Sales is an essential part of being in business, which means that organizations throw vast resources to get the foundation down right. At its heart, sales is about communicating the value of your service or product in a way that resonates with your audience. The reality is that no matter how innovative and valuable your solution is, if you can’t explain why a buyer should purchase your solution, you won’t win the deal.

From preparation to execution, sales presentations can be difficult to manage. Yet there’s a problem. The uncomfortable truth is that sales presentations are failing sellers and, more importantly, buyers.

CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study found that 40% of sellers ineffectively present their solution and value to buyers, and only 10.9% exceed buyer expectations. Sales presentations haven’t changed much over the years, but audiences continue to be bombarded with ineffective tactics including:

  • Blizzards of bullet points and text on slides
  • Clichéd imagery (handshake in front of a globe, anyone?)
  • Slide after slide focused on EBITDA and office locations rather than building an engagement with the audience

It’s an uncomfortable paradox–companies happily invest in developing their sales function yet expect them to go into battle with underperforming tools and processes.  It’s akin to asking Usain Bolt to dedicate his life to training for the Olympics and then giving him a pair of slippers to run in.

Better Presentations Start with the Audience

Improving the impact of your next sales presentation is beautifully simple: obsess about your audience. As a starting point, ask yourself the following three simple questions:

  1. Why has your buyer given up their time to meet with you?
  2. Who has been invited to the presentation and why? (tip: think about people as individuals rather than job titles to understand how each key decision-maker thinks and acts before you start the sales conversation).
  3. What is it you want your audience to do as a result of your presentation?

Arm yourself with responses to these questions, so that you can start to understand audience behavior and share relevant content that supports your message. Steer clear of any content that could be considered ‘noise’ (for example, if the audience knows you and your business, they don’t need and won’t appreciate 5 slides of company history) and ensure that the information supports your intended call to action.

A strong call to action is a vital element of any presentation so invest time in it—what is it you want and expect as a result of presenting? You can’t end with a thank you; both the seller and the buyer should agree upon next steps before you walk out the door.

The Stakes Are Too High

Sales presentations are the most important presentations many people will ever make. The success of businesses and the livelihoods of all employees rely on these being valuable to audiences and delivered in the most engaging and professional way possible. The secret to doing that? Putting the audience at the center and focus on exceeding their expectations.

Simon Morton heads up the presentation consultancy team at Miller Heiman Group, supporting global clients and alumni to maximise the impact of their sales conversations through powerful presentation stories, content and design. He is also the author of The Presentation Lab, an acclaimed book on the subject which has been translated into six languages.

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