The Sales Pitch: 17 Ideas for Creating the Ultimate Sales Preso
What makes a good sales pitch? If you’re like most salespeople, you’d give a two-part answer to this question – a well-designed set of slides and effective delivery of those slides. While that answer is technically correct, it understates the impact that a great sales presentation can have on moving buyers through the top of the sales funnel. It also fails to capture the dozens of elements that makes for an effective sales pitch, from preparation to delivery to closing for next steps. Use the following tips when designing and delivering your sales presentation to ensure that your driving the highest conversion rates possible.
1. Make sure your sales pitch has an objective
It’s remarkable how few salespeople actually understand the objective of their sales presentation, especially given how easy it is to develop an objective. You may be trying to convey an overview of your company, your product, and the value you provide to customers. You may also be trying to learn as much as you can about the buyer, what they need, and why they need it. But the most important objective is to use your sales pitch to move the buyer to the next step in your sales process. Your presentation should focus on providing information such as the value you create and what the buyer should do next so that they agree to next steps with you. It’s a simple, but often-overlooked point.
2. Focus on what the customer cares about
Good sales presentations provide information on something that your prospective customer really cares about. Making your audience care is the most important thing you can do in your sales presentation. As you create and ultimately deliver your sales pitch, ask yourself – what’s in it for them? There are a number of different business reasons, such as increasing revenues or decreasing costs, which would cause a customer to care about your presentation. They’re also personal reasons would care about your sales presentation. For example, will what you’re presenting to the buyer help them get a promotion or help them gain recognition at their company or in their industry?
3. Build your sales pitch around a good story
Every good sales presentation is built on top of a good story. As humans we’re hardwired to like good stories and in a business setting it’s no different. Good stories share a number of common characteristics that you can incorporate into your sales pitch. For example, good stories are often personal in nature an evoke emotional responses ranging from fear to greed. Buyers also like “story arcs” that demonstrate how you will effect change in their organization by changing the status quo. Your sales pitch should show the buyer how they get from point a to point b.
4. Organize your sales pitch around a central idea
Like a good story, your sales preso should have a central or organizing idea. In most sales presentations that central idea or theme should focus on the benefit that you will deliver to your customer. As you’re creating your pitch, ask yourself what’s the real benefit you’re going to deliver to your customer and make sure that the story you tell in your sales presentation revolves around that benefit.
5. Give your presentation structure
A good sales pitch also has a structure that makes it easy for the buyer to follow what you’re presenting. One of the more common structures used in sales presentations is that of articulating what the buyer’s problem is; presenting a potential solution to that problem; and finally agreeing to a next step with the buyer. It’s a simple structure that allows any prospective customer to easily follow what it is you’re presenting. Just remember to keep it simple. Many buyers experience cognitive dissonance when you pitch a new idea to them. Making it easy for them to follow along will help you overcome that challenge.
6. Strike a balance with your sales pitch slides
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on slide design and how much information your slides should contain. Much of this is a result of the Zen-like slides that Steve Jobs popularized several years ago. Most presentation experts advocate for this “more is less” approach when it comes to designing slides, but in a sales pitch, your slides need to convey enough specific information to move the prospect further along the buying process. To help with this, focus on writing slide titles that convey the key point of each slide, include a visual element such as a screenshot on each slide, and never have more than three pieces of information on each slide.
7. Remember the power of three
The vast majority of people can’t remember more than three things at a time. Good sales presentations follow a 3×3 rule – in total, your sales pitch should convey information around no more than three big, central ideas and each individual slide should contain no more than three pieces of information that you want the buyer to understand.
8. Create short and long versions of your sales pitch
You should have a long and short version of your sales presentation. The long version of your presentation should be approximately 30 to 45 minutes in length and should fill the majority of a 60 minute meeting that you might have with a buyer. While the number of slides may vary, we recommend targeting three minutes per slide. As such, your 30-45 minute sales presentation should have between 10-15 slides in it. The short version of your presentation should be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes in length. Many salespeople wonder why they need a short sales presentation, but there are some common scenarios where a short preso comes in handy. For example, a buyer may tell you that they only have 30 minutes to meet instead of the 60 minutes you originally scheduled. Short version of your presentation may have slides as few as 5 slides. Furthermore, you need to be prepared to give the short version with no slides.
9. Prepare for the no slide pitch
The best sales reps are able to deliver their sales pitch with no slides. To do this, you need to practice your pitch without the aid of slides. Focus on the overall structure of your pitch and the story you’re trying to tell (see above). You should also practice answering the 5-10 most common questions you get from buyers. Sales pitches that don’t use slides tend to turn into conversations much faster (that’s a good thing). These conversations usually center around a set of commonly asked questions that you need to be adept at answering.
10. Personalize your sales pitch
The most effective sales presentations contain content that is personalized for your target audience. There are some simple guidelines that you can follow to minimize the amount of work that’s required to customize a presentation for a specific meeting. First, make sure that you only personalize a handful of slides, usually the first few slides in your deck. Second, focus on a handful of common ways to include buyer-specific information in your sales presentation. You can include industry specific information or content that is specific to the buyer’s role. You can also do this by including information collected during needs assessment or discovery phase of your sales cycle. Third, make sure that you have a process for personalizing the presentation prior to the meeting. Too many sales people jump right into their sales pitch without having put any thought into personalization. Make sure that you allot 15 to 30 minutes before every major sales pitch that so that you can tell a compelling story to the customer.
11. Set a clear agenda
At the start of your meeting, set a clear agenda that outlines the structure of the meeting for the customer. Focus on 3-5 key topics that you want to cover in the sales pitch and put them in a logical order. That’s your agenda. You don’t need a 10 point agenda – it will confuse they buyer and you for that matter. Finally, as you are presenting the agenda, ask the buyer if they agree with it or if they’d like to change it.
12. Remember that specificity wins
A lot of sales presos are filled with high level information, platitudes, useless business jargon, and vacuous though leadership. Your pitch needs to include specific information that helps the buyer make a better decision, establishes your credibility, and moves the buyer further along in the buying process. Try to include specific information that shows a deep understanding of the target buyer, the specific ways you help companies like the buyer’s, and exactly how people use your product or service.
13. Use relevant examples and data
In a similar vein, you should incorporate specific examples and data into your sales pitch. For example, instead of generically describing what your product does, provide the customer with a specific example of how a company from the same industry uses the product. Whenever possible, use contextually relevant examples and specific metrics to support the key points you’re making.
14. Conversation over presentation
Many sales presentations focus exclusively on helping the seller communicate information to the buyer. The most effective sales presos, however, facilitate a two-way exchange of information between seller and buyer. Make sure that your presentation prompts the buyer to share information with you about why they are talking to you, their requirements, and where they are in the buying process. A few simple rules go a long way here: let the buyer interrupt you whenever they want; ask the buyer if they questions every five minutes; and present information that would cause the buyer to either agree or disagree with you.
15. Leave time at the end of your sales pitch
How many sales meetings have you been in where the sales rep doesn’t leave time at the end to discuss next steps? You’re not alone, if you answered “all of them”. Make sure that you leave at least five minutes at the end of the meeting to get feedback from the customer and discuss next steps.
16. Agreeing to next steps
Agreeing to next steps with the buyer at the end of your sales pitch is one of the most important things you can do. At the end of the presentation, explicitly ask the buyer to take the next step with you, whether it’s signing the buyer up for free trial, scheduling a demo, or agreeing to put together a proposal for them. In fact, your entire pitch is really all about building to the point where you actually ask the buyer to take the next step with you. To do this, focus on two things during your presentation. First, make sure that you and the buyer agree that there is a problem or opportunity that the buyer needs help with. Second, use your preso to establish credibility with the buyer so that they believe that you may actually be able to help with that problem or opportunity. If you do those two things well, then it’s relatively easy to ask the buyer to take next steps with you. It’s as simple as saying “we believe we can help and we’d appreciate the opportunity to create a proposal for you, sign you up for a free trial, or walk you through a demo”.
17. The scalable sales presentation
Finally, make sure your sales presentation scales. Many sales presentations are created under the mistaken assumption that only one person (usually the creator of the presentation) will be the only person responsible for delivering it when potentially hundreds to thousands of sales people will need to deliver the pitch. A few simple tips will make your sales presentation infinitely scalable. First, each slide title should be readable by the person giving the presentation and convey the key point for that particular slide. In fact, if you were to string your slide titles together, they should form a compelling, cohesive story when read aloud. Second, be certain that the presenter understands the 1-3 key points for each slide. You can put these in the notes field of your presentation slides. Finally, provide the sales team with a recording of a master presenter (someone like the VP of Sales or CEO) delivering the sales pitch.
About the author: Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research and advisory firm that helps companies grow faster. We do this by identifying the patterns, plays, and behaviors that drive exceptional revenue growth. It’s this data that helps our clients (some of the world’s fastest growing companies) drive more traffic, more leads, higher conversion rates, larger average deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, and lower churn rates. The result? Our clients grow 2X faster than the competition.
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