Sales Presentation: Content

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 , 4 comments

Sales presentations can be critically important in business-to-business sales, and making sure that a sales pitch is effective is crucial. There can be millions of dollars at stake – so how can you ensure that you’re going to make the most of your opportunity?

The good news is that m62 is here to help. We know sales presentations – after all, we’ve created 1000s of them. Here, we bring you great tips from our own consultants, as well as other sales, marketing, and presentation experts. We’ve reproduced all of these tips for you in a series of articles split into six different aspects: content; planning and process; format and structure; design; delivery; and audience interaction.

The first part of our series contains tips on messaging and content.

Concrete Details

Make sure that your presentation brings your points to life, rather than simply presenting abstract concepts. If making a sales presentation, make sure that you offer proof. As Chip and Dan Heath note in their pamphlet ‘Making Presentations that Stick‘ – “The number one mistake we’ve observed in presentations – and there is no close second – is that the message is too abstract. The presenter offers concepts and conclusions but not evidence. He talks at a high level about the big picture, but gives no concrete details that might make the big picture understandable and plausible.”

Focus on Solutions

In a credentials presentation, says author Joey Asher, don’t talk directly about credentials, or too much about your own company. “Instead, your credentials will be apparent as you talk about your solution, and how you’ve implemented similar solutions for other clients. You focus your presentation solely on what the client really cares about – a solution to her business problem.”

Value Proposition for Structure

Less is more. At m62 we advise our clients to structure their sales presentations into five parts or fewer. Use benefit statements to form a value proposition, and use the value proposition for structure. Giving five strong answers to the question ‘Why Us?’ is far more powerful, and memorable, than listing 100s of benefits that nobody can prioritise or remember.

Bring Solution to Life

In Fire Them Up, best-selling author Carmine Gallo suggests focusing on the solution that your service delivers, and recommends bringing to life how this solution will help – “Tell your listeners why you’re excited about your product, share a vivid vision of the future that your product makes possible, and be specific about how your product will help them succeed in business”. He reminds us of the well-known adage that ‘nobody wants a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole’ – that is, in B2B sales, people want solutions, not just products.

Memorable Moments

Duarte Design in California (the folks behind Slide:ology) teach presenters to use ‘S.T.A.R Moments™. S.T.A.R. stands for “Something They’ll Always Remember” and S.T.A.R. Moments refer to the memorable moments in a presentation that stick in the minds of your audience long after the presentation is over.’ We’ve mentioned it before on this website, because we love the clip, but a great example of this is Bill Gates releasing a jar of mosquitoes into a crowded auditorium while talking about Malaria. People remember that kind of stunt, and if it’s connected to your message, they remember your message too.

Benefits not Features

Remember that successful sales presentations can’t simply list product features, but must make the connection to benefits that actually help the audience. As Jerry Weissman writes in Presenting to Win ‘A feature is a fact or quality about you or your company, the products you sell, or the idea you’re advocating. By contrast, a Benefit is how that fact or quality will help your audience. When you seek to persuade, it’s never enough to present the Features of what you’re selling; every Feature must always be translated into a Benefit.’

Stories and Emotion

‘People buy on emotion, and justify with fact’ says Bert Decker, CEO of Decker Communications. Stories are ‘emotionally connecting’, ‘move people’, ‘give third party credibility, and are memorable. Sales people should make use of stories in presentations, because stories help presenters to connect, and ‘connection trumps everything’.

Allude to Competitor Weaknesses

Many companies feel uncomfortable in directly attacking competitors in their sales presentations. The alternative is to use a technique called ghosting. In ghosting, the aim is to allude to the weaknesses of competitors without specifically mentioning them. Explain why a certain feature is important, allude to the risk of not having that feature (without openly mentioning a competitor), and then present your own strengths in that area.

Clear Objectives

Many presentations are prepared and delivered with no clear objectives in mind. Yet, if a presentation isn’t trying to achieve anything in particular, it risks achieving nothing. Andrew Abela, author of Advanced Presentations by Design, suggests creating a table, and listing what the audience think now, and what the presenter wants them to think after the presentation; and what the audience do now, and what the presenter wants them to do after the presentation. This framework ensures that presentations are given for a purpose.

Handouts for Detail

Sales people need to convince emotionally and rationally, and some of the rational sale can be achieved using detailed handouts, as Seth Godin argues – ‘the presentation is to make an emotional sale. The document is the proof that helps the intellectuals in your audience accept the idea that you’ve sold them on emotionally.’

Case Studies for Social Proof

As Chris Atherton, writer of the blog Finite Attention, affirms, sales people really need to use case studies. Show your audience how other clients have benefited from your product or service. This immediately poses the question, “What would this do for me?” This approach is interesting, affirming, and involves your audience.

Understand Prospects

And finally, an audience needs to feel important. As recommend by Sue Hershowitz, whose blog SpeakerSue provides resources for sales skills, you should ‘Love your prospects.’ Take the time to get to know them. Do the research. Most importantly, let them know that you appreciate them. Show them that you understand; that their problems matter to you; and that you offer a solution that is tailored to helping them in the best way possible.

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The Ultimate Guide to Sales Presentations

4 Comments to Sales Presentation: Content

  1. #1

    Steve Robinson

    2:13 pm, January 15th, 2010

    Really interesting article – some great blogs and books referenced.

  2. #2

    Joby Blume

    7:42 pm, January 15th, 2010

    Thanks for the kind comment Steve, glad you liked the article.

    Keep your eyes peeled for the next articles – this is part one of a series.

  3. #3

    Craig Preston

    10:06 pm, January 20th, 2010

    While I agree that too many salespeople, corporate executives, etc. focus on the non-relevant facts about their business, there are also times when salespeople NEED to realize they may be selling the business, and not necessarily the product (new products, software, etc.). This would be emphasized as one of the 5 key points in the presentation, yet is different than the general company overview (provide an overview that differentiates you, and you already have one solid point).

  4. #4

    Jessica Pyne

    1:41 pm, January 21st, 2010

    Yes, I agree – the important thing is to always keep the focus in mind. The general company overview is often just included as background, without any general purpose. While it is a good idea to introduce people to your company, unless you are particularly stressing the reasons why your company would provide more value to the prospect, this introduction should be kept brief.

    Thank you for your comment!