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Sales presentations are persuasive meetings designed to open your prospect’s eyes to the value of your product or service. With adequate preparation, strong communication skills, and a gripping sales deck, you can turn interested prospects into paying customers in one meeting. To make that a common occurrence, follow these unique and creative sales presentation tips, including expert advice and real examples.
For a complete breakdown of a sales presentation, including key elements and a step-by-step guide to creating your own, check out our article on sales presentations. Otherwise, continue reading below for insights from experts on how to make the most of your sales presentations.
No two prospects should receive the same sales presentation. Every prospect has a different situation, so you need to personalize your messaging to their specific goals, needs, processes, and pain points. This will increase the chances that they understand the value your solution offers them specifically. Personalize your sales presentation by following these best practices:
Some salespeople also design their sales deck (slideshow) with the prospect’s brand in mind. For example, they might place the prospect’s logo on the bottom right corner of each slide or use their brand colors. But, personalize every part of the presentation, not just the part with slides. Andrew Cibotti, Account Executive at Oracle NetSuite, had this to say about using LinkedIn as a research tool to personalize the pre-presentation small talk:
When I’m about to start a presentation, I never like to start by going right into things. I typically do a little bit of research on the company/people via LinkedIn or on their website to find talking points that break the ice a bit (and not just talking about the weather). This also helps familiarize myself with the people I’m speaking with and what might matter to them.
Two days before your scheduled presentation, send your attendees your sales deck. This can improve your relationship with them and the quality of conversation during the presentation.
Specifically, sharing your deck with prospects does the following:
Not everyone who receives your sales deck will read it, but that’s okay. Either way, you’ve proven that you are a professional who’s focused on providing the prospects with everything they need to make an educated purchasing decision, including transparency into their next steps of the buyer journey.
Likely, your prospect is slightly on edge about any big changes in their market, whether it’s a technological disruption (e.g., the new subscription economy) or a new type of buyer (e.g., Generation Z). Beginning your presentation by highlighting a market shift that your prospect is experiencing, explaining the opportunities it presents, and showing your prospect how to capitalize on them is a great way to position yourself as an expert and start building trust.
During your sales presentation, paint yourself as an industry expert by taking these actions:
Take Zuora, a subscription management platform. When the new subscription economy was emerging and services like Netflix began to reign supreme, Zuora created a presentation that began by highlighting a shift — shown in the image below. They then claimed there would be winners and losers in this new economy and taught their prospects how to be the former. They also used studies of successful companies to substantiate their claims.
After any small talk and before you begin presenting on your slideshow, set an agenda to give your prospects an idea of what’s to come and to ensure you’re all on the same page about what should be discussed. Set your agenda using the Purpose, Benefit, Check technique:
Setting an agenda will help you come across as a confident, professional leader with a presence that commands attention and admiration from your audience. Of course, setting an agenda also helps you as the presenter. Here’s what Joseph Schulman, Institutional Sales at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, has to say about agenda-setting:
Having an agenda allows you to have a solid sequential flow to your presentation in any line of business, and it is clearly evident that when you have an agenda planned out before a meeting then you are more confident in what you are trying to convey to whomever is sitting across from you at the table — or in recent events, whomever is in the Zoom. I like to over-prepare for meetings because you never know if you will be given another opportunity, so you want to make every chance you get your absolute best version of yourself.
Practice running through your presentation script in game-day circumstances at least three times. That means practice where you perform, whether that’s in a specific meeting room or on a conferencing platform. Also practice flipping through your slides while you speak. This ensures you feel confident during the actual sales presentation, knowing you have done it all before.
And confidence is useful for winning over your prospects. When you talk about your product or service and its benefits like you actually believe in them with your whole heart, your prospects will start to believe in the value as well. Confidence is contagious.
Take practice a step further and go through your script while doing a mindless task, such as sitting on the train, walking, or mowing the lawn. You can be silent and simply rehearse it in your mind. The reason for all this practice is to make it automatic. That way, when a prospect asks a question or expresses interest in a certain slide, you can go off-road without worrying about losing your place in the script or forgetting the rest.
To make sure you're prepared to flourish even in the face of mishaps or unanticipated questions, simulate a stressful presentation environment by asking your friend or coworker to play devil’s advocate throughout a practice session. Ask them to consistently interrupt you, question your claims or promises, and force you to defend your positions.
People are naturally averse to being on the receiving end of a sales pitch. They put their defenses up when they suspect the seller is focused on winning their business to stack their bank accounts. Help them see your more noble motivations by sharing the other reasons, besides money, driving your sales efforts. To do this in your presentation, explicitly tell the prospect why you’re excited to work with them. State the value your business will receive.
For example, if the prospect is in a sector in which you have rarely operated, mention that you’re excited to learn about their specific industry. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to the challenge of helping them reach a particular goal. When you mention that this is a mutually beneficial agreement, the deal feels less like a transaction and more like the formation of an alliance, which will breed trust and respect.
If you can describe your prospect’s pain point and its associated costs better than they can, the prospect will assume you also have a better solution. Therefore, it’s crucial that your analysis of their problem receives more time than any other segment of your presentation. The added benefit of doing this is that you will agitate their pain point further, making them realize just how desperately they need your solution.
Here are some things to bring up when talking about the prospect’s current problem:
Keptify does a great job in their sales presentation of drilling down to the source of their customer’s main problem, losing potential customers, before going into how to solve it. As you can see in the Keptify sales deck, they dedicate three out of their eleven slides to discussing the problem and the reasons for its occurrence. Here’s one of the slides presenting the problem:
Transition slides introduce a new big point with nothing but a few words. They help you build up some suspense and hold the attention of your audience. Plus, when you use a slide with a statement like “But, there’s one huge issue,” your prospects immediately start thinking and racking their brains to guess the problem. It’s almost like they’re involved in a game of trivia. It’s impossible to avoid playing — people want to feel smart.
We created a free sales deck template that uses several transition slides to build tension. Here’s an example of one of the slides.
Popular transition slides can be used to:
Humans have an obsession with predicting the future. When you can consistently initiate this mode of thinking in your prospect’s mind using these transition slides, they will be more attentive throughout the presentation.
Every couple of slides, ask your audience a relevant open-ended question. This will ensure they are listening instead of dozing off or daydreaming. Plus, when you engage them in a conversation around the topic, you learn what they’re thinking. And you have to jump on any chance you get to learn more about your prospect’s needs, situation, or concerns. This information will help you personalize your sales pitch and close the deal.
Here are some questions to ask your prospects throughout the presentation:
Involving your audience in the presentation is also a great way to grow your relationship. When you take interest in someone and value their opinion, they are going to think of you, the person, as a value-add to their life. When they enjoy time with you, they’re more likely to enjoy the idea of using your product or service as well. Include a buffer of 10-15 minutes for conversation in your presentation to ensure you don’t run out of time and fail to get through your presentation.
Here’s what Greg Cammarata, Account Executive at demandDrive, had to say about asking questions during a sales presentation to make sure everyone’s on the same page and to reveal any hesitations that, if left unspoken, could hold back the presentation and/or the sale:
I ask prospects questions throughout our call/presentation to see if what I’m saying aligns with what they are looking for. If you’re consultative and politely direct, I believe objections will also reveal themselves throughout the conversation.
Nothing sells better than the product itself. A virtual (using a photo, video, or software demo) or physical demonstration of your solution will help the prospect visualize how they will use it in their day-to-day. LinkedIn Sales Navigator does a good job of this in their sales presentation, where they include pictures of the tool in action and descriptions of the benefits achieved by each popular feature.
For even better results, involve the prospect in the demonstration process. Car dealers use this strategy when they offer a test drive. It evokes in the prospect a feeling of ownership. If you’re selling software, hand them an iPad and walk them through how to use the app or platform. Once they have felt this thrill of owning your product, they’ll rarely want to give it up.
Your sales deck should support your performance, not take the lead. The most word-heavy slide should contain fewer than 30 words. And the majority of your slides should have fewer than 15 words. If you include a lot of words on your slideshow, your audience will be spending their mental energy reading the words on the slide rather than listening to your voice and following your facial expressions and hand movements. It’s human nature to read what’s in front of us.
Here are some ways to replace sentences with visuals:
Get creative here. Also, use images to highlight a feature’s benefits. Give the prospect a second avenue of comprehension aside from your spoken word. LeadCrunch does a fabulous job of this in their sales deck. On the slide below, they illustrate how difficult it is to find qualified leads in a sea of people and how easy it becomes with LeadCrunch.
After you’ve finished delivering your presentation, your prospects might still be harboring concerns or hesitations that will prevent them from purchasing. If left undiscussed during this meeting, these feelings might dominate their thoughts as they think it over at home. That’s the last thing you want. What you want is for them to think about how incredible your solution sounds and its many benefits.
Find any audience objections by asking questions like these after presenting:
Pick the question that fits best with your selling style. If you’re a challenger seller, you might choose question number two, while if you’re more of a soft seller, you might go with number three. If you like being straight-up, pick number one. Once you uncover the objections, you can properly deal with them and set your prospects at ease. Here’s what Connor Buckley, Account Executive at CB Insights, has to say about using questions to tease out objections:
Open-ended questions are absolutely critical for uncovering a prospect's pain by getting them to open up about current processes and ‘unload’ rather than simply say yes or no. Asking ‘how do you envision yourself using this solution?’ is going to lead to a much stronger discovery than ‘is this something your team would find useful?’ Pair this with mirroring/labeling and you can really get someone to open up about what their needs or objections are.
Make sure to reach out to your prospect after the sales presentation. When and how often you send follow-ups depends on how you ended the meeting. If you scheduled another call for next week, you might send one follow-up email the day after to thank them for attending, state the key takeaways, and remind them of the next meeting. If the prospect is now discussing it internally, it’s better to follow up more consistently until you get an answer or another meeting.
Here are some follow-up ideas to push the deal to a close:
Or, take the best parts of each of these follow-up strategies and arrange them into your strategy that fits your situation. For instance, you could replace the sales deck in the basic follow-up with a client interview. Regardless, the goal of your follow-up is to get the prospect to ask for the sales proposal, another meeting, or anything else they need to feel comfortable with the product (e.g., white paper, a question answered, a decision maker convinced).
The sales presentation can make or break your deal. If you spend the time you have with your prospects touting your features or client list, you will bore them to tears and send them running to the competition. Instead, spend 80% of your time talking about them, their needs, their problems, and their potential future. This will keep them engaged and interactive throughout the presentation, and will therefore increase the chances you’ll successfully lead nurture them to deal-close.