Sales Presentations: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We have all given them. We have all sat through them. And some of us have probably even fallen asleep during them. We are talking about the dreaded PowerPoint sales presentation.

Elliot Markowitz

December 4, 2013

3 Min Read
Sales Presentations: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We have all given them. We have all sat through them. And some of us have probably even fallen asleep during them. We are talking about the dreaded PowerPoint sales presentation.

So the question is, Are PowerPoint presentations effective sales tools anymore? That may seem like a simple question, but unfortunately its answer is complicated: It depends. It depends on the sales professional. It depends on the subject matter or product/service being sold. It depends on the level of engagement with customers and their objectives.

There are three main problems with most sales presentations: They are way too long, they don’t address the customer’s needs or objectives, and they never actually sell the customer. Sales presentations still can be an extremely effective resource, but they need to be used wisely; most people have sat through too many bad presentations in their life already and have become experts in tuning out.

The Ugly Presentation: The ugly presentation start when you show up at your customer’s door with a briefcase full of black-and-white slide handouts. In addition, your laptop is not charged so you can’t use the customer's projector, and instead you go through the presentation page by page, talking about all the wonderful services your company offers.

What's more, the handouts you are using have no graphics, images or pictures, but they are crammed full of information to take up the full hour. You also don't have enough handouts for everyone because you didn’t ask how many people would be joining the meeting. You aren't making eye contact because you are constantly looking at the handout, so you can't gauge the customer's interest.

You have little energy throughout the presentation and, as a result, so does your customer. All these things disengage the customer.

The Bad Presentation: Bad presentations consist of 50 slides that go into depth about your mission statement, philosophy, founding, management structure, customer base, industries, products and services. Most people speak a minute per slide, so you figure you'll have an hour to talk at the customer and show how much effort you put into the meeting.

While some of these presentations can highlight the creative abilities in your marketing department, which has made the presentation artful and visually pleasing, they still fall flat because they miss the mark or don't resonate with the customer's objectives. This type of presentation also leaves little time for discovery and real customer interaction.

In addition, poor presentations are those that never ask for anything. They are open-ended. All sales meetings should result in either a sale or a follow-up action item to try and make the sale. Pretty slides do not end up in sales.

The Good Presentation: Some will say good presentations do not use PowerPoint at all anymore. That is not the case. Like having a few drinks on New Year’s Eve, PowerPoint must be done responsibly. Sales presentations need to be upbeat and energetic—enthusiasm is contagious. Plus, your presentation should be quick and to the point—you should know the customer’s objectives and build the presentation to speak to them. It also should discuss how your technology or service will their address pain points.

A good presentation is no longer than 15 to 20 minutes, with each slide leading to a discussion on the customer's business issues and objectives. Incorporate industry research, link to articles from trade publications and use video testimonials if available. Slides are used for education and emphasis, not for company information dumps.

A good presentation also leverages the technology of PowerPoint but doesn’t revolve around PowerPoint. Good presentations are used to back up your points, not take up time. Good presentations lead to a sale because they are engaging, interactive and are more about the customer than your own company.

Take a look at your “go to” sales presentation before heading into 2014. Is it dull, unsophisticated and boring? Is it visually stimulating but too long? Is it marketing gone wild, chock full of capabilities? Or, is it clean, crisp and engaging?

In other words, is it good, bad or ugly?

About the Author(s)

Elliot Markowitz

Elliot Markowitz is a veteran in channel publishing. He served as an editor at CRN for 11 years, was editorial director of webcasts and events at Ziff Davis, and also built the webcast group as editorial director at Nielsen Business Media. He's served in senior leadership roles across several channel brands.

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