February 10, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

You’ve streamlined your sales process, and you’ve put in the hard work of prospecting, initial phone calls, nurturing through email, defining your stakeholders, and setting up a meeting with your prospect. But now the challenge really begins.

In-person sales presentations can be a wonderful way to connect with your customers and collaboratively define solutions -- or they can be a hurried mess of jargon with a franken-deck of slides you’ve mashed together over the last 10 presentations. Take a look at these top strategies to strengthen your sales presentations and win more business.

Discover simple steps for successful sales presentations:

1. Set the tone with a positive statement.

Everyone is busy, and your prospects are no different. If you walk into a meeting with the typical sales introductions, you may be met with an overly rushed, short, or even bored executive. So turn the typical meeting protocol on its head and start with a positive statement completely unrelated to business.

It doesn’t have to be complicated (or even particularly creative). You can say something as simple as, “This is a nice building," or “That’s a great chair.” The point is to set the tone of the meeting and start off with a positive. Most meetings continue the way they started, and you want your prospect to feel like they are engaging with a human.

2. Ask questions first.

Once you’ve set the tone for the meeting it’s time to jump into your pitch -- right? Wrong. This is your opportunity to tailor your presentation based on your prospect’s needs. You have hopefully already discussed some pain points during your discovery call, and have a good idea of the challenges that your prospect is facing. So take some time to dive in and go over what you’ve learned. Ask any questions you didn’t have time for in the previous conversation, or that have come up since you last spoke. 

Some examples of good questions include:

  • What’s changed since we last spoke? How are things going?

  • Is anyone new involved in the process?

  • How is the planning for the event going?

  • What is your main goal for today’s meeting?

  • What are some obstacles you’re facing right now with your planning?

3. Use information from discovery to tailor your presentation.

Speaking of the discovery phase, don’t forget to use the information you learned from those initial phone calls. During your first in-person meeting, make sure that you’ve added relevant information from discovery to your slide deck, demo, and presentation. This could be in the form of a slide summarizing pain points they have identified, one showing the results you expect to bring them, and maybe some pictures from past events that are similar to theirs. The more you can tailor the meeting to their challenges and needs, the more they will connect with your message.

4. Plan for a curve in attention span.

People naturally pay more attention to the beginning and the end of meetings. In the beginning, prospects are focused on you and ready to hear what you have to say. Their attention may drift towards the middle of the meeting, but they will refocus towards the end so that they don’t miss key pieces of information. By planning for this, you can get ahead of the curve.

Start your sales presentation with the most important information you want to convey. After short introductions and a few clarifying questions about their goals for the meeting, jump in with your best content. That way you know you’ve conveyed key details at a time of increased attention and can save less important content for the middle when it’s a bit more likely to wash over the prospect.

By starting with their biggest challenge or pain point and painting a clear picture of their struggles, you’ll have them hooked and ready to listen to your proposed solutions.

Use sales presentations to grow your business

5. Frame problems and objections as stories.

Everyone in the room makes sure to listen when they hear the words, “let me tell you a story.” Humans love stories, and we know what to expect from them. They have a beginning to set the scene, a conflict, and a (hopefully happy) ending. By framing prospect struggles, pain points, and objections as stories, you tap into the emotional side of your prospects, a much more powerful motivator than their analytical side.

Turn each pain point (or a combination of a few) into a story by talking about a previous customer with a similar struggle. Show how you helped them overcome that challenge, and you’ll have everyone in the room ready to hear more.

6. Only present solutions to their challenges.

As salespeople, we often want to show every possible way that our product or service can help our prospects. But this can leave prospects feeling overwhelmed, or feeling like your solution won’t focus enough on their particular challenges. Fight the urge to present everything, and instead only talk about the features, benefits, or parts of the solution that directly apply to challenges they have identified. You can always talk about other features later if they identify additional objections or challenges, and you’ll have more time for clarifying questions and in-depth discussion.

7. Replace text with visuals.

Most people can’t read and listen at the same time -- they have to shift their attention back and forth. If you have too much text on your slides, your prospects will be ignoring you to read it, and you’ll lose all the momentum and positive energy you’ve gained. One possible solution is to not use a deck and instead rely on conversation to get your points across. But you may need some visuals to illustrate certain points. If you decide to use a slide deck, make sure it’s highly visual, with graphics conveying the main points. Leave most of the words out and provide them conversationally during your pitch, so that they come up naturally and points can be clarified or adjusted on the fly.

8. Start a strong back-and-forth conversation.

A strong presentation should be like a tennis match. If you’re doing most of the talking with only short pauses, you’re missing out on chances for feedback, questions, and exclamations about how great your solution is. Top sales reps have shorter bursts of speech that allow others to jump into the conversation more often and leave room for back and forth. In fact, a survey by Gong.io found that successful reps don’t talk for longer than 76 seconds at a time. So if it feels like you’ve been talking about your A/V system and the stage setup for roughly a minute, take a strategic pause and let your prospect jump in.

9. Use feedback loops to keep prospects engaged.

So you’ve established a good back and forth, and you’re having a nice conversation with your prospect. But how can you tell if they’re really on the path to buying, or just being nice? How do you know if they understand everything you’re outlining, and which parts are most important to them? By building feedback loops into your conversation, you’ll have a much better feel for how things are actually going.

Feedback loops are short breaks in the conversation with a simple phrase inserted to check the temperature. Common feedback phrases include:

  • Does that make sense?

  • Am I on the right track?

  • Is that true for you?

  • How am I doing?

  • With me so far?

You may not always get positive responses, but even negative responses give you the information you need to adjust and get to a good ending.

10. End with a strong statement of value.

Too many presentations go really well, and then end with, “OK, that’s all I’ve got. Any questions?” Or worse, “OK it’s over, are you still awake?”

The end of your presentation is your last chance to drive home the value that you can bring to the customer, and how you can solve their problems. This is no time to be modest, or awkwardly insert cheesy jokes. Instead, reiterate all the value you’ve established throughout the presentation with a strong closing statement. This is the time to be confident, clear and persuasive. Try saying something like, “I’m confident we can solve X challenge with Y solution. Let’s talk about next steps.”

11. Establish clear and scheduled next steps.

After your strong finish, the last task is making sure that your prospects don’t go silent or disappear. Instead of a vague idea about “connecting next week,” make sure to establish clear and defined next steps. The best way to make this happen is to pull out your calendar and send an invite for a time everyone agrees on. They can always update or change the invitation, but this way you have a tentative meeting and don’t need to go through the extra step of scheduling. 

With these tips, you’ll wow your customers with an effective and persuasive sales presentation.

Ready to move on beyond your sales presentation? Take a look at these proven strategies for closing the sale.
 

Grow (and own) your business

Laura Fredericks author headshot

Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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