In 33 seconds: Think of your sales presentation as your grand finale pre-purchase marketing tool. All the effort leading up to the sales presentation opportunity has paid off. And although the finish line leading to a signature on the dotted line may appear to be just a few more steps away, this is precisely where a sale will be won, or lost.  

To create a captivating sales presentation that will optimize your chances of winning a new piece of business, follow these best practices:

  1. Know your audience and tailor your content to their interests and needs.
  2. Ask the right questions to understand the prospect’s specific needs and problems.
  3. Focus on the audience, addressing their pain points and offering solutions.
  4. Use presentation tools wisely; limit data-heavy slides and prioritize audience engagement.
  5. Brand your presentation to reinforce credibility and include success stories.
  6. Practice, but don’t overdo it; know your material, not just the words.
  7. Tell compelling stories to engage and connect emotionally with your audience.
  8. Plan for interaction and engagement to build deeper connections.
  9. Control the room by managing disruptions and keeping your audience focused.

Don’t cheat yourself by stopping here.

Keep reading for the good stuff…

9 Best Practices for Sales Presentations

Sales presentations have suffered a bad rap, and rightfully so.

They are expensive and time-consuming to make, and when used as a crutch, as they often are, they can bore viewers to near tears. It’s no wonder why Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have banned PowerPoint presentations.

But we all know that the effectiveness of a sales presentation does not lie in the tool or application used (e.g., PowerPoint or Prezi); it solely lies with the presenter.

Sales presentations exist primarily to convert prospects into customers. As a marketer, your task is to leverage your sales presentations as vital sales tools, effectively integrating them as a part of your overall marketing strategy. By following and incorporating the 9 best practices for captivating sales presentations below, you can significantly increase your company’s conversion rates while communicating your brand’s overarching value proposition.

Here they are:

1. Really know your audience.

Your audience isn’t simply a room of company employees or a room full of similar titles coming to hear you speak at a trade show event. The people in your audience have unique interests, motivations and reasons for watching and listening to your presentation.

Know who they are. If you can, get the names and titles of the people you will be presenting to, and look them up on LinkedIn. No, it’s not stalking — it’s intelligence gathering, and audience members will appreciate and respect that you took the time and interest to do your research. Make sure the content of your presentation speaks to their interests. For example, the CEO, CFO and CTO have different interests, speak different languages and are motivated to buy based on different stimuli.

Also, familiarize yourself with your company’s buyer personas to bullseye your messaging. Doing so ensures your audience feels understood and valued, increasing the likelihood of winning their business.

2. Ask the right people the right questions before organizing your presentation.

This alone will make or break your presentation and whether or not you stand a chance of winning a sale. There are plenty of stories of companies that quickly found out after the agreement was signed and upfront money was paid that the company (salesperson) didn’t truly understand their needs and kinda oversold their company’s capabilities and competencies. This will surely damage a brand and its reputation.

In such cases, some of the people involved in the sales pitch realize that the presenter didn’t seem to ask many questions, or if they did, didn’t go deep enough by asking the right questions, assuming that the presenter somehow already knew and understood the specific needs of the company.

Get to the right people and ask the right questions — questions that your competitors probably wouldn’t ask to understand the problems the prospect wants to solve. They will respect you and appreciate you for it!

3. An effective sales presentation is about your audience and not how great you are.

Ever heard the term “capabilities presentation?” How many people want to sit through one of those where the presenter talks about how great they are?

This is why focusing on the previous step #2 — asking the right people the right questions — is so important. You’ll need to saturate your presentation with content addressing their specific problems and pain points, and explaining how precisely your products and services will improve their lives.

It’s not about you at all. It’s about them. Forget your agenda — they don’t care. Focus on their needs and how you can provide an ideal solution, and you’ll win.

4. Use the right presentation tools wisely and effectively, or not at all.

How many presentations have you been to where the presenter overloaded every PowerPoint (PPT) slide with content, only to read each slide nearly word for word? Worse — presentations that had poor graphics and the slides were so packed with text and graphs that none of it was readable? (You know where I’m going with this.)

It’s true that PPT presentations (or their equivalents) are necessary for many types of purposes and applications — especially in manufacturing. Fair enough. However, a best practice is to limit slides to those where critical and relevant research data must be shared, such as those providing metrics on production, costs, quality control, equipment performance, energy, lead time, inventory, waste, etc.

For information regarding product quality, service delivery, value propositions, brand promises and sharing success stories, you won’t want your audience to be distracted by PPT slides. It will be much more beneficial to have them watching, listening and engaging with you, the presenter.

Lastly, based on the purpose of your presentation, you may not need to use any tools at all other than your expertise, your passion and a dash of charm. Your audience will appreciate it.

5. Brand it!

Branding your sales presentation goes far beyond the proper use and inclusion of your brand’s colors, logos and typography to create a familiar and professional visual experience for your audience.

Use your sales presentation to reinforce your brand value and credibility by including success stories, case studies and testimonials to prove and demonstrate how your brand has helped current and previous customers.

Also, make sure that your slide deck fits within your brand guidelines so that it is consistent with your other marketing materials and tools, including your website, business cards, marketing one-pagers, brochures, other presentations, etc.

6. Practice — but not too much.

Successful presentations are well-rehearsed. Practice your presentation repeatedly, refining your delivery, timing and transitions. Familiarize yourself with every slide and every talking point. This preparation will boost your confidence, ensuring a smooth delivery of your key points and a positive impression on your audience.

However, if you practice too much, you’ll become robotic. And if you miss a step, it may very well throw off the rest of your presentation. Learn the concepts, not the words.

Here’s my secret to ensuring a smooth, enjoyable, friendly and conversational delivery:

I build my own darn presentations.

I write my own content, find my own images and gather my own data. The reason this works so well for me is that in the process, I create my own flow, think of what I need to communicate and anticipate questions my audience may have so I can embed answers into my presentations. This way, when I’m front and center, my ability to recall and overcome obstacles is much easier. If I had my assistant create the presentation for me, I’m presenting someone else’s thoughts and ideas, which is difficult and unnatural.

7. Be interesting — start and end with a compelling story, and add a few in between.

Everyone loves and remembers a good story (as in a success story) — one that has a hero and a villain. Most of us know that good marketing is good storytelling.

People remember stories much more readily than facts or figures. Therefore, telling your story in an engaging way is a very effective sales tool, sure to elicit a desired emotion. Build narratives around your products or services that encapsulate your brand’s purpose, values and mission. Use your story to connect with your audience on an emotional level, making it easier for them to relate to your brand and product, which brings me to…

8. Plan for interaction and engagement.

People don’t like to be talked to — they like to be talked with. Don’t be the lecturer or the preacher. Engage with your audience and ask them questions. Focus on making frequent eye contact.

Ask for volunteers. Let people talk. Get your audience engaged through three-minute breakout sessions.

Encourage discussions.

Engagement not only keeps your audience interested, it also gives you valuable insights into their thoughts and concerns. Two-way conversations lead to deeper connections with your potential customers, greatly improving your chances of making a sale.

9. Control the room.

True, the sales presentation is and should be about your audience — not you.

However, be prepared to have one or two people in the room ask a lot of questions, interrupt you and test your knowledge about your material and how it applies to their company. If you’re well prepared and have done your homework, this will be your time to shine and build your credibility along with their confidence in you as a trusted resource and professional.

If you lose control of the room, the conversation will rapidly turn into an interrogation where you’re under the spotlight and the material you intended and needed to present gets shoved to the side. If this goes on for too long, some of the key people and decision-makers in the room will lose respect for your ability to manage the disruptions and will either get up and leave or call the meeting early. Game over. The end.

The easiest way to control, or regain control, of the room is to pause and let everyone know that you’re glad they are asking their questions and that you will be addressing their topics within the remainder of your sales presentation. And then make sure you do. It works every time.

What now?

As you move forward, remember in the back of your mind that the deck is stacked against you before you even show up. Most people don’t like to sit through presentations — especially sales presentations — because of skepticism, lack of trust and not knowing how to make a decision on what to do next. You can’t expect people to enter the room motivated and eager — they will enter with beliefs and attitudes you’ll need to navigate, and, if done well, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to knock their socks off.

It’s the difference between winning and losing.

If you need some help and guidance with making sure your sales presentation is impactful and unignorable, contact us.