The introduction in a sales presentation is typically too long – and focused almost entirely on the history, size, leadership team, and financial metrics, of the presenter’s company. It’s not about the audience, it’s about me. It can fall into the realm of the narcissistic, and can seem tired and irrelevant.

After the introduction that goes on for too long, a standard sales presentation then looks at features, often in a somewhat haphazard way.

Lots of features, lots of slides, lots of time.

Again, this feature-centric way of presenting information is focused on the product, and not the audience’s needs. This section often goes on for too long.

A typical sales presentation fails to make the structure visible to the audience. It feels like a journey that may never end.

Those sales presentations that do make the structure visible – by using agendas – usually make the mistake of using headings that mean more to the presenter than the audience, or that are so dry that they do absolutely nothing to help sell.

The penultimate slide in a typical sales presentation is called something like ‘benefits’ or ‘summary’, and attempts to describe what’s in it for the audience. The problem? It’s too little too late. Everybody stopped listening already.

This slide might come after 30 or 40 minutes – too late to be enough use. At least it is relevant to the audience.

Then, finally, instead of a closing slide or clear next step, a rather flat ‘Any Questions’ slide, just hanging there to allow sales reps a way out of having to ask for the business.

So, that’s an outline of the typical structure of a sales presentation; too long, too hard to follow, and not built around the audience’s concerns.

Let’s turn this approach on its head with a more effective sales presentation outline:

Suggested sales presentation outline

Introduction: Audience challenges

The introduction ought to build credibility – but the way to do that is by showing that you understand the prospect’s challenges, that actually the standard ways of meeting these challenges don’t work, and that the prospect may need to do things differently. Then, the introduction ought to shape the prospect’s way of seeing things so that when they think about the capabilities they are looking for, their thinking is aligned to your offering.

Agenda: ‘Why change?’ or ‘Why us?’

After looking at the challenges your prospect is (most likely) facing, you need to introduce the benefits of working with your company. The benefit slide ought to move from the end, to be used as an agenda that’s shown as we segue between sections. This benefit slide ought to be written to answer the key question around which the sales presentation revolves – Why Change? or Why Us?

This helps in two ways – first, the advantages or benefits are stated early enough to be noticed, and second, the agenda is now audience-focused, not product focused. Instead of using every advantage of benefit as an agenda with far too many parts, create a clear hierarchy, and divide your presentation into 3-5 sections. Not too many points to remember, few enough to remain persuasive.

If you need to convince your prospects to do things in a different way (Why change) and to do them with you (Why us) there are two approaches. Either use two sets of segue slides – the first looking at why change, and the second looking at why us; or, extend the introduction and look at why change in that section, and then only use a single set of segue slides to answer the question Why Us?

Content: Sorted by sales message

The content that describes features in a typical sales presentation needs to be reworked to be effective. The features and advantages need to be closely linked to the needs and requirements of the audience. That means using each slide to tell the story set out by the key sales messages in your agenda slide – answering the question Why Change? or Why Us? by organising the content into sections to help justify the value proposition.

Make a claim that you help your clients go to market faster? – Then prove it with all the features and statistics that back up this claim, in a tightly-organised section of your presentation.

Close

Finally, the close slide needs to be more powerful. Not ‘Any Questions?’ but a slide summarising the value proposition, and then another slide with a very clear recommendation of what should happen next. In this way, presentations are more likely to help you achieve your objectives.

Overall sales presentation outline

Introduction

  • Challenges companies like your prospect face
  • Why the typical ways of solving these challenges fail
  • Implications and costs of not solving the challenges
  • The right way to overcome the challenges
  • Very quick overview of how your company helps customers solve these challenges

Why your company? Reason 1; Reason 2; Reason 3

Reason 1

  • Why Reason 1 is important
  • Process – how you do things to deliver Reason 1
  • Statistics – showing how you compare for Reason 1
  • Awards or Analyst comments for Reason 1
  • Case studies or quotes about how you deliver Reason 1

Reason 2

  • Why Reason 2 is important
  • Process – how you do things to deliver Reason 2
  • Statistics – showing how you compare for Reason 2
  • Awards or Analyst comments for Reason 2
  • Case studies or quotes about how you deliver Reason 2

Reason 3

  • Why Reason 3 is important
  • Process – how you do things to deliver Reason 3
  • Statistics – showing how you compare for Reason 3
  • Awards or Analyst comments for Reason 3
  • Case studies or quotes about how you deliver Reason 3

Why your company? Reason 1; Reason 2; Reason 3 – Recap

Next steps

For more insights on how to create an effective sales presentation, why not read this article about making sure your presentation is the right length for your audience.

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Written by

Joby Blume

Director

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  1. Image of Lio Lio says:

    Thanks! Very usefull new way of approaching future clients. Refreshing tips.

  2. Image of Clem Clem says:

    Thanks for this smart article!

  3. Image of Mark Mark says:

    Outstanding! I have been making sales presentations for over 10 years, and what has consistently worked for me is a variation of your outline. I will use this to refine things going forward. Thanks a lot!

  4. Image of Angela Angela says:

    This is very helpful for my sales outline presentation. And I think I can deliver my presentation in class this coming Monday. I’m studying business, major in marketing. Thanks for this blog. I hope I can do well ^^,

  5. Image of Jeff Hancock Jeff Hancock says:

    Hi, I’m Jeff. I’m a sophomore at a local J.C. awaiting transfer to S.J.S.U. I have to do a marketing presentation in my Managerial Accounting class on Monday for a a’Survival Key-chain’ manufactured by our 5 student group. The key-chain is made of para chord so it qualifies as a ‘survival’ product. However, I think of it in terms of being a key-chain. Everyone either owns a key-chain or knows many others that do; family, friends, professors, employers, or just people that you interact with on a daily basis. This is a simple product being pitched to relatively simple potential buyers. Our sale price is $2.00. I’ve priced inferior products made from the same materials at Walmart for $4.00. Can you offer some advice on a basic outline with key points that should be covered for presenting this product? I have 5 minutes. Should I use PowerPoint? Will it make my presentation/pitch/role easier? If so, do you have any particular basic PowerPoint models to recommend?Thanks for your advice. Have a good one, Jeff

  6. Image of Joby Blume Joby Blume says:

    Sorry Jeff – I was on holiday when you left this comment.

    The main thing that’s notable in the situation you describe above is of course that the store buyer isn’t the same as the consumer. You aren’t necessarily trying to persuade them that the product is great, only that they should stock it. Arguments might be around meeting an unmet need, the promotional plans you have, etc (not in class, but in real-life). In real life (not a course) one would rarely present a $5 product face-to-face to the consumer.

    For a five minute product presentation to e.g single retail buyer, I might not use PowerPoint – but instead just show the product and use paper or maybe a tablet for more intimate communication.

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