11 tips to give an effective sales presentation that closes deals
What makes a truly effective sales presentation?
It may seem like a simple question, but understanding the answer unlocks a world of opportunities for sales reps.
If your sales presentations are truly effective, they should accomplish these 4 things:
- Give prospects confidence in your brand
- Develop a deeper relationship and mutual understanding of needs and priorities
- Convince prospects of the value of your product
- Give clear direction for the next conversation
How many of your recent sales meetings have fallen short of these results?
A study by Forrester of over 300 C-level buyers found that many reps are lacking key information for a successful sales meeting:
Put simply, most sales reps go into meetings:
- Unprepared for questions
- Without knowledge of the business or industry they’re selling to
- Without understanding the prospect’s situation and problems
- Without relevant social proof
Want to avoid falling into the trap of giving generic, ineffective sales presentations?
While preparing for and holding a successful sales presentation isn’t an exact science, the following best practices will help you get better results.
Let’s dive into the top methods sales pros are using to nail their presentations and giving a killer sales pitch.
How to prepare a sales presentation for a product or service
Think you can get away with giving a sales presentation on the fly? Think again.
Preparation is a key aspect of giving effective sales presentations. Here are 5 ways you can prepare for success:
1. Set a clear agenda
Your sales presentation is built as a guide to the conversation and gives you a structure to work with through the meeting. But the prospect doesn’t know how your presentation is structured.
Tell me if this conversation sounds familiar:
Prospect: “This is really interesting, but how does your product solve XYZ?”
You: “Actually, we’ll talk about that in a few slides. Anyway, as I was saying…”
These kinds of interruptions are common, and the popular response of “We’ll get to that” doesn’t normally go over very well with prospects.
Here’s how to avoid this: Set a clear agenda for the conversation, and share that with your prospects.
This can mean sharing an outline of the presentation topics you’ve prepared, or it could mean sharing the whole sales presentation with your prospect.
That way, your prospect can take a look at the information before your meeting, see where you’ll cover certain information, and save their questions for the right moment.
2. Adapt your script and presentation to the prospect
Above, we saw that 77% of reps come into a meeting without a clear understanding of the issues that their prospect is facing, or areas where they can help.
There are two clear ways to fix this problem:
First, do your homework. The more you know about your prospect’s business and current situation, the better. Also, try to understand their industry, read up on current news in the sector, and get a feel for the particular pain points this person is feeling most.
Second, base your presentation and accompanying sales script on your ideal customer profile. If your sales team has multiple ideal customer profiles to sell to, discover which profile this prospect fits into and base your arguments, questions, and main points on the specific needs of this profile.
3. Pick three main points to highlight for this prospect
No matter how many crazy statistics and fun benefits you throw at your prospect, they’re still only human.
In other words, they’ll probably forget at least half of what you say.
To create effective sales presentations that your prospects will remember, focus on three main points that you want to highlight.
This isn’t a number we just pulled from a hat. It’s actually based on an experiment done by Kurt A. Carlson and Suzanne B. Shu. Their study found that, when your audience knows you’re trying to persuade them, the best number of positive claims you can make is 3. After 4 claims, your audience will start to become more and more skeptical of anything you tell them.
The title of their paper is a catchy phrase to help you remember this principle: Three Charms but Four Alarms.
So, got through your slides and pick 3 main points that you want your prospect to remember. Once again, base these on the real needs of the prospect for better results.
During your presentation, make sure your prospects really take in these points by asking for attention as you introduce the idea.
Phrases like these draw attention at the right moments:
- Here’s the point…
- This is crucial…
- But this is what matters…
- But it gets even better...
- This next point is really important...
- This is what XYZ could mean for you, Jack…
Check out my video where I talked in more depth about captivating and directing your prospects' attention during a sales conversation.
4. Present with visuals that show instead of telling
A sales deck can have several different purposes. For example, if your sales deck is going to be read and discussed among stakeholders at your prospect’s company, it will need to include text that explains the visuals presented.
However, if you’re giving a sales presentation with that deck, it doesn’t need all that text.
To prepare a sales presentation for a product or service, make sure you include mainly visuals that complement what you’re going to say.
Think of your slides as the visual aids that give more meaning and context to your words. These visuals can help you:
- Simplify complex processes
- Give a clearer understanding of data
- Add credence to your words
- Keep your audience engaged
- Help your audience remember your main points (this one is backed by science)
In short, for an effective sales presentation, keep your script and your slides separate. Use your words to add meaning to the visuals, and use your visuals to maximize the power of your words.
5. Use storytelling to show them how well you understand their pains
Using a narrative in your presentation shows that you’re empathetic to the problems your prospects are facing and know how to solve them.
So, what’s the narrative for your product?
Generally, the story you tell with your presentation will follow this pattern:
- There is a problem caused by a shift in the market, a change in the company’s circumstances, or the world situation
- That problem is solved, the business is saved, and your product is the hero
A compelling narrative that captures the feelings and frustrations of your prospects shows them you get them, you’re on the same page, and you’re here to help.
Maybe this is the story of how your product was born, to solve a problem internally at your own company. Maybe it’s the story of one of your successful customers. Or maybe it’s just a narrative that they can relate to.
In any case, the use of stories instead of facts makes your presentation more memorable. According to one study, people only retain about 5-10% of the information they hear as statistics. But they’ll remember 65-70% of the information they hear as stories.
Take advantage of that fact by turning your data into a narrative.
Once you’ve prepared your sales deck and accompanying script, you’re ready to nail your next sales presentation.
Or are you?
Here’s how to nail your next sales presentation
Ready for the big day? Here are 6 more tips you can use to give a truly effective sales presentation:
6. Open with your biggest selling point instead of saving it to the end
Many sales reps like to save their product’s biggest selling point for the very end of their presentation, as if they’re coming to some grand crescendo.
But your prospect didn’t come to this meeting hoping to see the Philharmonic Orchestra play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. So don’t play this like another day at the opera.
Instead, open with your big selling points. Dazzle your prospects from the get-go, and you’ll have them hooked to the end.
7. Ask open-ended questions
To gain an understanding of your prospect and to keep them engaged with your presentation, questions are essential.
But wait, if you’re giving a sales presentation, aren’t you the one that’s supposed to be doing the talking?
True. But, how do you know if your prospect is paying attention? How can you highlight the right moments in your presentation without know what interests them?
To engage your prospect and draw their attention to key parts of your presentation, ask questions like:
- Can you walk me through how your team handles [problem]?
- Have you found any clever workarounds for when [issue] happens?
- What would your ideal solution to this problem look like?
- How would you expect a solution to this problem to affect your team?
It’s true, you’ve probably asked a lot of similar questions during the qualifying stage. But using these questions, you can help lead the conversation and keep your prospect engaged in what you’re telling them.
Open-ended questions can also help you with the next tip:
8. Build context around your biggest value points and differentiators
The same questions we used above can help you add context to what you’re saying.
Don’t just tell the prospect: “Our product helps you solve X problem.”
Add meaning to that value point by asking questions:
- How often do you face X problem?
- How much time/money do you lose when this happens?
- How does X problem affect the morale/productivity of your team?
When you have the numbers clear, reiterate the problem: “So you lose $X every week because of this problem. That’s over $X per year that’s going down the drain until you solve this issue.”
Then, bring in your value point: “With our product, you could save $X every year by eliminating this problem for your team.”
This same method works for highlighting your key differentiators.
Instead of telling prospects that your product is the best because it’s the only one that does X, lead prospects to the features and benefits that set your product apart with open-ended questions.
This creates value and context around a problem that only your product can solve.
9. Make social proof more engaging by mirroring the prospect’s situation
This data blew my mind, and will probably blow your mind too:
According to studies done by our friends at Gong, sellers who use social proof in their sales calls have a 22% lower close rate.
Have you noticed a similar pattern with social proof in your sales presentations?
We all know that social proof is a powerful tool in the hand of sales reps and marketers. But it must be used correctly to work.
Otherwise, you could actually hurt your chances of closing.
So, what’s the correct way to use social proof in your presentations?
Favor customers that are part of this prospect’s tribe.
For example, imagine you’re selling to an SMB, and you tell them that Facebook is your customer. They’ll be impressed, sure: But they’ll also start to wonder if your product is really right for their small business.
Instead, when selling to SMBs, talk about your other SMB customers. Use examples of happy customers who are in the same field or industry. Or, find customer stories who mirror this prospect with similar pain points.
With tribal social proof, you’ll gain the respect of prospects and show them you get them.
10. Never talk price before value
Chances are, you’re talking price somewhere in this sales presentation. At this stage in the sales pipeline, it’s normal that your prospect is ready to hear how much your solution will cost.
But this isn’t the way to open the conversation.
Sometimes you get into a room (whether in-person or virtual) with your main point of contact and important stakeholders, and the first thing they want to know is, “How much will this cost us?”
One of the golden rules of sales is this: Never talk price before value.
If you give in to the pressure and start off talking about the price range of your solution, you’re getting your audience to view your product as a commodity, not as a valuable solution to their problems.
When stakeholders push you for a number, don’t be afraid to push back. If they’re insistent, turn the question back around to them:
“Before we talk about the price, let me ask you: How much will it cost your company if you don’t get these issues solved by next quarter?”
By focusing on the real monetary value that your product provides, you’ll help position your product as a premium solution, not a wholesale band-aid.
11. Spend less than 10 minutes presenting
Did you know that every presenter at Apple’s product launches speaks for just 10 minutes or less?
This is because science tells us that the brain gets bored easily, but you can reengage your audience by introducing a change every 10 minutes.
Take this principle and apply it to your sales presentations: If you’re presenting longer than 10 minutes, the prospect’s interest will steadily decrease.
Our friends at Gong found that there’s a sweet spot for winning sales presentations: 9.1 minutes.
So stick to this rule of thumb: Keep your presentations under 10 minutes.
Ready to give a truly effective sales presentation?
You’ve got all the pro tips you need to nail your next presentation.
In the end, you want your presentation to show prospects that you understand their feelings and needs. Show you get them by adding a compelling narrative and including customer stories that mirror their own situation.
An effective presentation must also be engaging, which is why picking 3 main points to highlight and adding context with open-ended questions are both essential methods.
With the tips above, you’ll be even better prepared to give a winning sales presentation.
Looking to get a headstart on creating a deck that sells? Download Pitch: High Performing Sales Deck Templates to get 6 customizable templates built for success.