The Ultimate Guide To A Killer Sales Deck and Presentation
Whenever you’re pitching another business, asking for venture money or trying to sway a group of your peers, there’s nothing as important as your pitch deck and your presentation skills.
This is the way that big companies and VC’s vet you before actually investing in you or your product. Even if they love the idea on the surface, they’ll want to see how well thought out your presentation is and how well you deliver it.
This is because your pitch deck is a direct reflection of you and your company. If you’ve thought out the deck well and it truly resonates then the assumption is that you will spend a lot of time thinking about their problems and providing solutions.
If you present well, in addition to having a well thought out deck, then you are someone that they’ll want to work with on a day to day basis.
Allow me to repeat: Buyers are investing in your product as much as they are investing in the people that support it. If you’re selling software, you are just as much the product as the software itself.
Internalizing this should solidify the importance of this piece of the process forever.
So few people realize how much hinges on the presentation. One wrong slide, wrong sentence, wrong answer and your chances of winning will dim like the light of dusk … and you may never even spot the signals.
And while no one ever bats a .1000, there are always things you can do to get people excited during your presentation.
There are things you can do to show them just how big their problem is, and how your offering (including you as part of that offering) is the solution they’ve been looking for.
To that end, here is everything you need to know to create a killer sales deck and present it well.
Part 1: The Prep Work
Before you create any presentation, you have to make sure you do your research and make sure you do it well. This includes learning everything you can about the company you’re pitching, the people who will be part of the pitch and the way your solution can help make them money / save them time. Let’s break it down a bit further:
When researching the company itself you’ll want to spend some time on their website to learn as much about their business and industry as possible. The main thing you’re looking for is how the company makes money and how your solution can be implemented to make them more.
Beyond just their website, consider reading the latest news articles about their company, their annual report and analyzing a few of their competitors. By getting a firm handle of their company and their position in the space you’ll be better able to position your solution.
This is where you research all of the attendees of the meeting. Understand who will be there and what drives them. At their core, most people will be driven by fear and desire. Understanding how that takes shape exactly will come through your research and the conversations you have.
For example, is the VP of Digital is driven by a fear of losing their job, failing to hit their goal of net new leads generated or by a desire to move to the CMO position and receive a bonus? Often times the drivers are a combination of both.
By understanding what they are for the individuals you will be speaking to, you’ll have the opportunity to tailor your pitch for that presentation.
Before you give a presentation to a group, you should always have an inside man within the organization. Your inside man is someone you can call within the company to discuss the details of the presentation and what the organization your pitching to will actually want to hear.
Every presentation begins with an initial conversation. Don’t ever pitch without doing some discovery work first. Leverage your research to ask the right discovery questions. Questions like who will be present, what will they want to hear and how can you position yourself to put your best foot forward.
Asking the right questions at this point will give you the ammo to create the right sales presentation, which brings us to the next part …
Part 2: Creating The Deck
Before we get into the actual performance, we have to get into the deck itself. Spending most of your time thinking this out well will be the number one thing you can do to create a great presentation.
A good deck consists of the following:
a) The Creation Story
b) The Credibility Story
c) The Product Story
d) The Challenges and Agenda
e) The Twist and Release
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail to make sure we are on the right page.
The Creation Story
There’s a reason the first part of every religion and myth begins with the story of creation. The story of how existence came to be. Human nature is to ask why and the formation of your company is no different.
If you have a good reason for why your company exists and can explain it’s origins, it’s reason for existence than you can captivate an audience.
Besides, people love founder stories. Getting an inside look into the entrepreneur’s minds, the founder’s minds fascinates us. Here are a couple of solid examples of great founder stories:
Casper: For Jeff Chapin bringing ideas to life is what makes him tick. As the former designer at famed innovation firm IDEO, Chapin definitely got to see his fair share of dreams turn into reality. Yet, after having worked on big projects, Chapin was ready to tackle his own passion project: turning the mattress industry on its head.
Instagram: Kevin Systrom was working at Nextstop and learning to code at night. After hacking together a prototype for an app he met a couple of investors at a party that liked his idea. He took the deep dive, left his job and raised 500K to build his business. After many iterations he finally relaunched it as a photo app. Within hours it became the number 1 app on iTunes and sold for $1B in less than two years.
Gimlet Media: The most meta-example of all. Alex Blumberg wanted to turn the podcast space on its head by creating a podcasts based on quality content and great narrative. He chronicles his journey through Gimlet’s first podcast called the Startup. By telling the story of starting his startup, raising money, naming his company, he’s built a huge fan base of people who love great story telling.
The Credibility Story
During this part of the presentation you want to lend your company an air of authority. You can do this by providing logos of big companies that are clients, places you’ve been published and a list of prestigious investors.
The goal here is drop as many hints as possible that you’re a well-respected company and not some fly by night operation.
The Product Story
Now’s the time you actually explain how your product works. If you’re selling a complex technology product like a marketing software you have to get this right and you have to do this simply.
If you misfire here you could lose your audience, confuse them or spend the entire presentation diving into the nitty gritty details of the technology without getting much into the value itself.
So how do you tell a good product story?
Pretend you’re explaining it to a child. Break down the technology into it’s simplest functions.
For example, when explaining a complex ad tech solution that specializes in understanding users across devices I describe it in the following simple steps:
Step 1: Wherever one of our pixels lies we take a snapshot of the website visitors attributes that go way beyond typical identifiers like a simple cookie.
Step 2: Next we assign an ID to that snapshot.
Step 3: We put that ID into our pool of other device ID (over 550 million) and begin running algorithms to find patterns or signs that could link devices to the same person. For example, if we see a mobile device and laptop going to the same place every day from 9-5 we can take a good hunch these devices belong to the same person taking his/her devices to work every day.
Now, I could get far more complex than this explaining match rates, audience expansion, nodes and household / consumer hierarchies … and my product team can go even more technical than that, but as an introduction there is no point.
There’s a time to see the trees and a time to see the forest. Before you’ve shown value in your solution, you have to keep it in the forest.
The Challenges and Agenda
Once you’ve set the stage with the founder story, your company story and explained how your product works in a simple way, then you can lay out the challenges you will solve for your prospect.
List the top three challenges for them. People love to think in threes.
This step is crucial because it will set the stage for the rest of your presentation. You have to get a good sense of what these challenger are, either beforehand by speaking to your champion or during the presentation by going over these challenges and making sure they align with what the prospect wants to hear.
Hint: If you get this wrong, and proceed with the presentation, your presentation will fall on deaf ears. That’s why it’s crucial to either get this right beforehand, or double check to make sure.
Another thing to keep in mind, your challenges better deal with the fear and desire we discussed … specifically how can you help save money, make money, save time for the decision maker and the organization.
Here’s an example: Let’s say I’m selling software that helps a brand personalize the experience of their content. I’ve done my research and chatted with my inside man. I outline the challenges as follows:
1) Drive more revenue by personalizing newsletter subscriptions
2) Save time and resources by automating personalization
3) Eliminate wasteful marketing spend with real time content optimization
Each statement speaks to revenue, saving money and saving time. As I go over these challenges during my presentation, I double check to make sure that the challenges I’ve chosen are aligned with my audience.
Often you’ll get great feedback here. One challenge will stick out more than others. Sometimes one of the challenges mentioned don’t resonate at all and you can discard it immediately.
This slide helps you determine what matters and sets the stage for the rest of the presentation.
The Twist and Release
Now that you’ve laid out the three challenges and received confirmation from the prospect that these are indeed challenges, you’re going to Twist and Release each one.
The Twist comes from extrapolating the challenge to its maximum impact. You want your prospects to understand just how devastating it is for them not to solve this challenge, and how by not solving, they’re in big trouble.
The Release is the healing balm that soothes the pain. That balm is your product.
As an example, let’s take the bullet point around driving more revenue from newsletter subscriptions. Here’s how I would begin to Twist.
Slide 1: Hundreds of newsletter subscriptions. Thousands of pages of content. Millions of visitors per month. Your business model is based on people subscribing to paid newsletters. But how can you be sure you’re offering the right subscription to the right website visitor?
Slide 2: Your audience is lost looking for the right information. Information they’d be willing to paid for. But because the opportunity to find that information is buried deep in the website, you’re leaving money on the table.
Slide 3: The average publisher converts to paid newsletters at a rate of 5%. Content personalization increases conversions by 50%. From 5% to 7.5%
Slide 4: Let’s say you convert 1M visitors / month at 5% at $100/year per subscription. That’s 50,000 subscribers per month resulting in $5M / year.
Slide 5: With content personalization we increase to 7.5%. That’s 75,000 subscribers resulting in $7.5M / year.
Slide 6: You are leaving $2.5M on the table every month. Content personalization can help.
Notice the Twist. By not personalizing newsletters this publishers audience is confused and frustrated. Beyond that, on average they are leaving 2.5M on the table every month.
Notice the Release. Your solution will personalize the experience of their website so that the right newsletter is recommended at the right time for each individual. This seamless process will plug the leaky hole within this brand’s ship and add an additional $2.5M in incremental revenue.
How do you get good at the Twist and Release? Ask yourself what challenges your prospect faces that your solution resolves. Ask yourself the implications of that challenge.
Think critically and all the way through until you find the entire impact of NOT resolving that problem. Often times there are many hidden impacts that you can bring to the surface.
Part 3: The Presentation Itself
OK, now you’ve got your deck prepared. You’re feeling good about it. And you’re ready to present. A couple of things to keep in mind here to set yourself up for success:
If there are new people joining the conversation. Find out what everyone’s role and responsibility is. This will get everyone talking so you can assess their body language, voice tonality and other signals that could give you info on the dynamics of the group.
How many people are you presenting to?
Your presentation style will differ depending on the answer. If you’re only presenting to one person your style can be conversational. You can ask them a lot of questions like who the decision maker is and whether or not there is budget.
You can ask them if you’re on the right track with your presentation. Get them to confirm or deny the value of your solution. Ask them what next steps are and what the process looks like to getting the deal done.
If you’re presenting to two or three people you can still keep it pretty conversational. Keep in mind the dynamics of the folks in the meeting. Who is running the conversation? Who is the decision maker? How engaged or interested are they?
If you’re speaking to many people, 5-20 people, then keep in mind you’re likely not going to get much feedback during your conversations. That’s simply too many people for folks to be constantly chiming in. Instead, just focus on delivering an excellent presentation.
Is the meeting in person or over a webinar?
If it’s in person, pay special attention to everyone’s body language during the conversation. See who is engaged and who isn’t. Suss out who everyone looks to for feedback. This person is the Big Shot. The highest authority in the room. The decision maker.
If it’s over a webinar you are at a great disadvantage because there are many signals you simply can’t see and can’t pick up on. Do your best to get feedback.
You must do your best to maintain control of the room and the conversation. Remember, you only have a short allotted time to get through your presentation, show the value and move onto the next steps. The clock is ticking.
Besides that, by maintaining control you send subconscious signals that this is moving forward and you’re driving it. People will expect the conversation to continue to progress based on your ability to push it forward.
The Wrap – Up
If the meeting occurred over a webinar, just lay out the next steps and setup a time to chat.
If the meeting occurred in person, then the final moment of the meeting can be your most valuable opportunity. This is the moment where the inside man walks you to the elevator or you get a bit of one on one time with the decision maker.
After the performance is done, you are backstage with your audience. You have to know what you want to ask them. Determine how interested they are. Discover how easy it is to implement a solution like this. What are their concerns and hesitations? Who else do they have to win over in order to make this happen?
Part 4: The Follow-Up
Finally, the initial presentation is over. You’ve done your prep work, created a relevant deck, nailed the presentation and now comes the follow up.
You should have a sense of the end of the presentation and how interested and engaged everyone had been. Send them an email thanking everyone for having you come by. Attach your pitch deck and remind them of the next steps.
You’ve got them intrigued now and strongly considering your solution. Now you’ll have to push and have them sign the dotted line.