From preparation to execution, sales presentations can be difficult to manage. In this article we delve deeper into the underlying problems impacting sales presentations today – and how to address them.

Sales is an essential part of being in business which means that, quite understandably, organisations throw vast resources at getting this part of the mix right.

Yet despite its importance and profile, sales is fundamentally simple – it 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 marvellous and ground-breaking your widget might be, if you can’t explain WHY it’s valuable, you won’t make a sale.

So far, so obvious.

Yet there is problem. The uncomfortable truth is that sales presentations are failing sellers and, more importantly, buyers. 

CSO Insight’s 2018 Sales Performance Study, highlights that according to buyers, over 40% of sellers are ineffectively presenting their solution and value. Furthermore, only 10.9% exceeded expectations.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise – sales presentations haven’t really changed since the advent of PowerPoint more than a quarter of a century ago.  As a result, audiences continue to be bombarded with a diet of presentation ills:

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

The CSO Insights report continues by highlighting that second on buyers’ wishlists is that sellers demonstrate excellent communication skills.

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

Something has to change…


Improving the impact of your next sales presentation is beautifully simple and blindingly obvious – obsess about your audience.

The presentation consultancy and design team at Miller Heiman Group always start new projects with their ‘Audience Heatmapping’ process to gain a deeper understanding of audiences. The good news is that the fundamentals of this methodology can be applied to support any presentation:

As a starting point, ask yourself the following three simple questions:

  1. Why has your audience given up that most precious of commodities, their time, to listen to you?
  2. Who has been invited to the presentation and why? (hint: think about people as individuals rather than job titles and consider which buying influences may join you).
  3. What is it you want your audience to do as a result of your presentation?

Armed with your response to these questions, you can start to plot your audience behaviours and collate 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?  Concluding a presentation with a ‘Thank You’ is a wasted opportunity.

When we run Miller Heiman Group presentation projects, the first step is to get sales people to focus their energies on their audience and message rather than worrying about slide design and fancy animations. Eye-catching presentations in PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi add no value if they don’t help the salesperson engage and prompt action from the audience. If all your audience remembers about your pitch is your slides, something has gone horribly wrong.


In conclusion, sales presentations are some of 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.

It’s for these reasons that businesses owe it to themselves, their employees and, perhaps most importantly of all, their audiences to do it right.

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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