How to Build (and Nail) the Perfect Sales Presentation

April 1, 2021

Jackie Goudreault

There’s no more effective way to articulate your product’s value proposition than with a well-executed sales presentation.

At earlier stages of the sales process — particularly during the cold calling and discovery phases — your salespeople are in a constant fight for your prospect’s time and attention. By the time you’ve scheduled a sales presentation call, however, your sales team can look forward to having a longer amount of time to spend enthusing about your product and, more importantly, how it will fit into your prospect’s story and fulfill their needs.

Once you’ve earned that shot at a sales presentation, you need to make every second count. Remote or in-person, your presenting sales professionals have to know how to work the room and how to “translate” your product’s value into the language of those you’re addressing. You have to build a convincing sales deck that sells a vision of your prospect’s future. You must avoid long-winded technical monologues and drab PowerPoint presentations at all costs. The best sales presentations lead your prospect on a journey through your product and leave your potential clients wondering how they ever did without it.

If it all sounds a little intense and overwhelming, don’t worry — we’ve broken down the essentials to creating an epic sales presentation into straightforward, actionable steps.

What is a Sales Presentation? #

A sales presentation is a structured, organized pitch used to explain your product or service in detail and why your prospect should invest in it. Whereas a regular sales pitch can be as short as an elevator ride, a sales presentation will stretch over a longer amount of time and make use of visual aids to really press home your product’s qualities.

In a sales presentation, you’ll discuss the impact your product is capable of, spotlight key data points concerning adoption rates and impact on their bottom line, and showcase case studies that link your product’s value directly to your prospect’s pain points. In short, a sales presentation tells the story of your product and how it fits into your prospect’s story.

How to Tee Up Your Sales Presentation #

Sales presentations don't happen in a vacuum. You need to host them at the right time and with the right people to make the most out of them.

Wait for the right moment to Push for a Presentation #

You can kill a number of birds with one stone, depending on when you push for a presentation during the sales cycle. Suggesting a sit-down meeting right off the bat could come off as a little forward. Instead, pitch the idea of a sales presentation following the initial rounds of discovery. Your product is fresh in your prospect’s mind, and you have the opportunity to lay out your company’s stall all at once. This makes it really obvious not just what your product is but also how it stands to benefit them.

Invite the Right decision-makers #

You don’t want to be speaking to just anyone when you’re presenting your product. Don't waste your time (and theirs) presenting to people who aren't decision-makers or who don't have a relationship to what you're selling. Pitching to the wrong people reduces your thoughtful presentation to a time-consuming discovery call. Pitching to the right people increases the likelihood that you can springboard from a great presentation right into the final stages of your deal.

Make sure the right people are in the room. Talk to your initial POC and find out everyone at the buying company — tech leads, CXOs, even HRs — whose buy-in you need to secure. Ensure that your original point of contact is there to maintain continuity. Also, encourage higher decision-makers at the company to attend. Finally, invite any professionals on the staff who might be tasked with managing or operating your product if your prospect buys it.

Take the time to prime your prospects #

When you’ve got your sales deck finalized, send the deck over before you present it. You can’t put a price on your prospects being familiar with the material you’re going to pitch. This foresight enables deeper conversations and more probing questions during and after the presentation.

How to Build a Winning Sales Deck #

Everyone loves a cool, well-branded slide deck, and make no mistake — yours will have to be beautiful if you’re going to pull off this sale. A few keywords scribbled on a whiteboard will not cut it nowadays.

There are a few best practices, both broad-stroke and detail-oriented, for building the perfect sales deck, so we’ll break them down into core components for analysis.

Refine your central message #

Your sales deck, and, by extension, your whole presentation, lives or dies by your overall message and tone. By prioritizing the wrong things, or even prioritizing the correct things in the wrong way, you can lose your prospect’s attention very quickly.

The first rule of your sales deck, therefore, is that you shouldn’t focus too much on your product. Your message should focus on how impactful your product can be for your prospect. That means when you go for metrics, give preference to bottom-line numbers (e.g., MRR, churn rates, etc.) over technical jargon. Give them social proof — focus their attention on life as it would be with your product in it, not on your product alone.

Think of it as selling benefits over features. A bigger water bottle is a product feature. But a water bottle you won't have to refill that often is a benefit. One centers the product's design, the other centers how it will change the prospect's life.

Create an engaging presentation structure #

Because human attention spans are so limited — we can focus on one thing for eight seconds, on average — your sales presentation structure needs to be clear and evident, sweeping your audience along with it. Make use of all of the technology and design acumen you have at your disposal, with consistent branding and plenty of statistics.

A good sales presentation will contain most or all of the following structural elements:

Introduction with the End Result: Instead of building slowly through the stages of your product’s usefulness, give a brief, attention-grabbing vision of life with your product to start with.


Source: Ebasta

This slide from a Reddit ad sales deck gives a potential advertiser a vision of the future that will make their head spin — “We could be reaching how many unique visitors per month?”. The sales team could use this slide to present an outcome that addresses their prospect’s pain points.

Beginning your presentation in this way, in media res, is an arresting narrative technique. You’ve thrown your prospect in at the deep end; their attention will be roused, and they’ll want to know more.

Identify Yourselves: Now, you circle back to the beginning. Introduce your company, briefly detailing what you do, and then give a pithy mission statement. An effective mission statement is not something to the effect of, “We want to be the biggest company type ‘A’ in the world.” Your statement should articulate what you’re trying to achieve with your company, like, “Helping employees track time better” or “Helping fans engage with their favorite artists more intimately.”

You can reuse elements of your elevator pitch here, even if your prospect has already heard it on a previous call — in fact, reinforcing your core value proposition here can be highly useful.

Bring the Pain: Move to an assessment of the current situation, where your product, your prospect, and the market intersects. What is the issue they’re facing at the moment? This point of your sales presentation gives you license to lay the statistics on thick, both qualitative and quantitative.

Pain points are always an excellent start: Think market trends, industry benchmarks, and competitors’ activity. Take a look at this pain-point slide from a LeadCrunch sales deck.


Source: Ebasta

LeadCrunch is attempting to tap into the prospect’s angst about the amount of data they have to handle and inefficiencies they may be suffering around filters and conversion rates.

Build a Bridge: The bridge is the trickiest part of the narrative of a sales presentation. You show how your product will get your prospect from their current situation to the end result you first demonstrated.

Begin by laying out the exact features of your product, then move on to suggestions of how those features address the particular pain points you’ve mentioned.


Source: Cirrus Insight

This slide from Salesforce shows how their product responds specifically to the menial-task, launch-speed, and multichannel pain points their prospect is experiencing.

You can even craftily combine your features demonstration with your pricing points, much as LeadCrunch does with their sales deck.


Source: Ebasta

Be Concise At All Times: Your payment tier slide should ideally be the only time in your sales presentation that your slides are filled up with text. Otherwise, keep the amount of text per slide to a minimum. Deliver your main points via bullet points. Otherwise, keep the stage clear for high-impact statistics or testimonials. Your prospects’ focus should be on you, with your slides there to anchor and reinforce your message.

Include Social Proof: Before you wrap up, make room for some social proof. Knowing that your other clients are credible and have gotten good use out of your product can be the cherry on top of a mean-looking sales presentation cake. Here’s Zuora again, with an excellent example of social proof that ticks all the right boxes. This single pull quote from another CEO (which appeals to the CEO in the room with you) states Zuora’s case simply and emotively.


Source: Cirrus Insight

Make Your Value Clear: Now, wrap things up with a tidy reaffirmation of your company’s value, and include a brief, to-the-point call to action (CTA). Affirming that value as being distinct from tangible figures is a significant distinction. Snapchat might be positively vintage at this point, but they did a great job of this in a sales deck from back in 2015.


Source: Cirrus Insight

Going back to Snapchat, this slide makes the distinction all the more obvious. The value of their company, in 2015, wasn’t in its revenue or its assets but in the amount of attention it commanded. Whatever the core value of your product, make that the center of attention in these final slides.

Then you just need to remind your prospect what they need to do next.


Source: Cirrus Insight

As far as the rest of it goes, this AdGibbon sales deck skews a little too heavily toward just detailing all its product features with little “big picture” painting, but its CTA page is simple and effective.

Tell your story through Graphics #

Make your graphics simple, and place them for impact (e.g., adjacent to pain points). Here’s a good example from the Reddit ad sales deck.


Source: Ebasta

Right away, Reddit has shown clearly why they should have your attention and addressed one of the most common pain points for advertisers — reach. This sets up the rest of their presentation beautifully.

Find ways of showing your statistics visually, too, instead of just listing them. 40% of people respond better to visual stimuli than to pure text, so take advantage of that. As we saw above, try to extend these principles to your social proof. Surround your testimonial pull quotes with empty space so that your audience isn't staring down a wall of text. Include logos from your highest-profile customers as well!

Tips to Present with Confidence and Flair #

Once you’re in the room with your perfected deck, the fun really begins. The best sales presentation leads won’t necessarily have had public speaking experience (though it helps). Still, many of the same principles apply when delivering an effective sales presentation. All speakers must be aligned on the main points. Your sales team should prepare to ‘act’ out the value of your product in their tone of voice and the emphasis they give to key stages of your presentation. You can’t fake value, but you can learn deal-winning charisma.

Try out these delivery tips at your next sales presentation, and glory in the results.

Be In Sync #

Alignment among the members of your presenting team is the most important of all presentation techniques. We’ve seen an increase in c-suite participation over the last year — and with more buyer-side decision-makers to impress, team selling has become more important. Your frontline sales rep may be selling alongside tech leads, members of your marketing teams, or even an executive from your own side.

The obvious foundation for a successful sales presentation, therefore, is to synchronize your talking points to your deck. Know the rhythm of your slides and decide who is going to take charge of delivery for each one. Make sure your designated speaker talks slower when delivering key statistics.

Questions are excellent rhetorical devices in a presentation but don’t drag your prospect into the presentation itself. Do the thinking for them: any questions you ask in your presentation should generally be rhetorical.

Be Visible #

In these days of regular Zoom conference calling, do not underestimate the effect your surroundings can have on your first impression with a prospect. Ensure your sales presenters join the call ten minutes ahead of the agreed start time to check that everyone’s audio output and internet connections are robust and ready for action. All of your participating sales team should be seated in a well-lit room where they’re likely to face minimal interruption or noise pollution. Even a remote sales presenting team should dress for the presentation as though this were any other in-office client meeting.

Needless to say, first impressions form only a fractional part of your prospect’s ultimate buying decision. But showing up punctually, well-dressed, and clearly visible on camera will help get your sales presentation off to a great start.

Be Animated #

Aside from control of the narrative, the physical-presence aspect of a sales presentation is its vital element. Modulate your voice, gesticulate naturally, and use physical aids (flip charts, etc.) if helpful. Add in a little dramatic emphasis when detailing pain points, and speak with representative relief when showing off how your company solves them. Read the room, and make eye contact with your audience. Eye contact shows that, despite the fact that you’re doing all of the talking, you’re “listening” to your prospects’ body language cues and trying to personally engage with each of them.

Don’t Be Too Technical #

Speak the language of the decision-makers you're presenting to. Getting too technical in your presentation will end up with the C-suite/executives handing you off to an IT lead. Instead, couch your solution in the big-picture terms we’ve discussed (market share and benefits to revenue or churn) to capture the imagination of the people making the decisions.

Be Proud #

Being proud of your product in a sales presentation doesn’t have to mean being totally theatrical about it. Just remember that you’re there to show your value. The value of your company informs how your prospect will think about ROI and the pricing you offer. Worry less about the pricing points you’ve offered and more about illustrating why your product will save your prospect time/money/hassle in the future.

Be conscious of time #

Remember what we said about human attention span? Do not allow yourself to go beyond ten minutes with the main body of your presentation — any longer, and you risk losing your audience. Keep questions mid-presentation to a minimum, promptly move through your deck, and then open the floor to the conversation.

Sell a Story, Not a Product #

You can find an awful lot of tips for a great sales presentation, here and elsewhere. But at the end of the day, a great presentation is all about telling a compelling, coherent story about how this product will improve your prospect's life.

Always be guided by that question: “Are we demonstrating how our product’s story fits into our would-be customer’s story?” Never stop asking that question as you build your presentation and even as you and your teammates deliver it. Your data points, your visuals, and your way of relating to your prospect should all be oriented around telling that story.

As with any other kind of storytelling, showing (through a well-crafted deck) is the natural ally of telling. Tailoring your style and substance to what your audience wants to hear can be advantageous too. Most of all, it’s a chance to show who you — your product and your company — really are.

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