5 Basics for Powerful Sales Presentations That Close Deals

Aug 12, 2016 | Prospecting, Sales, Sales Coaching

Are your salespeople doing lots of presentations but closing very little business? They may think, “My job is to help the prospect understand what we do, so I have to do a demo or presentation.”

Presenting but Not Closing

It’s true that part of the job is educating the prospect but that should not happen until rapport has been established and needs have been determined. There are places in the sales process where presenting can be necessary and there are times when you get put in that situation before you are ready. Either way, selling should always be more about asking and listening than about telling. Presentations need to be prepared in a way that makes them interactive. Planning questions to ask throughout the presentation gets the prospects talking. This is what will move the sale forward.

Continuous coaching is needed in this area. Your salespeople love the products and services they sell and are very knowledgeable about them, of course, they want to go out and tell everyone. They are excited to give their sales presentation. Where does a presentation fit in your sales process? How early in the sales cycle and what information is required from the prospect before presenting?

Steady, consistent sales come when we learn about our customers; their goals, their problems, and their vision for growth, and then determine if there is a fit between that and our product and service. The only way to do that is by listening. Salespeople need to be masters at asking the right questions, listening to the answers, and collaborating on solutions. Information on your company may need to be shared at some point but does not necessarily need to be in the form of a presentation.

Offering solutions may come in the form of a presentation, once the right conversations have occurred with the prospect. Even then, the salesperson must be prepared to ask questions throughout the presentation to engage the audience and to get them to participate.


Let’s Start with Some Basics.Business People Appreciating Businessman Explaining In Presentation

1. Before you present, consider the audience. Who are they, what do you know about them, and what do they need? Your presentation should be focused on that. They want to hear about their company and know you understand their problems, not hear a pitch.

2. Prepare and practice your presentation. Prepare the questions in advance so you can give your full attention to the person speaking not to what you will say next.

3. Take notes. You are the presenter, but you will need to be a good listener too. Have a place to take notes ready.  This is important for many reasons; you won’t have to interrupt the speaker, you can remember the answers and jot down how your solution would help, you can prepare for follow-up questions and you can summarize it at the end.

4. Once the prospect starts answering, interject only briefly and if relevant with a clarification question or with a benefit that fits something the speaker mentioned. Don’t worry about finishing your presentation. If they are talking, they are engaged.

5. Most people love to talk about themselves and their company, allow them to do that and ask good questions to keep them on track so you get the information you need.

Interweave the Solution

So if salespeople are asking and listening instead of telling and presenting how does the prospect learn about the solution? The solution should be interwoven into the conversation or presentation as appropriate. For example;

Salesperson: (the first slide is a statement of their problem as you understand it)“Your company needs to generate more leads quickly “How has your company done this in the past?”  

Prospect: “We have never really found a good solution.”  

Is this an invitation for the salesperson to dive in with their product information? No, more questions need to be asked. 


Salesperson: (Second slide – the word Solution)“What have you tried?” and after they answer, “Why didn’t that work?” 

The answers will help determine if your solution is a good fit, which you should have a good idea about from previous conversations.

Salesperson: “It sounds like you need a solution that will be easy to use, consistent, and sustainable, is that right?” 

Depending on the answer, reveal some information about how your solution might work in that case. Share a slide or two about your solution. Keep the slides simple with graphics that show the solution and very few words. You do the talking, not the slides.

Salesperson: “How would this work for your company?” 

Talk to Decision Makers in Advance

It is best to make sure you have the information you need by talking to the decision-makers in advance of a presentation. You get what you need and come back with a solution to fit their needs. (Much of the time preliminary questions can be asked over the phone especially when people may need to be reached prior to a presentation and they are not available to meet in person or all at the same time.) Once you have the information create a customized presentation pulling from whatever good general presentation your company already has prepared.

Provide Some Coaching

As a sales manager, this would be a good time to provide some coaching. Be sure the salesperson understands the prospect’s problem thoroughly. One or two slides will be needed for each benefit that speaks directly to the solutions they need. There may be lots of other fantastic benefits but don’t let them be tempted to throw them in. They can always have extra materials ready if needed.


Has the salesperson practiced the presentation? This may cause a bit of grumbling but this type of selling shortens the sales cycle because it keeps the sale moving forward or ends it quickly so time is not wasted. Salespeople appreciate that. They need to practice the balance between presenting and asking questions about what has been presented before moving on to the next idea.

At the beginning of the presentation, there should be a brief review of the things learned at the last meeting letting the prospects know that each will be covered. Start by describing their situation and the current need that led them to contact your company. Take their needs one at a time and match something from your solution that solves each. If there is an area you can’t address properly, let them know that your solution won’t cover that but that you have thought of some alternative ways to handle that. At each point along the way check in with the customer by asking a question.

A salesperson might react by saying, “Now wait a minute, I finally get a chance to present and you are telling me to ask more questions!” That’s right. When you present a solution you need to check in with the prospect to determine if that works for them and if they have any questions about it. Often when people hear ideas fed back to them it helps them clarify even further and develop new thoughts and directions. This may happen during your presentation and you will learn even more about your potential customer. You can address these things as they arise even though they may not be in your presentation. And good thing that you can because that may be the decision point and you won’t need to go through the rest of your slides.

Does this scare you? It shouldn’t. Salespeople waste so much time chasing customers that aren’t going to buy. I like to know as quickly as possible whether there is a fit between the need and my product so I can determine where to spend my time. People really appreciate it when you help them figure out that your product is not a good fit for their particular problem. It builds trust and loyalty that will lead you to future business with them or with someone they will refer you to because of your honesty.

I often see salespeople spend hours and hours getting every word they will say onto a presentation deck. When what they should be doing is getting their presentation notes ready, making a few slides to help the audience understand their main points, and spending time practicing. Practicing is what rarely gets done.

Please warn them to avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’. Here is a great video that explains the proper way to put together a presentation deck.

For examples of great presentations go to www.duarte.com. Read 7 Easy Ways to Create Your Best PowerPoint Presentations for more great tips on the actual presentation deck.

Very rarely these days are purchasing decisions made by one person. None of the above will help if the salesperson is talking to one person only or the wrong people. Salespeople need to be coached to find multiple people at each organization that will be interested in their solution. Questions need to be asked of all of them individually or in a group setting.

Don’t Make a Great Presentation to the Wrong People

Presentations need to be made when all of the decision-makers can be present. This is another thing that speeds up the sales cycle. Making the best presentation in the world to the wrong people rarely leads to a sale. Coach your salespeople to find all of the decision-makers, take the time to ask questions, listen, and tailor their presentations to their audience. Good presentations engage the audience and encourage them to participate.

Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman

Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion.  Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.


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