A few years ago, Andy Raskin wrote his now-famous post “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen” outlining Zoura’s great sales presentation. The following year, Drew Beechler wrote “The (Second) Greatest Sales Deck and Pitch I’ve Ever Seen” describing the narrative arc that digs into Salesforce’s effective sales pitch.
I keep waiting for someone to have the courage to write “The Third Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen” – just so I can prove my theory that all enterprise marketing eventually becomes the seven-minute abs scene in There’s Something About Mary.
So what makes a good sales presentation? I’ve seen, crafted, and talked through many sales decks in my 20-year career; and, while there is no universal template to follow, here are five tips and tricks that can help you seal the deal at your next meeting.
1. The best presentation is the one you can give confidently.
Many years ago, my boss at the time told me that, during a first meeting, confidence beats competence every time – meaning there is no amount of marketing magic or PowerPoint® jiu-jitsu that can overcome a presenter’s lack of confidence. Research even shows that it’s better to be confident than correct in the workplace, since people are quickly discouraged by uncertainty.
So, the next time you’re giving a presentation, remind yourself that you are the expert and you know more about your topic than anyone else in the room. If you are stumped by anything during a presentation, break the slide/question down to the basics and speak to the parts you can confidently own. Then, go home and research the rest so it never stumps you again.
2. Get visual.
According to Brain Rules, most people can’t read and listen at the same time. So, if you want to maximize your persuasion potential, you have to shift your customer’s job from reading to listening.
One way to do this is by cutting down the text on your slides to just a few key words so your audience isn’t overwhelmed. Depending on how many people are in your audience, you might want to consider not using a PowerPoint presentation at all. In fact, Aberdeen Research proved that companies using whiteboards instead of PowerPoint can improve the productivity of sales performance.
This approach will allow you to adapt your presentation to your audience’s needs and allows for interactivity in the delivery.
3. Don’t assume your audience knows or cares about what you do.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a sales presentation interrupted halfway through by someone asking the presenter what their company actually does, which is just embarrassing. So, put that information upfront in your deck. Leading with Raskin’s Big Challenge slide might be more impactful, but starting with information on your product is more useful. (Remember: Sales decks are meant to motivate purchases, not inspire global change.) Even if this is your third time meeting with a prospect, you should always begin by asking if it would be helpful to provide a quick overview of your company – then do it anyway.
But don’t just drone on about your product; talk about the problem it solves – because that’s what the audience cares about. Do this by researching your customers beforehand and becoming familiar with their business. Research their competitors and tailor your presentation to show how your product can help them gain a competitive advantage or solve a pain point.
4. Tell a story.
If you printed out your presentation and a complete stranger found it on the street, would it make sense to them? If the answer is yes, then what you have is a report.
Your audience can read, and reports don’t require presentations. The expectation is that, if someone is taking time out of their day to listen to you, you are bringing something extra to the table they can’t find online.
Keep prospects interested and add color by using anecdotes and case studies to tell a story that is compelling and digestible. Share the story of a client who faced a similar key challenge and solved it with your product. Create a personalized presentation that takes into account their specific needs and goals.
5. Use verbal transitions.
The best presentations are the ones that flow naturally. One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is when a presenter treats every slide as a brand-new adventure.
The Information Gap theory says that our mind always wants to fill the gap between existing knowledge and new information. Meaning, when you propose a problem at the beginning of a slide, your audience wants to keep listening to what you have to say in order to find the answer.
Use the technique of verbal transitions as a way to make your slides flow and help your readers understand how it’s all linked together. To create curiosity and hold their attention, before you end a slide, propose a new problem that will only be solved in the next one. Rinse and repeat.
While there’s no universal solution for the perfect sales presentation, applying these tips can make all the difference in building a connection with potential customers and distinguishing your business from competitors.
Keith Messick is CMO of Dialpad.