you have insufficient proof, try decreasing the perceived risk of purchase for your customer by ending your sales deck with a money-back guarantee, a free shipment, a free trial period, or another added offer that provides the customer with a safety net and also helps them see your confidence in your solution.

Call-to-Action

A call-to-action (CTA) is a commanding sentence that states the action you would like the prospect to take. Examples include “buy now,” “sign up,” or “give us a call to discuss the next steps.” A popular way to end a sales deck is with a simple “contact us” CTA that includes your contact information and your picture, as done below. You’re the leader in the room; give the audience direction, and they’ll appreciate the clarity on what they’re supposed to do next.

Template call-to-action
Template call-to-action

How to Create a Winning Sales Deck

Regardless of your specific business and offering, there are five steps to creating an effective sales deck, including conducting customer research, creating your narrative, choosing benefits to highlight, collecting proof, and putting it all together into a slideshow. The layout and flow of the slideshow will vary across businesses, but if you follow this process, you’ll produce a sales deck that is customer-focused, engaging, and powerful.

1. Do Customer Research

Figure out what might be top of mind for your prospects by researching your current customers. Mine through customer data and ask them questions directly to find a common problem or industry shift that you can use to guide the narrative of your sales deck. Figure out how they used your solution to come out on top. If you have a personal relationship with your customers, gather this information over a call or email. If not, try sending out surveys.

Ask your current customers questions like the following: 

  • Why did you decide to use our solution? 
  • What industry challenges are you facing?
  • What shift in the market is frightening you? 
  • What was the main pain point we solved for you?
  • What are the three most impactful benefits of our solution?

Better yet, talk to your prospect to learn about their specific needs, concerns, and problems. Set up a short phone call before your presentation to ask them open-ended questions. Tell them it’s so you can personalize their experience and focus on what matters to them. The prospect will appreciate it. This is especially effective if you are designing a personalized sales presentation.

2. Outline Your Story

First, choose between the two narrative structures we discussed above. In most cases, businesses create sales deck narratives using the problem/solution structure, so this is the one we will use in our example. During this step, write out a story outline that includes three parts: the problem, the promised land, and the solution. Later, you’ll turn this outline into a slideshow — like a director turns scene cards into a film.

Let’s go over the three parts of the story outline using slides from our free template.

The Problem (Conflict)

Begin your deck by introducing the conflict of the story, otherwise known as the main problem or pain point you found during your customer research. This problem is what your prospects want to overcome with the help of your solution.

Template problem introduction
Template problem introduction

To remind prospects of just how crucial it is to fix the problem, describe what it’s like to live or run their business in this current, undesirable state by doing the following: 

  • Presenting the negative consequences of letting the problem fester
  • Talking about common day-to-day frustrations and headaches
  • Highlighting costs associated with the problem
  • Listing the existing solutions and explaining their shortcomings
Template problem costs
Template problem costs

The Promised Land (Desire)

After your prospects are nice and agitated, show them the problem-free world that they, the protagonist, aspire to reach. Describe this desirable state in detail. Write down notes about how their business will be more successful, how they will be happier, how much faster their business will operate, and anything else positive that your clients are experiencing. One great way to present this information in your deck is by listing three key benefits the prospect will receive.

Template promised land
Template promised land

The Solution (Mentor or Tool)

While they’re dreaming of the promised land, show them how to get there. Introduce them to your product or service — the magic amulet or wise wizard that helps the hero. Educate your prospects on how your product or service brings them to this desired state. If it’s early in the sales process, there’s no need to go in-depth on the functionality; just give them the basics. If it’s later on, provide more info, making it clear and easy to understand with visuals and diagrams.

Template solution introduction
Template solution introduction

Write your story into a tidy three-piece outline to represent the three narrative sections, including associated data, benefits, and examples in each. Pass the outline around to colleagues until you feel the story is complete. In the end, when you turn this outline into a slideshow and present it to your prospect, they’ll have a firm understanding of who you help, the problem you solve for them, how you do it, and the benefits they’ll receive if they say yes.

3. Pick 3 Relevant Benefits to Share

Before crafting your deck, choose three of your most impactful and relevant benefits to use throughout. Where you place these three benefits is up to you. Often, as in our template, businesses use the promised land slide to list three benefits that the prospect will enjoy once they’ve solved their main problem. Alternatively, you could pick one of the three benefits and use it in an opening elevator pitch slide to get the audience excited.

Be sure to use each of the three benefits at least once in your sales deck. Three is the perfect number because there is a high chance the prospect will relate to at least one of them, but there aren’t so many that you run the risk of overwhelming or confusing the prospect. If you’ve done your customer research correctly, your prospect should get excited about these benefits and move closer to a purchase.

4. Include Your Most Convincing Proof

Now gather some proof to convince your prospects that your product or service is capable of bringing them to the promised land. Any proof that shows you have customers who enjoy and benefit from your product or service will help relieve their doubt. Plus, they’ll see that their industry peers (aka their competitors) are using your solution, and they’ll want to make sure they don’t fall behind. Also, data and reports from reliable sources make claims go down more easily.

Template proof
Template proof

Collect these forms of proof for your sales deck: 

  • Data and Statistics: Any stats from internal or external research reports that back up your claims. Add these whenever you make a bold statement. 
  • Testimonials: A quick blurb from a client about their satisfaction with your product or service. Generally, use these at the end after you’ve introduced your product. 
  • Case Study Summaries: A quick one-page story of how a client solved their problem with your solution and how they are currently succeeding with it. Results as numbers or percentages work best here, such as “saw a 33% reduction in operational costs.” 
  • Quotes: These are often quotes from a famous or knowledgeable person in your industry that backs one of your claims. You use them to give your statement more authority. An insightful or provocative quote can be great on the first or second slide in a deck.

Consider including pictures or videos of actual clients using your product or service, as well. This not only instills trust in the buyer, but it also helps them view themselves as owners of your solution. They get to see firsthand how much better their business or lives can be.

Pro Tip:

Make sure the customer you highlight in a testimonial, quote, or case study summary is similar to the customer you’re pitching. If your prospect is a small business, remove any mentions of large business customers from your deck and replace them with ones from smaller companies. This helps the prospect see that you serve businesses like theirs and can satisfy their unique needs.

5. Create Your Sales Deck or Select a Template

Now that you have done your customer research, designed your story structure, identified three amazing benefits, and collected your proof, it’s time to put it all together into a slideshow using presentation software like Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint, or a sales deck template, which we cover below. The sales deck can be as long as you want, as long as each slide serves a serious purpose. But if you can, try to keep it to 10 slides or under; your prospects will appreciate its brevity.

Here are some best practices to follow when assembling your sales deck:

  • Be Concise: If you’re sending the sales deck, keep each slide under 50 words. If you’re presenting it, keep each under 20 words and use a 30-point font. When you don’t read from the slides, you come across as an expert. 
  • Include Visuals: Use charts or graphs to present data or findings. Use a flowchart to illustrate complex processes. And add in graphics to help highlight main points — this could be as simple as a dollar sign instead of a bullet point next to a revenue benefit.  
  • Try to Keep Slides to One Idea: Distill the main idea of the slide down to a five-word headline. For example, the title of a slide could be “There’s a Problem,” and on the next slide you write the problem. This pace adds a nice rhythm and holds people’s attention.

Often, salespeople take advantage of sales deck templates that have already been created (which you can find for free on Slidesgo). A sales deck template is a customizable slideshow designed for pitching and equipped with a pre-set layout, theme, and font. All you have to do is personalize it to your solution and prospect by replacing their text and pictures with your own. And remember to dedicate slides to your title page and CTA.

Example sales deck templates
Example sales deck templates

3 Best Sales Deck Examples from Reputable Companies

Take a look at some sales decks from reputable companies to get your creative juices flowing. When creating your deck, you can even copy their exact slide progression if it works for the story you want to tell. Let’s see some powerful sales decks from Salesforce, Zuora, and Snapchat Ads and discuss why they work well.

Salesforce Sales Deck

Salesforce’s deck does a wonderful job of making a complex topic (CRMs) seem simple. It expresses complicated processes as easy-to-digest flowcharts. And throughout, it uses language free of industry jargon to describe the basic functionality and benefits of the software. Since it’s rich in text, a sales deck like this is most effective when sent out to prospects who already know they need your product type and are shopping around for a solution.

Salesforce sales deck
Salesforce sales deck

Zuora Sales Deck

Zuora’s deck opens with an industry shift (the subscription economy), then explains why it matters for their prospects, showing them, with examples, the consequences of failing to adjust to the change. For instance, it reveals that in the last 15 years, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared.

Next, it turns to the survivors and states the common thread between them: a switch to subscription offerings. Not until slide 20 do they introduce their product and explain how it can help prospects take advantage of this change. Sellers using a change/opportunity narrative should try to emulate this sales deck.

Example good cover slide
Zuora sales deck

Snapchat Ads Sales Deck

Snapchat’s deck wastes no time getting to its USP — the fact that it’s the best ad medium to reach younger audiences. It then backs up its claim with data and reasoning about why the 13- to 34-year-olds love the app. Then it explains why advertisers love using it, as well. It also uses an easy-to-understand diagram to express how it’s better than its two main competitors. A deck like this is great for businesses with one exciting key differentiator.

Snapchat ad sales deck

Bottom Line

Sales decks essentially nurture leads through a story to help them understand your business and value proposition. Every business will create its own unique sales deck, but all of them can employ the five-step method for creating a sales deck we’ve discussed above, while also borrowing inspiration and ideas from other successful sales decks. But remember, it’s not the deck that closes the deal, it’s the salesperson. Ask for the close!

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