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The Ultimate Guide to Sales Presentations

January 7, 2020

Sara Howshar

So much of modern selling involves knowing how to pitch to a prospect from afar — cold calling, discovery, follow-up through email.

If you’ve made it into their calendar and have booked a meeting with your prospect, there's a good chance you can make this deal work!

That’s all you should take for granted, though.

A successful sales presentation still requires careful handling. You have to know how to work the room and how to “translate” your product’s value in the language of those you’re addressing. You have to build a convincing sales deck that sells a vision of your prospect’s future, avoid long-winded monologues and drab slides, and then lead your prospect on a journey through your product.

More than that, a successful sales presentation requires that you demonstrate how your prospect’s story and your product’s story are one and the same.

We’ve broken down the essentials to creating an epic sales presentation into straightforward, actionable steps.

Before You Book a Meeting #

We’ve already spoken in detail about how cold calls and cold emails, discovery calls, follow-up, and good email-selling etiquette are all vital to the sales process. In SaaS, you can often find yourself selling to clients who are thousands of miles away from you. As a result, sales presentations are not necessarily a given part of the sales cycle today, and you won’t get invited into a room with your prospect unless you push for it.

Here are some strategic tips for getting that presentation booked, and who at your target company you should be angling to present to.

Getting Into the Room #

A sales presentation is most helpful for enterprise-level deals, where it can help smooth over an otherwise complex and unwieldy cycle. With a presentation, you can wrap up your discovery phase while maintaining complete control of the kind of portrayal your product gets with your prospect.

Though the presentation should be brief — no more than 10 minutes — and the whole meeting shouldn’t exceed an hour, your prospects will still be taking time out of their day to listen.

Make sure that they have the time for both the presentation and the Q&A after. A little time spent for scheduling now might save them time later (on back-and-forth, extensive demo periods, more calls, etc.) will show that you're dedicated and respect their time (and your own!).

When 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 an hour-long call 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.

The Guest List #

Buyers are not always your power-users. When you’re presenting your product, you don’t want to be speaking to just anyone. Don't waste your time (or theirs) by 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/session.

Make sure the right people are in the room. Ensure that your original point of contact is there to maintain continuity. Find your champions and ask them to encourage more decision-makers to attend. Finally, invite any professionals on the staff who might be tasked with managing or operating your product if your prospect buys it.

Last-Minute Touches #

Before we talk about sales decks, one vitally important reminder: when you’ve got it 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.

Building Your Sales Deck #

Make no mistake — your sales deck should be beautiful to pull off this sale. There are a few best practices for building the perfect sales deck - both broad-stroke and detail-oriented. So we’ll break them down into a few core components.

Your Broader Message #

Your sales deck lives or dies by your overall tone and focus. 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 sales presentation needs to demonstrate how it impacts areas of your prospect’s life that they care about.

That means when you go for metrics, focus on 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 rather than just a feature-dump.

Your Sales Presentation Template #

We're all human, and we have relatively short attention spans. (We tend to only focus on one thing for eight seconds.) Knowing this, your sales presentation structure needs to be clear and evident, sweeping your audience along with it.

Here are a few examples of what your sales template might look like:

Sales Presentation Template Example Snapchat 1
Source: Cirrus Insight

This slide from a Snapchat ad sales deck is reporting on confirmed data, but it would function as an excellent “Life with us” slide if they’d used it while pitching Universal Pictures. They could present it as: “You can enjoy outcome ‘X’ (in this case, the biggest April opening of all time) by using our product, and here’s a tantalizing glimpse of how.”

Beginning your presentation in this way, in media res, is an arresting narrative technique. You’ve thrown your prospect in at the deep end, and they’ll be looking to you hear more.

Identify Yourselves: Now, you circle back to the beginning. Introduce your company, briefly detailing what you do, and then give a succinct mission statement.

An effective mission statement is not: “We want to be the biggest company type ‘A’ in the world.” Your statement should articulate what you’re trying to achieve. Something like, “Helping employees track time better” or “Helping fans personally engage with their favorite artists.”

Identify the Pain: Move to an assessment of the current situation. Where does your product, prospect, and the market intersect? What is the issue they’re facing at the moment?

At this point in your sales presentation, you have some license to lay the statistics on thick, both qualitative and quantitative.

Pain points are always an excellent start. It shows that you recognize an issue, and that you also have a solution. Think market trends, industry benchmarks, and competitors’ activity.

Sales Presentation Template Example Zuora
Source: Cirrus Insight

Take a look at this pain-point slide from a Zuora sales deck.

Not only have they identified aspects of the subscription economy likely to worry their prospect, but they’ve also offered details about this pain point not even the prospect was aware of.

Sales Presentation Template Example Salesforce
Source: Cirrus Insight

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, with intervening outcomes.

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.

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

Sales Presentation Template Example Zuora2
Source: Cirrus Insight

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.

If you're including any links to content, consider using branded links. Branded links can be really useful to use in a presentation because vanity URLs are more memorable - short and sweet.

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.

Sales Presentation Template Example Snapchat2
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

Your Graphics #

Make your graphics simple, and place them for impact (e.g., adjacent to pain points).

Sales Presentation Template Example Facebook
Source: Cirrus Insight

Here’s a good example from Facebook for Business.

This graphic couldn’t be simpler. They’ve articulated a pain point around the need to advertise to mobile and digital users and represented it in a simple visual format.

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!

How To Nail Your Sales Presentation #

Once you’re in the room with your ideal deck - that’s when the real fun begins.

Be In Sync #

The obvious foundation for a successful sales presentation is to synchronize your talking points to your deck. Know the rhythm of your slides, and modulate your delivery accordingly.

Speak slower when delivering key statistics, with dramatic emphasis when detailing pain points and with representative relief when showing off how your company solves them.

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 or else have obvious answers.

Don’t Get Too Technical #

Again, buyers are not always your power-users. Address decision-makers. 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 dynamics/share, benefits to revenue/churn/other key metrics) to capture the imagination of the people making the decisions.

Be Different #

The way you go about differentiating your product is a key component in a sales presentation, but many sales reps will be over-eager in trying to accomplish this. They often rush out of the gate with a ready-made list of things that make their product the best.

Instead, establish precedents slowly across your presentation — what Company A does and what your company does differently.

There is also no harm in taking the high road. Competitive mentions on calls are common, and they should be handled tactfully. No one likes a bully!

Be Proud #

Being proud of your product in a sales presentation doesn’t have to mean being 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 On Time #

Remember what we said about human attention span? Try to keep your main presentation to about 10 minutes — any longer and you risk losing your audience.

Answer questions throughout, but try to keep them brief. Let your prospect know that you’ll address them more clearly at the end. Once you move through your deck, you may have already answered their questions! If not, open the floor to conversation and use this time to make a bigger impact.

Selling Your Story #

The sales presentation is a perfect vehicle for showing how your story fits into your would-be customer’s story. Your combined stories should be the North Star of your presentation. Your visuals, your ways of structuring data, your way of relating to your prospect — all of it should be sourced from that story.

As with any story, showing (through a well-crafted deck) is the natural ally of telling. Tailoring your style and your 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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