10 Ways to Deliver a Killer Sales Presentation
Love them or hate them, presentations are key to closing deals. But with the nature of sales evolving from cold calls to lead generation and Zoom meetings, so too must your approach. Feeling overwhelmed? We’ll let you in on a secret: Sales is — and always will be — about connecting people and their needs to your product and the solutions it provides. How you get there is up to you. That said, we compiled a list of helpful pointers to make your good sales presentation a great one.
1. Begin with the Basics
Before earning that coveted presentation slot, introductions have to be made. A proper discovery or needs analysis can determine if a salesperson and prospect are aligned in their goals. This is where qualification questions come into play: What do you use today? How often and when? What is your budget? The problem, says Kevin Baumgart, founder of Set Sales (setsales.co), Milwaukee, is that no one understands when they’re being qualified and, frankly, they don’t enjoy it.
“It has to be light and pretty to the point and quick,” he stresses. “We can’t ask 10 close-ended ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions back-to-back, or you’re going to lose the prospect. But there have to be some qualifications; otherwise, it doesn’t make sense for us to be on the call together, right?”
2. Uncover the Why
From there, a salesperson can transition to deeper discovery. Think of this step as a chance to uncover your prospect’s biggest frustrations and pain points. Again, questions are the answer — impact questions to be more specific. “Most sellers are good at asking qualifying questions as they need to in order to quote their solution,” Baumgart says. “Getting good at asking open-ended impact questions around the pain and the impact of pain is key to be successful in most sales roles.”
For Baumgart, the SPICED discovery model has worked well:
- S: What is the overall SITUATION they are in?
- P: What PAIN are they feeling?
- I: What is the IMPACT of that pain?
- CE: Why are they looking at this now, or what was the CRITICAL EVENT that led them here?
- D: What is the DECISION-MAKING process for this product or service?
Asking thoughtful questions creates a conversational and inviting atmosphere, Baumgart adds. “[Some examples include:] ‘Why are we having this discussion right now, or why did you take this call?’ And then, ‘Walk me through that decision-making process moving forward.’ ‘The last time you partnered with a print/promo company, what did that look like? Who was involved in that? Who would feel left out if they weren’t involved?’” he says. “If we go right into ‘telling and selling’ mode on the onset of the call, the likelihood of the prospect tuning out goes way up.”
Social media (LinkedIn specifically) is an extra way to pull data points, and find interests and common ground, including mutual connections.
3. Be an Expert, but Know Your Limits
To borrow an old saying, “When you try to be everything to everyone, you become nothing to anyone.” Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, president and CEO of Cliff Quicksell Associates – Consulting & Speaking, Walkersville, Maryland, believes in marketing vertically. For distributors, the benefits are twofold: They become credible experts to their targeted audience, and any research is more of an upfront investment (that pays off handsomely) with only occasional refreshers needed.
“I used to work for a masonry company, so I had a little bit of a background in that, but it really interested me,” recalls Quicksell, who previously specialized in five core verticals. “I learned as much as I could about the industry, so that when I would talk to a drywall guy for a construction supply house or a contractor, I had a pretty good working knowledge of how they all dovetailed into one another, so that I could have a germane conversation. It’s not my customer’s job to educate me about their industry. It’s my job to do as much as I can to understand.”
This idea ties back to the theme of problem-solving through questions. According to Quicksell, a strong lead may look like this: “In doing my research, I found that in the hospitality industry, these are the top three challenges that most restaurateurs are facing. Do you find that to be the case in your operation?” Whereas, if you start with “I have pens and apparel and coffee mugs, I’d love to be able to work with you,” and you’re met with “Oh, we already have somebody that does that,” the conversation ends there.
“[Salespeople] wonder, ‘Why in the world am I not being more successful?’” Quicksell says. “It’s because you’re asking lame stuff. … That might be the biggest problem. No one wants to do the research. No one.”
4. Put Prospects at Ease
Building rapport takes more than a handshake — especially in a virtual setting. Simply having an interesting Zoom background can be a conversation starter. Baumgart also finds THNKS, a relationship-building platform, to be a useful tool for setting a friendly tone for the discover call. By sending prospects a virtual cup of coffee, he’s doing a kind act and confirming they show up to the meeting.
“It’s easier to brush off a salesperson in a virtual setting than it is if someone is walking into your office to meet you face to face, right?” he poses. “… So, I’ll often say this, ‘I’ll make sure that you’re caffeinated for the call. I’m going to send you a virtual cup of coffee. You’ll see an email come through for THNKS, so looking forward to talking to you at 9 a.m. tomorrow.’”
5. Set Clear Expectations
You’ve done your homework, asked the right questions and it’s all led up to this moment: the sales presentation. But does your prospect know what you hope to accomplish, and do you know what their expectations are for the meeting? Baumgart prefers to create and share defined goals with prospects in advance.
“I’ve started to create preparedness emails that focus more on the agenda, the pre-work I’ve completed and what we’re hoping to accomplish on the call,” he says. “I always reiterate the agenda to open the call and ensure the prospect is on the same page as I am.”
He offers the TUIT model as a helpful guide for setting solid agendas:
- T: Thanks for the time.
- U: You will have some questions.
- I: I’d like to start, though, by getting a better idea of your situation and ask some questions.
- T: Typically at the end of the call today we can decide if it makes sense to move forward, and if it’s not a fit, that’s OK as well.
6. Keep It Simple
Let’s get to the point: The average consumer attention span is roughly five seconds long, so you need to intrigue, hook and capture listeners fast. While there is no magic number, Baumgart sees sellers asking for no more than 30 minutes for an initial discussion. He says once they earn a prospect’s trust, more time is often granted.
“Being concise is a sales skill that most sales leaders look for in the hiring process,” Baumgart says. “If this person pontificates and is long-winded in an interview, the likelihood of them doing the same during a sales presentation is high.”
Quicksell says the work performed during the discovery phase can influence presentation length. “It might just be a good idea to ask the question, ‘How much time do we have to do this presentation?’ he suggests. “‘Oh, we scheduled it for 15 minutes.’ OK, that tells me exactly what I need to do. I need to talk about the higher points first and then if there are any other questions, that might go into another presentation down the road.”
7. Appeal to Different Learning Styles
Understanding and comprehension increase when visual assets accompany a verbal overview. One pitfall to avoid, Baumgart says, is “feature dumping and heavy slide decks.”
“The overview of your solution should focus on what was uncovered in discovery and align to how you can add value specifically to them,” he notes. “This should be tailored and seem like all of the content was created for them specifically. I typically see slides and visuals used for both a business capabilities overview, as well as a solution overview or proposal.”
Quicksell’s general rule is no more than six minutes per slide. “While doing a presentation, I spent around nine minutes on one particular slide and the engagement level went from an average of 94% to 35%,” he admits. “Shocker!”
8. Tell a Story
The most successful sales presentations are stories. This technique humanizes your company. Quicksell has many relatable tales to share, but one from an industry peer stands out. A major bank in the U.S., one of his largest customers, wanted to order a particular power bank that wasn’t UL certified. Quicksell’s friend declined, maintaining that his charge was to protect their brand, though he reluctantly agreed to kit them after his contact ordered through another company.
“He got the box and when it came into his warehouse, it exploded,” Quicksell says. “It caught fire. There’s a thing called thermal runoff, and that’s why legally you can’t airship more than three power banks at a time together in a box. It has to be labeled ‘Hazardous Material’ and all this other stuff. But, he took it on and so now he has a relatable story when someone says to him, ‘Hey, I want to do this particular power bank.’ ‘No, I can’t do that and let me tell you why.’
“The order for the power banks was in the tens of thousands of dollars that he was willing to walk away from because he knew it wasn’t the right thing,” Quicksell continues. “So now, if I’m the client, I’m looking at this salesperson from a whole different angle that they’re really out there to protect the brand. Do what they say they’re going to do — they’re not just looking for a sale. ... I think it makes [clients] think.”
9. Practice Empathy
In order, Quicksell prefers in-person presentations, virtual and phone. And there’s a reason for that. With live presentations, facial and body language show how an audience is absorbing your information. Being able to read the room allows for empathy or a high level of emotional intelligence. On a Zoom call, the presenter can see prospects look down or at other screens. Check in and ask: Are you still with me? Is this resonating? Do you need to take a minute? Your time is valuable, too.
Given the current economic situation all industries are facing, it’s even more important to be attuned to prospects’ needs. Find out if your proposed solution has a personal connection to them beyond their business problem.
“Ultimately, if you don’t cover things like ‘this could help me get my bonus,’ or ‘this could help me keep my job,’ — those are golden nuggets that you’re then going to get that person to really be your champion if you can show them that you can help be a valuable provider,” Baumgart says.
10. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
You gave it your best effort, but now it’s time to turn the questioning inward: Was it enough? In Baumgart’s opinion, many salespeople think their pitch and how they represented their company judge the effectiveness of the meeting when, in fact, the real value in that conversation is understanding buyers’ decision-making processes, the situations they’re in and how you can help.
To gauge their interest level in continuing talks, try scheduling a follow-up conversation.
“If they hesitate or say ‘no,’ the likelihood of us getting them back on the line and moving this forward is pretty low,” Baumgart concludes. “So, even if they say, ‘I need to talk to this person and my boss and get feedback and share what you reviewed with them, I will always push to say, ‘All right, I’ll let you do that. I’m going to put time on the calendar to just ensure that we’ve got time set. ... I’ll check in and follow up on Wednesday and ensure that you’ve had those conversations to make sure that we’re still good to go for Thursday.’”