The original version of this article, authored by Scott Albro, was published by TOPO, now Gartner.
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 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 make 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 you’re driving the highest conversion rates possible.
Download ebook: Future of Sales
No. 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 they agree to additional steps with you.
No. 2: Focus on what the customer cares about
Good sales presentations provide information on something your prospective customer really cares about. 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 that would cause a customer to care about your presentation, such as increasing revenue or decreasing costs. There are also personal reasons they might care about your sales presentation. For example, will what you’re presenting to the buyer help them get a promotion or gain recognition at their company or in their industry?
No. 3: Build your sales pitch around a good story
Every good sales presentation is built on top of a good story. Buyers also like “story arcs” that demonstrate how you will effect change in their organization's status quo. Your sales pitch should show the buyer how they get from point A to point B.
No. 4: Organize your sales pitch around a central idea
In most sales presentations, the central idea or theme should focus on the benefit 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? Make sure the story you tell in your sales presentation revolves around that benefit.
No. 5: Give your presentation structure
A good sales pitch has a structure that is easy for the buyer to follow. One of the more common structures is articulating what the buyer’s problem is, presenting a potential solution to that problem and finally agreeing to a next step with the buyer.
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.
No. 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. Most presentation experts advocate for the “more is less” approach, 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, here are some important guidelines for each slide:
- Focus on writing slide titles that convey the key point.
- Include a visual element such as a screenshot.
No. 7: Remember the power of 3
The vast majority of people can’t remember more than three things at a time. Good sales presentations should convey information around no more than three central ideas and each individual slide should contain no more than three pieces of information that you want the buyer to understand.
No. 8: Create short and long versions of your sales pitch
The long version should run approximately 30 to 45 minutes and fill the majority of a 60-minute meeting you might have with a buyer. We recommend about three minutes per slide, so your long sales presentation should have between 10 to 15 slides in it.
The short version can run about five to 15 minutes long, and it’s invaluable for those times when a buyer schedules you for an hour but then has to cut back their time to 30 minutes. Short versions of your presentation may have as few as 5 slides, and you need to be prepared to give the short presentation with no slides.
No. 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. You should also practice answering the 10 most common questions you get from buyers. Sales pitches that don’t use slides tend to turn into conversations much faster, which is a good thing.
No. 10: Personalize your sales pitch
The most effective sales presentations contain content that is personalized for your target audience. There are some simple guidelines to minimize the amount of work that’s required to customize a presentation for a specific meeting.
- Make sure you only personalize a handful of slides, usually the first few in your deck.
- Focus on a few common ways to include buyer-specific information in your sales presentation. You can include industry-specific information or content specific to the buyer’s role. You can include information collected during the needs assessment or discovery phase of your sales cycle.
- Make sure you have a process for personalizing the presentation prior to the meeting. Too many salespeople jump right into their sales pitch without having put any thought into personalization.
No. 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 three to five key topics you want to cover in the sales pitch and put them in a logical order. As you present the agenda, ask the buyer if they agree with it or would like to change it.
No. 12: Remember that specificity wins
Your pitch needs to include specific information that:
- Helps the buyer make a better decision
- Establishes your credibility
- Moves the buyer further along in the buying process
Try to show a deep understanding of the target buyer, the specific ways you help similar companies, and exactly how people use your product or service.
No. 13: Use relevant examples and data
You should incorporate specific examples and data into your sales pitch. For instance, 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.
No. 14: Conversation over presentation
Many sales presentations focus exclusively on helping the seller communicate information to the buyer. The most effective sales pitches, however, facilitate a two-way exchange of information between seller and buyer. Make sure your presentation prompts the buyer to share information 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 have questions every five minutes.
- Present information that would cause the buyer to either agree or disagree with you.
No. 15: Leave time at the end of your sales pitch
Make sure that you leave at least five minutes to get feedback from the customer and discuss next steps.
No. 16: Agreeing to next steps
At the end of the presentation, explicitly ask the buyer to take the next step with you, whether it’s signing up for a free trial, scheduling a demonstration or putting 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.
- Make sure you and the buyer agree that there is a problem or opportunity the buyer needs help with.
- Establish credibility so the buyer believes you may actually be able to help with that problem or opportunity.
If you do those two things well, 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 would appreciate the opportunity to create a proposal for you, sign you up for a free trial or walk you through a demonstration.”
No. 17: The scalable sales presentation
Finally, make sure your sales presentation scales. Many sales presentations are created under the mistaken assumption that only the creator of the presentation will be responsible for delivering it, when potentially hundreds to thousands of salespeople will need to deliver the pitch.
A few tips will make your sales presentation scalable.
- 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.
- Be certain the presenter understands the key points for each slide. You can put these in the notes field of your presentation slides.
- Provide the sales team with a recording of a master presenter (someone like the VP of sales or CEO) delivering the sales pitch.