You might think of a sales presentation as a simple pitch, a demo, or a list of facts and figures, but a while a good presentation does incorporate all of those elements, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Done well, at the right time in your sales process, it gets your prospects’ attention, gets them excited and makes them want to move forward with you and your product.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to use the power of storytelling to drive decision-making and close more deals—with some pitch examples straight from the Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den. We’ll also cover the fundamental elements to include in your sales decks, and practical ideas on how to deliver them, with examples of successful sales presentations. Read on for plenty of sales presentation examples and pitch suggestions that will help you develop your own sales presentation outline.
Here’s the contents of our article:
- What is a sales presentation?
- Storytelling and your sales presentation
- What to bring to your sales presentation
- Great sales presentation examples
- Tailoring your sales presentation
- How to nail the sales presentation
- What to do after the sales presentation
First, though, what is a sales presentation and how is it different from a sales pitch?
What is a sales presentation?
Although the terminology differs from company to company, a sales presentation is not always the same thing as a sales pitch.
A sales pitch is what your sales team does all day long, on the phone or in person with clients. It’s usually one on one, and they’re pretty comfortable doing it.
A sales presentation (although it’s still a sales pitch) is a bigger deal, figuratively and probably literally. It’s a more complicated version of a sales pitch, and usually, it happens when your team is trying to close a more lucrative deal, and it’s not a simple phone call—it often involves a meeting and a demo.
You’ll need to budget more time for a presentation, not just for the presentation itself—which can run as long as an hour—but also for prep time and testing. There may be a PowerPoint presentation involved. In many cases, more than one person from your company will give the presentation, so there’s a need to coordinate with a team. You’re likely presenting to a team as well—usually, a group of senior decision-makers.
Even for a seasoned salesperson who cold calls and pitches all day on the phone, a presentation can be unnerving.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through what makes a great sales presentation and how you can perfect yours.
Storytelling and your sales presentation
People love to be told a story, especially if it’s relevant to them and their problems.
Statistics, facts and figures can help when you’re trying to persuade a prospect to become a customer, however relevant they are to the prospect’s situation. But if you can frame those statistics in a story about an existing customer who faced the same challenges as your prospect, they are more likely to listen and want to know more.
Human beings have a deep relationship with storytelling. Stories move us, teach us and, in a sales context, persuade us. We remember stories more than we remember anything else.
Chip Heath, a Stanford professor and the co-author of “Made to Stick”, demonstrates the importance of storytelling by doing an exercise with his students. He divides them into groups and asks them to deliver a one-minute persuasive pitch based on data he’s just shown them.
Later, after the pitches have been delivered and there’s been a break, he’ll ask the class to jot down everything they remember about the pitches. Although most students use stats rather than stories, the class remembers the stories better: 63% remember the stories, while only 5% remember an individual data point.
The stickiness of stories makes them a useful tool for developing a sales presentation outline, as they help prospects understand and remember the key points of the presentation and your product.
“Analogies or relatable stories are an extremely powerful technique to avoid using internal ‘jargon’ and allows the customer to understand the product/service in the real world,” explains Thomas Dredge, sales manager at Particular Audience.
“For example, explaining a display ad across the internet can be likened to a billboard on the side of a building. Sellers often confuse clients by using complicated language. They may believe this makes them come across as more knowledgeable, but it’s not a good way to sell.
“People buy things they understand. Help them understand!”
This section will explain how to build your presentation around a story that will get your prospect’s attention and encourage them to invest in your solution.
Start with a problem (and a deadline)
Your presentation is about the solution you’re offering your prospects, but it shouldn’t start with that solution.
Instead, you should begin with the problem your solution was designed to solve, and the challenges you’re solving for your customers.
“Value Selling is key,” says Bradley Davies, business development at Cognism. “It is important to understand your buyer and tailor their journey to what you can do for them.
“First you need to understand what is motivating them to have a discussion, which allows you to identify their pains and present how your offering solves their pains. Everything presented to a prospect should be based on the value for them specifically.”
The problem, their pains associated with it and your solution should be delivered with a story; a tale that highlights the specific challenges faced by your customers.
You might also choose to tell a story that positions your product as the hero, helping the customer vanquish a villain: their pain point.
Your story, which should be tailored to the prospects in the room, should focus on change rather than their pain point. For example, on a change to their business, industry, or to the technology they use—something that impacts and improves the way they do business.
“If an element of your offering is not relevant, then don't distract them from the important features. It will keep them engaged and help to build their user story,” adds Bradley
Create a sense of urgency around your product: It’s a solution to their problem, but if they don’t act now, they could miss an opportunity. Tell a story about what might happen if your prospect doesn’t change, framing the consequences for not taking action.
Start talking about the solution
You’ve outlined the problem, and, if you’re doing your job, your audience is nodding along. Now it’s time to start talking about the solution.
But that doesn’t mean you should launch into the features and benefits of your product just yet.
Rather than presenting your product, the best sales presentations draw a picture of what life could look like for a customer once they start doing things differently (AKA, with your product.) How will their business or lives change for the better? How will their world change? Importantly, how will they reduce spending and increase revenue?
Then you can start talking about your solution and the features that can make this brave new world possible. You can do this in a few ways:
- By positioning your features against the old way of doing things
- By presenting those features as “superpowers” that will solve your prospect’s problems
- By comparing those features to competitors’ features
- By using a combination of some or all of the above
What to bring to your sales presentation
Now that we’ve discussed the story elements of a sales presentation, what should you bring to a presentation?
Most sales presentations are in-person affairs and include visual elements, like a sales deck, handouts, or even, for some products, an in-person demonstration of the physical products (think of the stereotypical door-to-door vacuum salesman, spilling dirt on the floor just to vacuum it all up.)
This section will explain what you should prepare, pack and bring with you to wow your prospects.
The PowerPoint presentation
Most sales presentations include a sales deck to help deliver facts, figures and statistics that back up your presentation and help your prospects embrace your solution.
While you don’t have to use PowerPoint, you should use a slide application (like Google Slides) to present your sales deck so that it’s clearly visible to everyone in the room and easy to move from slide to slide with the click of a button.
Your sales deck should have a few key elements:
- A great cover image or opening slide: like the story you open your presentation with, your cover slide should grab your audience’s attention.
- Data and key points: Charts, graphs, quotes and other information back up your presentation. Your slides should support your presentation by visualizing data, not repeating what you’re saying. You can get data from third party sources, or (if it’s appropriate) from your own sales dashboard.
- Testimonials from other customers: Quotes from or information about other customers, preferably in the same industry as your prospects, will go a long way to backing up your claims.
- Customized content: While it might seem tempting to use the same content for every presentation, you should personalize your presentation for each meeting. You might want to use your prospect’s brand colors, find data specific to their market or industry, or reference an earlier exchange.
- A final slide with next steps: Your last slide should be a direct call to action, offering one or two next steps for your prospects.
A note about text in your sales deck: Keep the slides simple and light on text. Your prospects don’t want to be looking at a wall of words to read. According to data from Venngage, 84% of presenters use visual data in their presentations and there’s a good reason for that: your audience needs to follow the whole presentation, especially if they’re listening to you, looking at your sales deck and watching the demo—you don’t want to overwhelm them with information.
Nothing sells a product like seeing it in action.
Take the example of Scrub Daddy, a sponge that changes shape depending on the heat of the water. When Aaron Krause, Scrub Daddy’s founder and inventor, presented the product on Shark Tank in 2012, he demonstrated the sponge cleaning dirty kitchenware and greasy countertops. He also used bowls of water, and two 10-pound weights to show the sponge’s amazing morphic abilities.
The tactic paid off for Krause: Scrub Daddy partnered with Lori Greiner for $200,000, in return for 20% equity in the business and is now considered one of Shark Tank’s most successful products.
So how can you show off your product?
Figure out how to make your product portable
Not all products are easy to demo, so you may have to improvise.
- With a physical product, think of the perfect environment for a demo? What would show the product at its best?
- With a digital product, make sure you have the technology on hand to show what your product can do. (And check beforehand that the tech works). If it’s a mobile app, have your prospects download it. If it’s a platform, it might be best to demo via a projector.
- For some solutions, items that are too big to be brought in, or which are location-specific, you may have to rely on a video as part of the presentation.
Depending on the nature of your solution, you may need to hand out materials to the prospects in the room.
This can be as simple as contact information or sales literature, or it can be something that’s part of the presentation, like a QR code that allows them to download the demo on their phones.
Make sure this material is simple, to the point and won’t overwhelm them. You may want to distribute any handouts at the end of the presentation. After all, you want the people in the room listening to you, not reading the information you just gave them.
If you’re doing a presentation, chances are you’re not going alone. You might be heading to the presentation with another salesperson or two.
Whether you’re going solo or as part of a team, it’s important to prepare beforehand:
- Practice, practice, practice. You’ll need to get the timing right, especially if your presentation has a lot of moving parts. Go through it to make sure your timing works, so that you can nail the meeting itself.
- Make sure everything works. You don’t want to go into a meeting with a faulty PowerPoint presentation or a broken sample. Do your best to make sure everything goes to plan.
- Decide on everyone’s roles. This one is just for those presenting as a team. Will a different rep speak through each section? Will one rep talk while the others handle the sales deck and demo? Decide who will do and say what ahead of time.
Great sales presentation examples (and why they worked)
You may be wondering if there are sales presentation templates you can use to inform your next meeting.
Here are some sales presentation pitch examples you can use to inform your next sales presentation; these examples range from solid sales decks to presentations and we’ll explain why they worked so well.
The successful demo
Brian and Corin Mullins of Holy Crap cereal opened their pitch on Canadian Dragons’ Den in 2015 by handing out samples of their organic cereal to the dragons. The couple barely had a chance to launch into their stories and numbers before Jim Treliving, a few spoonfuls into his sample, offered them a deal.
Why it worked: The Mullinses knew the strength of their product and led with it, betting (correctly) that it would sell itself.
The data-driven presentation
SEOMoz is an inbound marketing and marketing analytics SaaS. The sales deck the company used to raise funds in 2011 told the business’s story up until then, including how it used the services it sells to boost business, with charts, graphs and other visually presented data.
Why it worked: The deck tells two stories: one about the company itself and another about the way the marketing world has changed. Moz used data to show how it met the industry’s new pain points both for itself and for other companies.
The presenters with overwhelming confidence
When Brian and Michael Speciale went on Shark Tank in 2017 to pitch their product, The Original Comfy, in 2017, they had very little—no numbers, no inventory; just a prototype of a big fleecy blanket/hoodie and video of that hoodie being worn everywhere from the couch to the beach. What they did have was a good product and confidence in that product. Their presentation earned them an offer of $50,000 for 30% from Barbara Corcoran.
Why it worked: Corcoran says she bought in because the Speciale brothers had ‘chutzpah’, a good idea, the guts to present it and knew they had to strike while the iron was hot. While you probably should be more prepared for your own sales presentation, the Original Comfy story shows just how important confidence is in a sales presentation.
Tailoring your sales presentation
It can be tempting to come up with a sales presentation template and use it over and over, but remember, personalization is important in sales.
During lead generation, prospecting and sales calls, you know that prospects are more interested in buying if your pitches are tailored to them. It’s the same with your sales presentations, especially if you have an unusual prospect.
Let’s say your product is a CRM that’s normally used by sales organizations, but a human resources department has expressed interest in using it to create a recruiting pipeline.
You wouldn’t use a sales deck with sales-related examples to sell it during the presentation.
Instead, you’d do research about HR challenges, ask your product department to create a template or a demo aimed at recruiting and build your sales deck around that.
Different industries have different challenges and opportunities. If you want to sell to them, you need to address them—and that means research and preparation.
“To craft the perfect sales presentation pitch,” advises Danny Hayward, Sales Manager at Unruly, “ensure you take care of these three things:
- Ask the right questions beforehand to understand the needs of the client, especially their flaws
- Learn your product inside and out
- Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again
“Asking the right questions before sculpting your sales presentation pitch allows you to tailor it directly to what the client needs in order to help them meet their specific business objectives.
“Learning everything you need to know about your product ensures you know it inside and out, so no stone is left unturned in case you get asked any sticky questions. Finally, rehearsing out loud is fundamental. Record yourself if need be to uncover any sticking points.
“You’ll pick up on nervous ticks and words you might repeat over and over. Once you’ve ironed these out, you’ll get every sale.”
How to nail the sales presentation
You’ve done all your prep and now it’s almost time for the presentation itself. Here are some ways to get the presentation right and close the deal.
Practice confident body language
Presentations usually happen in person, which is why you need to practice strong body language. You want to look relaxed, confident and like you know you’re going to land this deal. (Even if you’re shaking in your shoes.)
Here are some ways you can improve your body language:
- Eye contact: Make and maintain eye contact. This shows people you’re interested in them and invested in what they have to say.
- Stand up straight: Pull your shoulders back and straighten your spine; fixing your posture is an easy way to convey confidence. You’ll also feel better if you’re not hunched over.
- Chin up: It’s hard when you’re in front of people, but don’t look at the floor or your shoes. Face straight ahead and make eye contact (or look at the back wall rather than the floor.)
- Have a good, firm handshake: People judge others by their handshakes. Offer a firm handshake to make a good first impression.
How you can engage your audience
Presentations often take a while, usually 30 to 60 minutes, so you need to be able to keep your prospects interested. There are a number of ways to keep everyone on board, even if you’re talking for an hour.
1. Understand your audience’s attention span
These are the two important parts of every presentation: the beginning and the end. They are the most memorable, so that’s where you want to use your strongest material.
Rather than leading with your product’s features, use the first few minutes of a presentation to briefly introduce yourself, and then lead off the presentation with the compelling story we mentioned earlier, or if your demo itself is compelling, lead with that.
Then talk about product features. This is important information, but it’s also information your prospects might have already researched or can look up, so it’s fine that it’s occupying real estate in the middle of the presentation, where not as many people will remember it.
Lastly, finish strong. Return to your story, sharing how your product solved an important problem. Then say something like “I’m confident this product can solve your problem.”
2. Be funny
Humor can be tricky, so if you’re not comfortable making jokes or it feels forced, don’t make yourself be funny. If, however, you’re comfortable with it, humor is part of your brand voice and you think it will be well-received by your buyer personas, go for it. Humor can be a good way to connect with prospects, make your presentation memorable and relax everyone in the room.
3. Use a little showmanship
The best thing about a sales presentation is that it lets you show off your product. Unlike a pitch, a presentation lets you pull out the stops, make a splash and showcase your solution.
Use this to your advantage, and be as memorable as you possibly can.
“Get public speaking coaching, even if you are a competent speaker,” recommends Sophie Cameron, Business Development Representative at CAKE. “I once took an eight-week course, and it’s immensely helped my communication skills during a pitch.
“Just to drive this home, I then coached someone who entered a Santander start-up competition. They won.”
What to do after the sales presentation
So you’ve made it to the end of the presentation. What now?
It’s time to wrap up some loose ends and then close the deal.
Sometimes your prospects will sit through your whole presentation and then ask questions. Other times, prospects may want a question answered right in the middle of a presentation. That’s fine. It means they’re engaged.
If that happens, stop the presentation and take their questions head-on. You want them to know you’re listening to their concerns and taking them seriously. You also should encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns. This is a consultative selling approach that works to build a relationship with your prospects.
By the end of your sales pitch, your prospect should be ready to come along with you and start the next step of your business relationship.
Outline the next steps of the process. The first could be offering a trial of your product, scheduling a follow-up meeting, or sending over a proposal.
Whatever the next steps are, make sure they’re clearly defined. If you don’t hear from them soon after the proposal, be sure to check back in. We have follow-up email templates that will help you do that quickly and easily.
It can be tempting to play it safe with a sales presentation, to keep it to a sales deck and a speech, but a sales presentation should be a show-stopper.
Your presentation tells your customer’s story, shows data, offers a demo and more. It’s a major undertaking that shows the strength of your product. Done well, it keeps your prospects engaged and will make them want to do business with you. Done poorly, you just waste an hour of everyone’s time.
Tell a story, prove your value, show customers how they can change their business with your solution and you’ll have a killer sales presentation that sparks your customer’s interest and drives sales.