Tuesday, May 03, 2011

 

Eight best practices for PowerPoint sales presentations

Most sales presentations today - whether they're done via Web or in person - involve a set of PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Most of these presentations (and you've probably seen many of them) are pretty awful.

Critics blame PowerPoint. But if the presentation is bad, or boring, or ineffective, it's not the software's fault. Some of the best sales presentations I've seen use PowerPoint, but they do it in a way that enhances and supports the primary message. In these examples, the slides are an aid, not a crutch.

I'm not a designer, so I'm not going to proscribe specific design, layout or font elements. Instead, here are eight content, focus and format recommendations that can significantly improve the quality and impact of your presentations moving forward.

Know your audience
It is impossible to give an effective, successful sales presentation without knowing who you're speaking to. How well do they already understand what you do? How well do they understand the problem they're trying to address? What's their current perspective, opinion or world view?

You need answers to these questions well before you give the presentation, so you can prepare to not only meet them where their mindset is currently, but address the specific points they need to hear to want to move forward.

Customize
It would be great if you could hand a set of slides to your sales team and have them use the same presentation, every time. It would make life easier, be far more efficient, and ensure your reps are speaking from the same playbook. Unfortunately, you already know each sale is going to be different. The perspective of the buyer, their role & need - it will all change how you address them.

So take the insights you gathered from the first point above and ensure that your presentation speaks specifically to those needs. If you talk through the right points but your pre-made, uniform slides tell a different story, you'll end up with a very confused buyer. Confused buyers don't move forward.

Ask questions up front
Before you present, engage. You may know some of the answers you get, which should confirm your pitch is on target. This may serve as a quick level-setting more for the buyer than for you. But asking questions up front tells the buyer that you're interested in what they think, and will likely customize the ensuing content and presentation based on that feedback.

Asking questions early also serves as an effective ice-breaker. It gets the buyer talking early, and encourages them to be a more active participants in the presentation vs. a passive observer.

Tell stories
Start with a case study. Or example of a peer company that's gone through the same process or problem your current buyer is facing. Talk about the outcomes achieved, with your product or service as the implied enabler.

There's a reason why effective speakers start with stories. They're engaging, they're easy to follow, and there's usually a lesson at the end that's easier to share and digest. Sell the story first, and help the buyer visualize herself in the same story after buying your product or service.

Show, don't tell
Even the best presenters get boring if they speak for too long. Great presenters occasionally show a quick video to help make a point, or engage someone in the audience to help transition to a new point.

Just because it's your sales presentation doesn't mean you have to do all the talking. Show a quick customer video. Show the impact your product or service has had on another customer, or (better yet) the customer's customer. Bring your message to life.

Use visuals more than words on the slides
You want the buyer listening to you, not reading your slides. You can leave them with key points from your presentation afterward, but don't put all of those words on the slides. Your presentation deck is not the leave-behind.

Instead, use visuals that reinforce your point. Before and after charts that demonstrate quantifiably the results you can generate. Comparisons between competitive offerings. Pictures of your customer's customer. Let the buyer associate your words with those images, and create their own interpretation of what that would be like for their business, their brand, their bottom line.


Tell them how to buy
This is different than next steps. This is the path to purchase. Especially with complex transactions and those that require multiple decision makers, you may have a buyer that loves what you have but has no idea how to make it happen in their organization. If this is true for your sale, give them a map!

Work with them to determine who needs to sign off, and what messages they need to hear. Help them understand how long it typically takes to buy and get rolling, and what steps are required to get there (including who's doing what). Some of this may be custom for each buyer, but even a single slide that visualizes the duration and key steps to purchase & implementation can have an enormous impact on acceptance and deal momentum.

Explicit, immediate next steps
Don't finish the presentation with a slide featuring only your shiny head shot and contact information. If they like what they see, what's the immediate next thing to do? Getting clarity and their consent to move forward with something this tactical and short-term is a good signal that your presentation was effective and the buyer is willing to keep moving towards a sale.

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