Sales presentations are not sales pitches. A sales pitch is an old-fashioned way to engage a prospect and close the deal all in one sitting. A sales presentation, by contrast, is a tool used towards the middle and end of a sales cycle to widen support for a proposed solution. Sales pitches are, well..., salesy. Sales presentations are all business.
There's lots of information, in this blog and elsewhere, describing how to give good presentations. However, I believe that, above and beyond those techniques, there are five rules that you MUST follow if you want your sales presentation to be truly persuasive. They are as follows:
- RULE #1: Set clear communications objectives prior to speaking. Your objectives are the action(s) you want your prospects to take. Without a clear idea of these goals, you cannot effectively communicate. Determine the concerns of your target audience and ask yourself what action you'd like them to be taking as a result of hearing you. Every slide and every sentence should be crafted to serve those goals.
- RULE #2. Build the presentation around THEIR agenda. As you build your presentation slides, avoid the "outline" style agenda slide that executives typically use in their own presentations. Instead, in your first slide, address THEIR agenda by showing how the presentation is going to address their concerns and needs. Note that this rule intersects perfectly with Rule #1, because this is a SALES presentation, not an academic lecture or internal business presentation.
- RULE #3. Invert your arguments so that conclusions come first. Assemble your presentation in the following order: 1) Conclusion, 2) Facts, 3) Substantiating Data, 4) Overall premise. Note that this is the exact opposite way you'd normally build an internal business presentation. By setting the context up front, you avoid ratholes and digressive questions, and the progression of facts and data continually buttress the conclusion.
- RULE #4. At the beginning of the presentation, establish "group rapport." Start with a powerful opening, either challenging or amusing. Relate a common experience and establish a communication "connection." If you avoid trite leadins like "thank you for having me here" the audience is more likely to remember your message. This particularly necessary for SALES presentations, because they require the audience to take a specific action.
- RULE #5. Use memorable language. Pepper your presentation with meaningful "sound-bites" that deliver your primary positions on the issues in a positive and memorable manner. Example: "You can get to a real human being faster than most companies can get you through to voice mail" (memorable) rather than "we have excellent customer support capabilities." (dull). If you're not memorable, the customer might not remember to take the action you'd like them to take!