When you’re standing in front of a potential customer, having an effective sales presentation behind you can give you confidence and help you lock in the opportunity. But designing a killer sales deck requires more than good formatting. Don’t get me wrong: a gorgeous color palette, stunning photography and striking font pairings can grab your audience’s attention and evoke emotion. But if you layer it all on top of a flawed structure… it’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.
In this post, we will examine the elements and structure of an effective sales presentation.
A Frictionless Journey
A well-structured sales presentation takes your audience on a journey — from where they are now, to where you want them to go. It will grab their attention from the first moment, and keep them enraptured the whole way through. And because you’ve taken the time to get into your prospects’ heads, you’ve managed to anticipate and resolve any concerns likely to arise along the way. In the end, you’ll leave them excited about your solution and the prospect of working with you, and eager to take the next steps. It starts with a little preparation.
Before you even consider firing up PowerPoint, there is some important thinking you need to do. If you want to take your audience on a journey, there are a few basic elements to nail down:
- Your starting point. This may be the most important step in designing a compelling presentation. Take the time to understand as much as you can about your audience. What motivates them? What are their aspirations? What are their challenges? What are their concerns likely to be?
- Your end point. Be very clear on your objective for your presentation. What action do you want your audience to take as a result of seeing your presentation? Don’t throw the kitchen sink of products or services at them. Craft the best possible offering for them and build out a sales presentation that leads them to the inescapable conclusion that this offering is right for them.
The Beginning, the Middle and the End
It’s as true today as it was in elementary school: every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Your presentation is no exception.
- In the beginning, you set the stage and present the problem, or unmet opportunity, that your prospect faces. This is the conflict stage.
- In the middle of your story, you’re creating tension. You’ll present and disqualify potential solutions that don’t make the cut.
- In the end, you’ll introduce your solution. This is where you resolve conflicts and dispel the tension you’ve created.
Set the Stage
In the beginning, you aren’t going to talk about your offering. At all. Lobbing product features and benefits at an audience before they’ve been primed to receive them might be the single biggest mistake you could make in a sales presentation.
Instead, start by describing the situation your prospect is facing.
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Present the Problem or Opportunity
Focus on your prospects’ problem or unmet opportunity. There are two possibilities here: Either they are content with the status quo, or they are aware that their current situation is lacking. In the first case, you need to make them aware of the problem so that they’re prepared to take action. And even if they are already aware that their situation isn’t optimal, your framing the problem will position you as an expert and show them that you understand where they’re at.
Present the problem at a high level at first, before delving into the details of the situation. An approach that works well is to start with a single, attention-grabbing statistic that summarizes the magnitude of the problem they’re facing or the opportunity they’re missing out one.
Present & Dismiss Potential Solutions
With this section, we move into the middle of the sales presentation and focus on creating tension. We’ll do that by successively presenting potential solutions to your prospect’s problem. One solution at a time, we’ll introduce its legitimate benefits, but then quickly follow suit with its pitfalls.
The effect will be to create a bit of an emotional roller coaster. A repeated cycle of hopefulness, followed by disappointment, as the potential solution crumbles. We aren’t being mean here. This little dance is priming our audience for our solution, which will leave them feeling elated.
Introduce the Solution
At long last, here is where you’ll introduce your solution. That doesn’t mean you’ll lose your focus on your audience, though. No. Even as you present your solution, you’ll be doing it from the perspective of your audience, highlighting the benefits they’ll enjoy from adopting it.
In the process, show them how your solutions sidestep the pitfalls of the other potential solutions.
Anticipate & Address Objections
It would be nice to think that by now you have your audience fearlessly eating out of the palm of your hand. Realistically, even while you’re making a case for your solution, your audience will be fretting about the risks and costs of adopting it. It’s your job to anticipate any objections that are likely to arise, and to dispel them long before they’re presented….before they even take up too much space in your prospect’s mind.
Enhance Trust & Credibility
Even after you have your prospects intrigued by your solution, they may still need a little more reassurance before taking the plunge. Include a few key credibility boosters to put your prospects at ease and make them feel like they will be in good hands. Have you been in business a long time? Consider including a timeline. Do you have an impressive client list? Share it! Are those clients really impressed with your offering? Including some glowing testimonials in your sales presentation.
Now that you’ve presented your solution and established your credibility, it’s time to explain to your audience what the next steps will be. That means a call to action. You may also want to present the implementation process, key milestones, and a timeline.
The New Bliss
A to-do list isn’t the most uplifting and memorable way to end your presentation. Instead, close with a dose of inspiration. Introduce your audience to what Nancy Duarte calls “the new bliss” – that is, describe the rewards your audience can expect to receive from embracing your solution.
Over To You
Have you got a preferred structure for your sales presentations? I’d love to hear which one has helped you knock it out of the park. Or give my flow a try, and let me know in the comments how it’s worked out for you!
Carole Alalouf is the President and founder of Exaltus, and primary contributor to the Exaltus blog. In her Content Marketing role, she focuses on turning her clients’ complex information into a compelling story. Carole particularly enjoys visual storytelling in the form of presentations, whiteboard videos, websites, and infographics. Sign up to her email list and get powerful marketing tips in your inbox, 2-3 times per month.