Most of the guidelines suggested for designing better investor presentations also apply in creating good sales presentations. This chapter adds to the previous one, highlighting differences and nuances for better sales decks.

There is no point in preaching to the converted

Don’t repeat, renew

Product information can be obtained in a number of accessible ways, including website, brochures, videos, and demos. In the limited time of a sales presentation, be sure to deliver answers which can only be attained face to face.

Your audience won’t find it pleasing to sit through a detailed product spec, and they do not need you convincing them once they are already convinced. So, focus on what’s really important here. Prospects would love to spend time with you if you improve their knowledge. Sales presentations should be about the potential customer, not about you.

  • Explain your distinctiveness in comparison with your competition. Be more explicitly than your website or marketing collateral.
  • Allow a detailed brainstorming about problems they are trying to solve, after which you can ask more targeted questions which are harder to place over the phone.
  • Remember they are also busy establishing a personal opinion about you you, as a potential supplier, a person to work with, a person to become dependent upon.
  • Slides that did not make it into the deck can always be added as an appendix.

Sell the problem

Selling the problem is often more important than selling your solution. Sales presentations turn convincing if you successfully convey the problem, the very issue with which your potential customers are struggling with. Demonstrating this well, and you’ve shown a complete understanding of that problem, gaining your prospects’ trust. They’re already half convinced your solution is geared to fix this problem you described so well.

Keep monitoring your audience as you proceed in the presentation, and if you sense things are going off course, start asking questions, deviate from your script, engage your audience in a dialogue on how to get a full understanding of the customers’ situation.

No need to present, we will just do Q&A if you don't mind...

Taken to the extreme, I have designed sales presentation that were totally not used in the actual sales meeting. Immediately after the smalltalk, the client asked for the entire meeting to be used as an extended Q&A session. As all participants had already studied the content, there was no need to hear it again in a sales pitch. Arriving prepared for such a scenario, our 90 minutes turned highly productive as we discussed customer issues.

Most of the time potential customers are very transparent about key issues that constitute the main stumbling block along the way to closing a deal. During my time as a strategy consultant at McKinsey, I was on the receiving end of RFPs (Request for Proposals). We mapped all potential suppliers against a number of selected criteria. If a candidate supplier called us up ahead of the meeting, we could pretty much tell them where they stood (without mentioning competitors, of course.)

Key customer concerns

Remember that the only thing your audience is likely to be busy with during a sales presentation, is thinking whether to adjust your score in one of their evaluation boxes. Find out what their key concerns are, and adjust the prioritization of content in your presentation accordingly. 

Make sure your cover your weaknesses as well. Maybe not explicitly on the slides, but still, you should address them. Otherwise, your meeting could be very pleasant, but you’ll lose the order for sure.

Buyers in large companies are often conservative and prefer to play it safe when selecting suppliers. This is true even if it comes at the expense of an absolute best price they would have attained. The opposite could be true, too. If you are offering prices that clearly lead to financial losses, the big corporate buyer may doubt your financial stability, and whether you are  fit as a viable long-term partner.

Appear serious if you want come across serious

Smaller companies and/or startups have the odds stacked against them when it comes to being perceived as stable, professional, and reliable. If you start from this position, make sure you don’t add any bad points. Show up on time, invest in high quality business cards, dress professionally, have a custom email domain forward to your gmail address, make sure your presentation template looks crisp and professional.

Also be sure that you know how big corporate decision making processes take place. For example, going behind someone’s back up to the next level may backfire on you, especially in a team working together more closely than you thought.

Truth and credibility

As in investor presentations, refrain from bending the truth. It is tempting to talk negatively about the competition, but when you do, always make sure you’ve got the facts right. Your potential customer is likely to conduct a thorough supplier selection process and might know more about your competitors than you. If you make something up about your competitors, how can your potential client be sure you are truthful on other matters?

Coach your ambassador

A positive personal impression

People buy based on emotions, and justify based on facts. The impression you leave in the room highly impacts your prospects’ buying decision. 

Often the first point of contact in a large organization is a relatively junior executive who sits for the first presentation. Your challenge is not only to win that person over, but, more importantly, coach them to convince their senior colleagues in your favor. The presentation you give them is an example of how they can pitch to others.

Facts and info

For presenting quantitative facts, such as cost savings a client attains, or expected monthly payback, the same rules apply as the ones discussed in the investor presentation chapter. The framework and logic used to calculate the numbers is more important than your precise estimation, which is likely to be disputed by the client. If the session allows, calculate cost savings together with the client on a whiteboard, asking questions about their specific business. 

Quick sum up

A sales presentations is foremost a dialogue. Your skills as a listener are almost as important as your presentation skill.