We asked the presentation community for their top tips when conducting a sales presentation.
These will hopefully give anyone reading the article the confidence to achieve a better presentation as a result.
Read on to find out the best sales presentation tips ….
1. Focus on the benefits, not the features
For an effective sales presentation, spend the bulk of your time communicating the benefits of the product or service and concentrating less on the features.
The fact is that people are much more interested in what a product can do to help address their needs than they are in learning about an extended list of product features. For example, tell your audience how a product’s technology will make their lives easier and save them time, instead of simply telling them details about the product’s ‘groundbreaking technology’.
2. Make it an interactive presentation, not a speech
When delivering a sales presentation, we are often tempted to ramble on and make a very boring speech out of the presentation. The problem with this is that it does not hold the attention of your leads; they need an interactive presentation, not a speech.
To make a sales presentation interactive, you simply encourage your leads to ask questions throughout the presentation, instead of waiting until the end. By doing this, you make them feel that you are interested in what they have to say, and thus, they will be in a more ‘open to buy’ mentality.
By giving an interactive presentation instead of a speech, you earn credibility with your leads and will more effectively answer any doubts or issues they may have.
3. Incorporate a concise, relevant demo of your product or service
Many sales audiences are very sceptical about a new product or service being presented to them. This is even more true when the product or service is provided by a brand that they do not recognise. Thus, when delivering a sales presentation, eliminate a large portion of this scepticism by incorporating a concise, relevant demo of your product or service.
A demo has enormous value in terms of the appeal it creates for your product because it easily displays its value. Also, a relevant demo helps your sales leads grasp the key benefits your product can deliver to them.
So, incorporate a concise, relevant demo of your product or service to the audience and capture the sales you might have otherwise foregone.
Thanks to Joe at SpeechClub.com www.speechclub.com
4. Don’t read off the PowerPoint!
We can all read the details of the PowerPoint; utilise the PowerPoint as a reference on what you wish to communicate to your audience. Keep it engaging and fresh!
Thanks to Hotel Goddess –
5. Plan your sales presentation on paper first
Stepping away from the PowerPoint screen and planning your sales presentation on paper is immensely powerful. We call this process ‘storyboarding’ and it uses many of the same techniques used in Hollywood for building a strong and coherent story structure.
By building your structure out in paper, you’ll be able to see the key sections of your presentation coming together (think of your sales presentation as a series of acts – each linking and building on the previous one) and spot any areas of weakness. It will also highlight where you’ve gone over the top – for example, does your audience really need 15 slides about you and your business?! Their interest is more likely to be focused on how you might be able to solve their problem.
Oh, and it will hopefully also stop you thinking in bullet points!
6. Develop two sales presentations – one to present, one to leave behind
One of the best excuses we hear for overly wordy slides is that the audience need to take a copy with them after the presentation. The thinking is that for the slides to make any sense without the presenter, they need to have a lot of text on them. Wrong!
Trying to address two completely different requirements with one slide deck is a recipe for disaster… or, at best, a very mundane presentation. The reasons are simple:
The Presentable Presentation – this should be as free of text as possible, using images, animation and key facts to support the presenter. At no point should it act as a teleprompter to the presenter (or audience!) – its role is that of supporting material to the star of the show, the presenter.
The Readable Presentation – this can be a lot wordier and go into a lot more detail. Why? Because the star of the show, the presenter, is no longer there to guide the audience. As such, the slides go from being the support act to being the main draw.
Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen fame calls this sort of presentation a ‘Slideument’, basically a marriage of slides and document. Horrible phrase but it sums up the requirement rather nicely.
So a word to the wise – don’t try and cover both bases with the one presentation. It’s a compromise and your audience deserves better.
Thanks to Simon Morton at Eyeful Presentations
7. Does your presentation meet the brief?
The story you would like to tell and what the client wants from your presentation may very well be different. We’ve seen a number of presentations pulled together in a peak of excitement that look great, flow nicely… but completely miss the point!
Once you’ve written your storyboard (on paper, please!) go back to the original brief you were given and make sure you are still ticking all their boxes. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of creating your own unique messages and forget the specific requirements of your audience.
Remember, the presentation is for them, not you!
8. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
It doesn’t matter how strong your presenting team are, they need to do multiple rehearsals of a pitch before delivering for real.
We always suggest a minimum of 3 fully timed run-throughs to ensure everyone is slick, co-ordinated, keeps to time and can deliver without having to resort to notes all the time. Bring in external people to act as ‘critical friends’ and highlight areas that need tightening up. Ultimately you need to make sure you give yourself the opportunity to make the inevitable mistakes in rehearsal and not in front of the real audience.
Also note that rehearsing in the taxi on the way to the client doesn’t count!
9. Get a hand-held presenter
Good delivery is about control of yourself, your slides and the audience.
For less than £35 you can buy yourself a hand-held clicker that allows you to advance and blank the slides at will without needing to ask someone to do it or breaking connection with the audience by going to the PC.
These devices make you look polished and professional for less than the price of your train fare to get to the pitch!
Thanks to Steve Robinson, MD of Sales Engine
10. Use nice images to improve your presentation
The most effective presentations have a strong visual element to keep their audience engaged, and it’s often best to keep on-screen text to a minimum. It’s easiest to convey the bulk of the information orally, using text to summarise the content in the form of a few key pointers.
There’s nothing worse than visually monotonous slides crammed full of tiny text, accompanied by the dread phrase ‘you probably can’t read this, but that says…’
These points need to be illustrated by some eye-catching and relevant imagery, which can easily be found affordably on reputable microstock sites simply by searching by the concept idea you are trying to illustrate, anything from ‘happiness’ to ‘collaboration’. Also watch out for copyright issues – unless images have been secured from a reputable stock website like iStockphoto which manages image rights and legally guarantees its imagery, you could be misusing someone else’s intellectual property.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could branch out and include stock audio and video clips too!
Thanks to Kelly Thomspon, CEO of iStockphoto
11. Understand your audience and venue
Things to consider are:
- Who are the people attending your presentation?
- How many will there be, and from what backgrounds?
- How will your audience be dressed, and expect you to dress (ideally the presenter should be aligned in appearance to the audience. In large corporations, shirt and tie is the norm. In Marketing communications, it’s more likely to be smart casual for example). Pitching this wrong can create a barrier to building rapport with your audience.
In terms of venue, the size obviously needs to be appropriate to the number of expected attendees. Ensure that you know exactly what technology is available to you and take what you need to bring with you.
12. Have a back-up plan
A decade ago this meant having printed copies for all your audience. Now it’s more likely to be a laptop and USB to store your presentation content.
13. Make the presentation visually interesting
In an ideal world, flash should be used, but this can be impractical if you need to edit your presentations frequently (e.g. sales), where PowerPoint will suffice. That said, you can easily embed a mini flash presentation within an otherwise editable presentation driven by some small headers on the front page, alongside your company logo (typical headings could be ‘testimonials’, ‘financials’, and ‘proposal’ for a sales presentation)
14. Do not overuse words and bullets
The rule of thumb here is that if I can present or read the content of your presentation without you being there, then it is a poor presentation. Only rely on key phrases or topic headers. Additionally, a 30-slide PowerPoint with nothing but bullets on it will bore your audience to sleep. Embed ‘interest peaks’ into your presentation (see below).
15. Do not under use or over use animation
Often people feel the need to over use animation, which can become distracting and over the top. Equally, dropping an entire slide into view means that the audience will inevitably read ahead of where you want them to be. Bring each salient point in as required.
16. Don’t rush through your content
In sales presentations, if the client reduces the time you have to pitch, do not rush through a one-hour presentation in fifteen minutes. Discuss the most salient points or re-appoint to another time. Make sure that you know in advance how much time you will have and plan your presentation accordingly.
17. Create ‘interest peaks’
In a standard presentation of 40 minutes in length, your audience will be at their most attentive in the first 10-12 minutes, and last 5. This is because people ‘drift off’ during presentations which are heavy in content, visually dull, or poorly presented. To counter this it is important to continually keep your audience’s attention by offering new, interesting stimuli in terms of content and delivery.
Good methods of achieving this are:
- Anecdote – People like to hear a good, relevant story.
- Quotes – It is common to open and close presentations with quotes that make an important point related to the presentation title, or to inject some humour.
- Jokes – On that very subject, jokes can keep audience energy high, but only if they are tactful, relevant to the presentation and funny. Don’t stop and wait for rapturous applause, because if it isn’t forthcoming you will look very silly indeed.
- Video or film – Changing the media you use will inevitably re-engage those lost during the presentation.
- Using different presenters – A single person for a long time period can become dull. If it’s realistic, and assuming both are good presenters in their own right, this can help to keep a longer session more engaging
- Activities – It’s said you remember 10% of what you hear, up to 80% of what you hear, see and actually experience yourself. Where possible (e.g. a training presentation), get people involved in appropriate activities.
18. Watch the body language
The key mistakes made by inexperienced presenters are:
- Shuffling from side to side
- Playing with pens, watches, or anything you’re holding
- Staring at a single point or at the back of the room
- Equally, it’s poor etiquette to look at the screen whilst presenting. You should know the content, and even if you do not, use confidence cards for guidance.
Remember YOU are your best visual aid in making presentations interesting (or not).
Thanks to Chris Gallagher, Director of Sales & Training at Upfront Business Development
19. Keep it short and snappy
Try to make the presentation as visual as you can. Keep the presentation short and punchy.
20. Use a solution selling approach
Secondly, for a solution-selling proposition – try using this structure:
1. What is the problem that this product is trying to solve?
2. Briefly state the solution – the product or the product name
3. Describe how the product works – its features and description
4. What are the benefits of the product?
5. Real evidence that it works – case study or how you (or one of your customers) has used it to great effect)
Also to prevent people staring at the back of your head – keep facing them as much as you can. This is where the A4 and the marker pen can work well as you can present your presentation while facing them.
I know that we have already covered this point, but the real winner is REHEARSAL. Practise out loud at least four times, one of which should be in front of a real audience, family, friends, etc. Make sure that you time it and learn your speech off by heart. Video it if you can and pump it up to get some passion into your voice.
22. Spend time in advance
Spend time in advance researching the content for your presentation. I see a lot of sales people working on their presentations the night before. This is often too late.
It’s also important to double check your presentations before you present. Make sure all financial information is up to date and critically that you have removed all instances of the previous customer’s names.
23. Don’t be tied to the presentation
The whole point of a sales presentation is to open up a dialogue with the customer. I see a lot of people who fall into the ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ trap.
Don’t feel that you have to bring the audience back to the next slide. Some of the best presentations that I have seen have been abandoned half-way through and instead have moved to the white board.
24. You can jump ahead slides
If you learn the slide numbers you can also jump ahead slides. Say you are on slide 15 and want to go to the penultimate slide – slide 23. All you have to do is type 23 and hit the Enter Key. This could take you directly to the end of the presentation so that you could start wrapping up.
Supplied by the Jonty Pearce, Editor, Presentation Magazine
25. Welcome everybody
Presentations can be enhanced through the use of non-verbal communication. Ensure you ‘welcome’ everybody to the meeting and synchronise your verbal welcome with a gesture from the hands that highlights to your audience that it is them you are referring to.
26. Maintain eye contact
Maintaining eye contact with your audience is key to maintaining a connection and, for some, can be challenging. For those new to this, looking across the hairline of those watching is a compromise that only you will know is taking place.
27. Mind your language
Scale up your language! Are you dynamic, quite dynamic, very dynamic, extremely dynamic? Language can be the key difference between an OK performance and a fantastic performance.
Presenting your verbal communication in a manner that ensures your audience has time to resonate with your words and create the meaning for themselves, especially at the important points, is a key skill.
29. Highlight key words when you speak
You’ll have some key messages, whatever the context. Work towards creating ‘inverted commas’ for your speech by practising ‘marking’ those words with either a verbal or non-verbal cue such as ‘HIGHlighting HEAVily’ the words with a change in tone or volume, or utilising a hand movement during the word or phrase to ‘mark it out’.
Depending on the duration, it’s useful to consider recapping at least once. At a minimum it refreshes the listener in terms of the salient points of the presentation.
31. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare!
Finally. What could possibly happen? Think of the possibilities and work towards mentally dealing with them first. How would you react or deal with a compromising situation? What’s your strategy for dealing with these situations? From potential questions to technology failure, take time to consider and prepare to maintain your ‘state’ at all times in the eventuality of something happening, and cover all those bases.
Thanks to Nick Hill, NLP master practitioner and keynote speaker, SpeakerSeeker (
32. Be confident
Confidence is vital when making a presentation. The minute the audience sees you look a little ‘shaky’, hears that tremor in your voice, or notices your body language giving away the fact you’re struggling, you’ve potentially ‘lost’ vital members of the audience!
Think about your presentation beforehand – what you’re going to cover in terms of headings, what the host has asked you to speak about, and what your top points to make to the audience are.
The more you focus on the audience and the less you focus on yourself the less nervous you’ll be! Take the time to rehearse your opening minute or so a number of times so you know it ‘backwards’ – don’t worry about doing it for all of the presentation, just focus on the first minute or so. Once you’ve done that you’ll be into your ‘presentation flow’.
33. Don’t stare at the slides
I’ve lost count of how many presentations I’ve seen that the presenter loses the connection with the audience the minute they start staring at the slides!
This is probably one of the worst (if not THE worst) things you can do as a presenter! The audience is left thinking you don’t know your material, and is perfectly capable of reading the slides for themselves – so why are you doing it for them?!!
Far too many presenters use their slides as their ‘crutch’ – and then if their laptop or screen fails, have absolutely no ‘fall-back’ plan as they certainly don’t know their slides well enough to do the presentation without them!
Make sure you can deliver your presentation WITHOUT slides if needed – that way you won’t be caught out like so many others are….
34. Think about your audience first
Top presenters think about the audience before they put together their presentation and content of their speech. Ignore this vital step at your peril! Many average presenters miss this step and end up losing or irritating their audience.
Whilst planning any presentation, a useful step is to ask yourself about the audience members – who will be there? What are they looking for from the presentation (and you as the presenter)? Are they there to learn something? Are they there to be entertained? DO you need to inspire and motivate them to take action, for example?
What’s the level of experience or expertise in the audience on your topic? What do you need to do in order to get their objectives for the presentation as well as your own?
35. Control the layout
This is a really important point – and one that the majority of presenters miss. It’s up to the presenter to control the layout of the room whenever possible!
Pay particular attention to any ‘barriers’ in the room that affect how the energy level of your presentation will be received by your audience. Typical barriers include a lectern, floor-standing projector or sometimes even a ‘top table’ in front of the presenter – all of which can have a negative effect on the impact of your presentation on the audience!
In addition, they often mean that you have to stand too far to one side of the room – off-putting for the audience, and may also leave certain parts of the audience feel that you’re ignoring them, or that they aren’t important to you!
36. Think about your outcome
What is your presentation designed to do? What action do you want the audience to take once the presentation is finished? Have you designed your presentation to make sure as much as possible it happens that way?
As a presenter, it’s vital to think about your outcome before you start your presentation. What is the purpose of the presentation for you? We’ve talked about giving the audience THEIR outcome in Tip No 34 above, but what’s your outcome?
Are you trying to get them to buy from you? If so, have you included testimonials from satisfied clients to help overcome the audience’s fear of making a buying mistake? Have you thought about all the decision makers in the audience and what they’ll need in order to make a decision?
Thanks to Andy Preston, leading expert on Sales and Sales Presenting
Some nice tips, but I find it incredibly disheartening that all but two of the writers imply I will be using some kind of slideware.
I wish we could get past this “default setting”. Slideware is just a tool, and one that we usually do not need.
At least consider the option of not using it. You will be amazed, and your audience overjoyed.
One of the most important slides in a presentation is the blank slide – the screen just goes white. The audience respond, (it’s different), and it gives you the chance to do what you are there for – sell to them by listening to their issues.
While you are talking you are usually only dealing with things you already know, you are not uncovering business issues that they want and/or need solved.
There is a simpler option than using a blank slide – hitting the ‘B’ key (for black) or the ‘W’ key (for white) will immediately blank out your screen. Hitting any key will return to your slide. Great for directing audience attention to the presenter.
Adam – slideware doesn’t have to be Death by PowerPoint. When used correctly, visual aids can engage audiences, and delivering information via two ‘channels’ ensures that recall rates are more than doubled.
Yes, sometimes a speaker with a message is all that is needed – but when a diagram will explain an idea, slideware can really help.
I would also add in here a reference to closing the sale. So many times people have everything right but fail to seal the deal by simply not asking or not implying that the customer is going to do business with them. They walk out the door without a definitive answer.