19 Jan How to create an effective sales presentation
Effective content and delivery
When writing a sales presentation, sales presenters and those in marketing who support them need to choose their messages carefully and understand that the real value and return lies in being a great editor, rather than a prodigious publisher. Presenters also need to ensure they create a compelling synergy between the message and the messenger. Where companies spend considerable time, effort and money on marketing activities including website creation, brochures, logos etc, how much investment is made in developing and delivering presentations? Minimum investment in this regard creates an output of inconsistent messaging and messengers. The slides look home made and the presenter looks distinctly amateurish. Opportunity lost. A presentation to prospective customers is the equivalent of an open goal. Prospects are giving your company their interest and attention in an open forum. Yet, this investment is often rendered useless by the failure of the sales presentation to deliver clear and succinct messages that convey value to the audience. For many sales presentations, the common denominating perception is that they are boring, irrelevant, and forgettable. In the new world, they have got to be impressive, engaging and memorable.
Focus on the Audience Effective presentations start and end with audience needs and expectations. Therefore, content and visuals should offer real value to the listener. Visuals specifically should firstly impress your audience, force engagement and generate high levels of recall. Given you are perceived as the expert on the subject, you should not need your script appearing as a visual. Yet, this is common practice.
Key questions to consider before putting pen to paper include clarity on your viewpoint on the subject, an insight into your audience profile aswell as actions and motives for the audience to take post presentation. Start writing a sales presentation in ‘analogue’ form. Do not open PowerPoint; don’t even open your laptop. Paper and pencil work fine; ideas captured on Post-It notes collated on a flip chart or table help creativity and support structure and flow. We would not recommend using a rigid word for word script when creating and delivering a sales presentation. Use of scripts can ruin spontaneity, and make you seem ‘wooden’. However, the process of writing can help you rehearse what you should say in a compelling and convincing way.
Less is More
It is important to realise your audience is limited in the amount of information they can actually take in. However enlightening, witty or entertaining your presentation, the message remains that too much is too much – it’s just wasted information and wasted time. A great many presentations will contain numerous slides of bullet points. However, bullet points do not actually equate to succinctness – and shorter bullet points are not easy to process. If your presentation has 30 slides with five bullet points on each, which is 150 pieces of information that you are asking your audience to remember. Even with the best intentions, that is simply not going to happen. Far from being superhuman, the average working memory of a human is seven +/- two quanta. If your audience is particularly interested, they will write things down from your presentation, improving their memory recall further. Even so, your audience are not going to take in 150 pieces of information, let alone remember them.
Value Proposition for Structure
It is critical when writing a sales presentation to create a hierarchy of information, with your value proposition at the top. The value proposition should be used to structure your sales presentation, and should be repeated as a content slide – so that at least this core message can be remembered.
Leave Behinds aren’t Memorable
Whilst the temptation to leave a written version of the presentation behind has merit, the bad news is that few, if any of your audience will read it. A leave-behind cannot replace the need for a memorable presentation in the first place. A sales presenter has one real shot at being remembered – and that is when delivering the sales presentation. Another alternative to a leave-behind other than printed slides or a document is a recording of the presentation being delivered, viewable on demand from the web. Brainshark (www.brainshark.com) is a company we use to ensure presentations are available and accessible for individuals or companies to access globally through a secure server.
Editor not Publisher
The best way to write a sales presentation is to think like an editor rather than a publisher; to play devil’s advocate with your own messaging and to be brutally honest, deleting as much information as possible. Remember, your audience has a limited recall capacity and identifying no more than five key reasons why your audience should buy from you rather than a competitor will provide a far greater return than bombarding your audience with dozens of sales messages. In the world of writing sales presentations, it is the editor, not the publisher, who is king.
Your Style and Technique
The goal here is to ensure the messenger is as compelling as the message. The soft skill of presenting is one of the most sought-after management skills amongst high performers. How often have we seen a presenter lacking in confidence, competence and capability? A powerful presenter will cause a change in people’s actions, values and lives. For the sales presenter, it means a personal edge as well as higher sales conversions and probably shorter sales lead times. What the presenter has in their armoury is verbal and non-verbal communication capability. The voice can be trained to orchestrate the impact of pitch, pace, pause and power. Non-verbal assets include the use of eye contact, stance, posture and dress. The devil is in the detail in this regard and video recording of ‘dress rehearsals’ leaves nothing to chance. We work with senior executives globally to enhance this unique skill which anyone can learn. In the words of Anthony O’Reily, “the speaker’s platform is inevitable for anyone on their way up the corporate ladder”.