It’s an uncomfortable truth but the vast majority of sales presentations simply aren’t very good at selling. It would seem that as soon as someone is given the unenviable task of crafting a sales presentation, their commercially astute mind turns to mush and they become automatons, determined to bore audiences into submission rather than call upon the most fundamental of sales skills we all possess.
How can you tell if your presentation has fallen into this trap? If you use PowerPoint or Keynote, open up the file and check for one (or more) signs that your sales presentation is likely to have the opposite effect on your audience:
- Kicking off with a slide (or 5) about your business possibly including pictures of your head office, a map of your world locations or a pretty chart demonstrating your strong EBITDA performance.
- A ‘logo soup’ slide, crammed to the gunnels with logos of customers, all sporadically placed on the slide and bearing no relation to each other or your audience.
- A concluding slide with the immortal line 'Any questions’?
The list could go on and on (did I ever tell you the one that featured slide after slide of pictures of the board of directors? No, really) but the reality is that most sales decks commit one or more of these crimes. Bad news for sales teams…but a brilliant opportunity for those willing to break the status quo of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ and turn their presentation into a real asset in helping you close that deal.
It’s all in the preparation
The first step is recognising that the very act of delivering a sales presentation is a huge privilege. Granted, you may not feel particularly privileged as you rise from your bed at 5am to get to the prospects’ offices for an 8.30am pitch, but this moment in front of your audience is likely to be the culmination of a lot of work by either yourself or your marketing team. Long hours prospecting, researching and closing the prospect for a meeting are investments not to be taken lightly – you owe it to yourself as well as your audience to make sure you make the most out of it.
So are you really prepared? What are your realistic objectives? Is closing the deal an option or is it simply too early in the process for this? If so, what should you be aiming for in terms of an outcome? Booking a site visit? Demo? Workshop?
Set yourself clear objectives for the meeting and then equip yourself with a presentation that will help you meet these.
Turning up to a sales meeting armed with nothing more than a generic presentation dramatically increases the chance of you delivering a bland, non-specific set of messages to an increasingly disengaged audience.
The Audience Rules, OK?
There’s a famous saying in the world of presentations:
'Creating a presentation without the audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it to ‘whom it may concern’.
We can all smile sagely at the sentiment of the quote but the reality is that most sales presentations fall headlong into this trap. Too often the curse of the generic sales presentation rears its ugly head and sales people sleep walk their way into their next pitch. Little or no thought is given to the specific needs of their audience other than perhaps a cursory consideration of job titles. It’s so easy to get seduced by job titles and leap to false assumptions – you know the type of thing, a finance audience is only interested in numbers while marketing groups only want high level graphics. The reality is audiences are way more complex than this and require more in-depth consideration* - so take the time to look beyond the obvious and examine why they are giving up their precious time to listen to you...and then build your presentation accordingly.
* We’ve created a process called Audience Heatmapping to help the analysis of audiences and build content to meet their specific needs - more on this in a future article.
Pop the question
At Eyeful Presentations we carry out hundreds of ‘presentation healthchecks’ every year, many of which are sent to us by sales leaders perplexed that their carefully crafted presentation is simply not delivering the goods. The healthcheck process covers a wide range of areas but one of the first things we look out for is a strong call to action…and most sales presentations simply don’t have one. This is perplexing but can be explained away very simply – people are afraid to ask for the next stage of commitment. Instead they lose their nerve and effectively wimp out with an ‘Any Questions’ slide.
Our advice? If you get the messaging and structure of the presentation right in the first place, the close or call to action shouldn’t come as a surprise. If anything, it should lead the audience to WANT to act at this stage.
Being wary of popping the question at the end of the presentation should be a huge warning sign to all involved – you story simply isn’t strong enough to support the close.
If this is the case, go back to basics. What’s your key message, how does this play with your specific audience and how does your structure support the process?
So there you have it. After over a decade of helping sales teams, we can pretty much boil the presentation failings into three areas:
- Lack of preparation
- Disregard for the things that really make your audience tick
- Simply not asking the question that brought you there in the first place.
Learn more about the ideas and insights shared in this article - visit our web pages dedicated to maximising the impact of your next pitch.
By Simon Morton, Managing Director of Eyeful Presentations Ltd & Author of 'The Presentation Lab'. Eyeful Presentations help businesses get the best possible results from their presentation opportunities.