Sales presentations: Nine steps to better outcomes & higher conversions


We’ve all sat through terrible sales presentations. The sales guy who mostly wants to talk about himself. The deck that goes on and on and on. The rep who clearly didn’t do his homework.

These are imminently fixable problems. This isn’t a cure-all for awful sales presentations, but by following these nine best practices I bet you can significantly increase your conversion rates.

1. Confirm objectives & attendees beforehand
Sounds simple, but it’s a step that’s missed all too often. You know why YOU are there, but why did the prospect take the meeting? What are they hoping to get out of it? And who will actually be there? What do they all have in common but (perhaps more importantly) how do they think differently – about the problem in question, the solution you bring, and the focus areas they have given their unique roles in the organization?

2. Research each expected attendee
What have they been talking about lately? What are their primary pressure points? Who do they know that you know? Where do you share common ground? This doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes if you use common tools such as LinkedIn, Nimble and others. But being able to call on your research in the meeting will make you stand out, will be impressive to attendees, and will help move your objectives forward faster.

3. Set an agenda & outcomes at the front of the deck
All too few sales presentations start with an agenda, and stated outcome for the meeting. If you’ve done your homework and the first two steps above correctly, this is mostly a confirmation. But if you’ve guessed, it could be the course-correction you need to make your time together worthwhile. If you get 15-20 minutes into the presentation and THEN find out that you’re nowhere near addressing what the prospect came to hear or cares about, you’ve not only wasted everyone’s time but damaged your ability to get your credibility and momentum back.

4. Start with confirmation of needs/objectives
Once you’ve confirmed the agenda and outcomes of the meeting, move directly into a confirmation or re-statement of the prospect’s primary needs & objectives. What problem needs solving? What objective is at risk without finding a solution? Get the prospect talking, at minimum confirming but even better expanding upon their primary needs.

5. Be prepared with “teachable moments” to engage prospects quickly
This is not time for a lecture, nor is it a good idea to re-state a bunch of facts that the prospect already knows. With the foundation of the prospect’s needs already in place, your next opportunity is to introduce new information, new insights, new ideas to the conversation. Get them engaged, leaning in, taking notes. Find ways to quickly create credibility for yourself as a subject-matter expert, not just a product expert.

6. Show that you’ve done it before
Many sales presentations lean on a crowded slide full of logos. Check ’em out guys, these are companies we work with! But logos are hollow. They don’t actually give prospects confidence that you’ve done anything worthwhile with the companies behind those logos. So tell a couple stories. Make it real. Show the logos, fine, but then spend a little time walking through the objectives those companies had, and the results you generated for them.

7. Use multimedia to break up your talking
A video. Audio of a customer explaining the results they were able to achieve with your help. The more you drone on while flipping through slides, the more likely the prospect will zone out. Studies show that switching media every few minutes in a presentation helps keep viewers or prospects engaged. Use this to your advantage.

8. Make active use of an appendix
too many presentations are built to cover everything a prospect might need to know. But if you’ve done your homework up front, and know the objectives this particular prospect has, you can cut most of those slides or at least put them into an appendix just in case they come up. When’s the last time you gave a presentation where you were allowed to run through the slides, in the order you created them, in perfect progression? Flipping to an appendix if needed is perfectly acceptable, and allows you to make the core deck more succinct, efficient, focused and effective.

9. Be prepared to go off script but keep control of the conversation
Again, when’s the last time you gave a sales presentation and stayed in track? Prospects will ask unexpected questions, take you off-course, and can quickly take you far away from your intended finish line. Deviating from the plan is fine, especially if it keeps the prospect engaged, but only if you keep track of remaining time and keep the conversation, ultimately, focused where you want it to go. Know what the finish line looks like (that which you’ve hopefully confirmed with the prospects up front), and gently move the conversation back on track when needed.