Writing a Sales Presentation

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 6 comments

writing-a-sales-presentationThe boardroom or presentation auditorium is not normally the place for incessant chatter. The sales presenter needs to understand that less is more.

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.

Many companies spend considerable time and effort on marketing activities and lead generation to actually get sales people face-to-face with prospective customers. 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. Poor sales presentations are two-a-penny; the common denominating perception that they are boring, irrelevant, and forgettable.  However, the good news is if everyone else is writing and delivering awful sales presentations, you have the opportunity to shine and stand out, by writing a sales presentation that does exactly what it ought to; to write a sales presentation that is succinct, visaul, and that is recalled.

Focus on the Audience

Capitalising on these opportunities to get your foot in the door requires writing a presentation that is audience-focussed and not presenter focussed. Narcissus was only ever truly popular with himself.  Writing a sales presentation that is audience-focussed necessitates understanding your prospect. In some sales processes, this can mean using a first visit or phone call to fact-find, and only then presenting. For others, a meeting can be used to question first and present later.

Where prospects expect some sort of a presentation before they will open up and answer questions, then consider presenting opening slides to build credibility, stop to ask questions, and then present the rest of a sales presentation, emphasising those parts that will be of most interest.

Write Analogue, Not Digital

Start writing a sales presentation in ‘analogue’ form. Don’t open PowerPoint, don’t even open your laptop. Paper and pencil work fine; many people writing a sales presentation use Post-It notes to capture each key argument, and then move these around until sections of the presentation, and a good flow, are settled.

Lose the Script

m62 would not recommend using a script when delivering a sales presentation. Use of scripts can ruin spontaneity, and make presenters seem less ‘human’. Where certain sections of the presentation are given more focus (the introduction, the value proposition), it can make sense when writing the sales presentation to write a script for those slides. But writing the script is useful here not because it will be used (it shouldn’t), but because the process of writing  can help the presenter rehearse what they should say (even though they aren’t going to read aloud from a script).

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, that is 150 pieces of information that you are asking your audience to remember. With all the will in the world, 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 hopefully 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

writing-a-sales-presentation-4It 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. A better leave-behind that printed slides or a document is a recording of the presentation being delivered, viewable on demand from the web.

Eliminate Weak Points

Under the value proposition, further information can be used as proof – but even then, more information does not necessarily make for a stronger proof. The key to writing a strong sales presentation is to pay attention to raising the impact of the ‘weakest’ messages; if a presentation has obvious holes in it, the audience will start to wonder where else sales messages are not as powerful as they first appear.

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. Your audience has a limited capacity to recall and identifying no more than five key reasons that 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.

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6 Comments to Writing a Sales Presentation

  1. #1

    Jim Barrows

    3:04 pm, November 26th, 2009

    Lose the Script

    m62 would not recommend using a script when delivering a sales presentation.

    I disagree. Scripted sales presentations are essential.

  2. #2

    Joby Blume

    3:06 pm, November 26th, 2009

    Care to explain your position Jim? Why do you think it is beneficial, or indeed essential, to use a script?

  3. #3

    Justin B.

    3:16 am, December 15th, 2009

    This was extremly helpful, I’m combining this information with a few more of the Presentation Theory article with the context of my Business Communicaions textbook to assemble an alternative to my current door to door method for getting appointments. Its short and to the point, and the point of view here helps to balance out the textbooks views.

  4. #4

    Joby Blume

    3:03 pm, December 18th, 2009

    Most of what we write is very much intended for those presenting with slides – but I guess there’s a lot that would apply to selling more generally. Glad that you found the material useful Justin.

  5. #5


    8:05 pm, June 20th, 2012

    Thank you for the great and useful content!

  6. #6

    Jessica Pyne

    2:31 pm, June 21st, 2012

    You’re welcome, Michael – we’re glad you find it so useful!