Sales presentation outline

by Peter Watts

Here are eight ideas for creating a sales presentation outline that targets your sales message onto this specific customer, in this specific moment.

No two customers are alike, so time spent customizing your outline will infinitely raise your chances of success.

1. Link to the sales cycle

What stage of their buying cycle is the customer currently in?

Early in the sales cycle: Address broad issues

If the customer is early in their buying cycle, and you haven’t yet had the opportunity to clarify their exact needs, then address your presentation towards how your product meets challenges encountered by customers in that industry.

Mid-point in the sales cycle: Targeted problems and pay-offs

By now you will have had meetings with the customer and understand their specific issues. Tie your presentation into how you specifically address those issues.

Late in the sales cycle: Reassurance

When the presentation is the final stage before the customer makes their decision, it becomes more about reassurance that you are the best vendor to go with. Focus onto evidence of other successful implementations and after-sales support.

2. Know your key message

As part of your preparation, ask yourself what would be the one thing that you want every audience member to be saying as they leave the room. Write that message down, and ensure it is no longer than the length of a standard Twitter message; 140 characters or less.

Link every slide that you use and every phrase that you speak directly back to that key message.

One of my golden rules for presenting is “Never underestimate the ability of an audience to completely miss the point!”, so don’t be afraid to repeat your key message. The more ways you can link it into the presentation, the more likely it is that the audience will lock onto it and remember.

3. Link product features to key message: Three at most

Many standard sales presentation decks come with slides that list key product features. These slides can be deadly for any presenter who attempts to read their way through those lists.

Know in advance which specific features on the slide relate to the key points that you want the customer to appreciate, and address those points alone. Ideally address just two features. Address three as an absolute maximum.

4. Get ready for objections

What is the sales objection that you least want to encounter during your presentation?

Anticipate that objection and prepare an answer for it in advance. If you can deal with that objection, then you can deal with anything!

5. Ask for the business

You are there to sell, so lead by telling the customer exactly that! Use phrases such as “I would very much like to be able to welcome you as a customer” in order to demonstrate that you want their business and are prepared to work for it.

6. Prepare a clean hand-over

How will you guarantee that all who attend are left with easy ways to follow-up with you, or even better, with easy ways for you to follow-up with them?

Ideally, obtain attendee contact details and then follow-up by phone or e-mail to invite additional questions. Start a discussion!

7. Keep it short

Many sales presentations go on far too long. This means that customers tune-out and the key information you want to communicate becomes drowned in a morass of slides and extraneous details.

Nobody was ever shot for a having a presentation that was too short. Many though have lost the deal by having presentations that were too long. Be brutal in editing your presentation to bring it down to the shortest time possible.

8. Stand-out by customizing

The common factor amongst sales presentations that fail to win the business is that they are all standard presentations; a standard company slide deck delivered rote because the sales person didn’t care enough to customize for the customer.

This presentation is possibly the first time that this prospective customer has encountered the service-levels of your company, and in this presentation moment, you are those service levels.

Every moment that you spend customizing your presentation outline to reflect that customer, their industry, and their needs, is time well spent. It is time that shows you care. It is time that shows the customer they can trust you. It is time that shows you want their business.

Nancy Duarte Resonate iBook

by Peter Watts

“Great presenters transform audiences”, and Resonate on the Apple iPad transforms business books. Resonate shows what’s possible when strong ideas combine with eye-catching delivery.

Think of it as a TARDIS

Resonate is my first encounter with a business book on the iPad. Many e-books simply taken a traditional book format, and make them electronic, but Nancy Duarte has gone several steps further and supplemented text with videos, sound clips, and pop-out diagrams. Resonate resembles Doctor Who’s TARDIS; it’s way bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. The book is packed with ideas, but the multimedia approach compress those ideas into shiny nuggets. Those nuggets are memorable, and when you take the self-assessment quizzes at the end of each chapter, you’ll be surprised at how much information you absorbed in a short time.

The Audience is the Hero

The standout message of Resonate is that the audience is the hero. You are the mentor. You are Yoda guiding Luke Skywalker. Your role as mentor is to launch the audience onto a journey that leads to new insights and discoveries.

This mind-shift to presenter as mentor subtly shifts your presentation style. I tried the shift for myself during a three day training class and I found that it made me a kinder presenter, a more patient presenter, and at times, willing to be a far more challenging presenter.

Taking the audience on a story

The topic of story-telling has attracted so much online comment in the past year that it’s almost become an internet meme. But what does “storytelling” in a presentation context actually mean? To the average person storytelling involves starting with the phrase “Once upon a time” and then ending with “…and they all lived happily ever after”, but what should go on in the middle? The storytelling buzz leaves many presenters confused.

Resonate actually explains how the process works. Nancy Duarte uses examples from literature and cinema, and combines them with the work of Hollywood script analyst Chris Vogler. In my favorite section of Resonate, Nancy uses the full potential of the iBook to combine Chris Vogler’s video-tutorials on storytelling with expandable diagrams that lay-out the storytelling process; a process known as “The Hero’s Journey”.

This work on The Hero’s Journey not only applies to presenters, but also represents the stages a customer passes through on the way to a major purchase. Resonate is therefore a great book for salespeople.

The story form

The third key idea in Resonate is the use of the Story Form, a shape describing the accordion push and pull between the opposing tensions of what is, and of what could be.

NancysShapeBetter

The tension between these two points creates contrast between an audience’s current situation, and the improved situation or “new bliss” that a presenter is describing.

Resonate shows how to use a structure that flexes back and forth between these two points, creating a motion that propels audiences forward.

Anecdotes

Anecdotes from the author are an important part of business books. Nancy Duarte anecdotes are humorous, usually self-effacing, and always relevant. From how to save yourself when presenting while heavily medicated through how to prepare the ultimate beer presentation when you really don’t like beer, each anecdote brings to life another aspect of presenting.

It’s fun

Finally, Resonate is tremendous fun to read. It has a huge personality, and while it centrally features Nancy Duarte, her whole team get’s pulled in as well. For my personal favorite, flick to page 21. Play with the slider that appears at the top of the page, and see what happens to Art Director Ryan as his image gets morphed to prove the point that your presentation isn’t all about you.

Resonate on the iPad is available from the Apple App Store

Auxesis and Meiosis. Because size matters

Presentation word choice impacts how customers perceive scale.

by Peter Watts

Will your customer be satisfied with the solution, happy with the solution, or delighted with the solution?

Is the cost involved for the project significant, reasonable, or modest?

We are creatures of size. Whenever something is described, our minds apply a level of scale, from small to large and onwards to gargantuan.

Effective sales presenters take control of that sizing process through their choice of words.

It’s all about your adjectives; the descriptive flavours in your speech.

Let’s take an example. Having had an accident slicing onions for the previous evening’s meal, you walk into the office with a dressing on your hand. A colleague asks you what happened. How do you describe the onion-slicing accident: Was it a nick? Was it a cut? Or was it a gash?

If you chose to use the word “nick” then you are making your injury appear smaller. The technical terms is meiosis. You are using smaller, less punchy words in order to intentionally downplay the significance. Your colleague smiles at you, and walks away.

If you choose the word “gash” however, then you are using the technique of auxesis. Dramatic adjectives make things appear bigger. Your colleague looks horrified and enquires about stitches and hospital visits.

Same injury, different descriptive terms, different audience reaction.

This process of scaling goes on in every human interaction. When presenting, there will be times that you consciously want to influence the direction of that scaling, towards either smaller or larger.

Next time you plan a sales presentation, take a moment to experiment with one or two new adjectives. When you want to make something stand-out in lights, look for a bigger, bolder adjective to do it with. When you want something to recede and appear smaller, use a quieter and more mouse-like adjective.

If you’re stuck for ideas, do a Google search for “adjectives”. There are endless lists out there on the web. Here’s two that I found:

Keep and Share

A good basic list of adjectives that has been divided into topics.

Daily Writing Tips

This website for writers has flashier options, including the fabulous “crapulous” (which contrary to my first instinct appears to mean “immoderate in appetite”). Be a little careful with some of the more unusual adjectives.

You want the audience seamlessly scaling, not reaching for a dictionary.

Sales arguments that build presentations

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by Peter Watts

At the core of a sales presentation are logical arguments that lay out why your product benefits the customer.

Those sales arguments need the force of mathematical logic.

1 + 2 = 3

The best way that I can demonstrate the two routes to achieving this sort of math-magic is by sharing with you the slogan from a TV commercial that I often hear when I’m traveling in the Middle East. It’s for a tax planning company. Their sales argument is:

“Successful SME’s value our tax advice,

If you’re a successful SME

You’ll want our tax advice today”

Approach #1: The syllogism

That argument above is in a structure called a syllogism. It works in three parts:

  • Premise 1: “Successful SME’s value our tax advice.”
  • Premise 2: “You’re a successful SME”
  • therefore Conclusion 3: “You’ll want our tax advice.”

1 + 2 = 3

Whenever I hear that commercial, I want to vault across my hotel room to change the channel. It grates on my every mental synapse. Why? Because the argument is so damned obvious. The sales message is being laid-on with a trowel and I resent being treated like a child.

That’s the problem with syllogisms. They attempt to do all the thinking for the customer, and in the process treat them as idiots.

Approach #2: The enthymeme

An enthymeme is a syllogism with a bit chopped-off. Rather than pureeing your sales argument in the liquidizer and then spoon-feeding it to the audience as if they were enfeebled, an enthymeme asks the audience to do a little of the chewing for themselves. Result: better digestion.

Let’s go back to the math:

1 + 2 = 3

Let’s say that entire sum represents a syllogism. It’s all laid out for you on the page.

Now I’m going to take away a number:

1 + ? = 3

Within moments you work out that ? = 2

That’s an enthymeme. The audience is invited to deduce the missing piece of the argument, and therefore to feel just that little bit clever about themselves!

How to apply this to sales-world?

Your first base, is to start with a full-scale syllogism. Imagine that your company is renowned for environmental business practice. You win prizes for it. The syllogism for the customer presentation might look a little like this:

Premise 1: “Responsible organizations see protecting the environment as important”

Premise 2: “You are a responsible organisation”

Conclusion 3: “Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

So far, so cheesy. Well, it’s a syllogism! 1 + 2 = 3

Now let’s create a sales presentation enthymeme by chopping out sections:

Enthymeme A: ? + 2 = 3

“As a responsible organization, protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and concludes: “Responsible organizations seek to protect the environment”

Enthymeme B: 1 + ? = 3

“All responsible organisations seek to protect the environment. Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and flatteringly concludes: “We are a responsible organization.”

These little mini-structures might be sounding vaguely familiar to you. If they are then it’s because you’re recognizing the pattern from some of the better examples of television advertising. Advertisers who want to sell products recognize that by coding sales arguments as enthymemes, they are more likely to win over the audience.

That same coding will work for you. Sales presentation arguments are at their most persuasive when we invite the customer to be involved.

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