A good sales presentation can persuade anyone to buy your product.
A bad one is going to get laughs. And no, not in a good way.
In this guide, I’m going to reveal 21 of the best sales presentation tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.
I can’t promise results, but I’ll bet you can learn something from this guide. And if you apply what you learn, you’re going to see real improvements.
So let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
- What Makes an Effective Sales Presentation?
- Sales Presentation Tricks
- 1. Send your sales presentation before the meeting.
- 2. Start with the problem, not the solution.
- 3. Give your buyer the tools to discover their own problem.
- 4. Show that you understand.
- 5. Use the Before-After-Bridge technique.
- 6. Lead into your unique differentiators.
- 7. Sculpt your tone to match your audience.
- 8. Capture attention before delving into details.
- 9. Write a concise, compelling headline for each slide.
- 10. Keep text content minimal.
- 11. Choose photos with expressive people.
- 12. Leave room for engagement.
- 13. Tell a real story.
- 14. Focus on competitor strengths—not just weaknesses.
- 15. Include social proof.
- 16. Keep your slides clean.
- 17. Wait until the end to talk about price.
- 18. Make your presentation scannable.
- 19. Trim the fat.
- 20. Measure your performance.
- 21. AB test.
- Bonus Tips for Presenting
What Makes an Effective Sales Presentation?
I want to start with a question: what makes an effective sales presentation?
Lots of salespeople ask “how can I make my sales presentation better?”
But the question you need to ask first is, “what does ‘better’ mean?”
Good presentations tend to have the following qualities:
- Persuasiveness. A good sales presentation is persuasive (see these top persuasion techniques). It has the power to change someone’s mind. It has the power to convince someone to make a purchase. That’s a big step forward to take if you’re introducing your brand to a consumer for the first time, but it’s the big-picture goal you need to keep in mind.
- Informativeness. Your presentation should be informative. A person perusing your sales presentation should walk away with a much better understanding of your brand, your product, and heck, maybe even themselves.
- Memorability. What good is your presentation if it’s forgotten the moment a customer is done with it? You want your work to stick in your prospect’s mind, ideally long after the presentation is over.
- Accessibility. Though arguably less important, a good presentation should be accessible. It should be easy for a customer to read and review on their own—and it should make sense to someone seeing it for the first time.
So what can we do to achieve these qualities with our sales presentations?
Sales Presentation Tricks
These are some of the best tricks for polishing and perfecting your sales presentation:
1. Send your sales presentation before the meeting.
Got a prospect? Got a meeting time? Send them the presentation before the meeting.
This has a number of distinct benefits, and all of them will help you in the long run. For starters, your prospect will get to review the presentation briefly before meeting with you. They’ll be less distracted during your presentation and will be better informed later—which means they’ll ask better questions and be more engaged, ultimately leading to a higher potential close rate.
This also means your prospect will get to review the file after the presentation is over. They can take their time coming to a decision and can see your beautiful slides anytime they want.
2. Start with the problem, not the solution.
Too many salespeople start with the solution, rather than the problem. “Here’s our product! It works by…”
Don’t do that.
Instead, create the right setting and atmosphere. You want your audience hungry for a solution like yours—before you introduce the solution.
Describe the nature of the problem you’re trying to solve. Explain why it’s a problem. Sympathize with your buyer. And then, when they’re feeling motivated, hit them with the solution—they’ll eat it up.
3. Give your buyer the tools to discover their own problem.
Even better, don’t spoon feed your prospect. Don’t tell them what their problem is. Instead, let them figure out what their problem is.
You can do this with illustrations, metaphors, statistical data, or even basic questions. For example, instead of saying, “You waste too much time on meetings,” lead with a question like, “How much time do you spend on meetings?”
You want to prompt your buyer in a way that forces them to contemplate their own situation. Your solution will be much more attractive if your customers come to their conclusions on their own.
4. Show that you understand.
People are much more likely to buy from someone if they feel a kind of connection to them—if they feel the seller understands them.
Show your customers that you feel their pain.
Use a combination of stories, anecdotes, and simple sympathetic statements to show that you understand them. This requires, of course, that you actually understand them.
Do your demographic research and conduct surveys to get in the head of your average buyer, and use your new information to craft more effective messaging.
5. Use the Before-After-Bridge technique.
The Before-After-Bridge is a sequence of slides that can make your presentation much more compelling.
The “Before” section is a way to describe the problem. It describes the present and points out exactly what’s wrong with it.
The “After” section is a way to describe the solution. It describes the solution and explains how it solves the problem.
The “Bridge” section describes how to get from the Before section to the After section. What steps need to be taken by your customer to get from Before to After?
Present these ideas, in this order, and you’ll have a super compelling presentation on your hands.
6. Lead into your unique differentiators.
Many salespeople like to lead with their unique differentiators—the factors that make this solution different than every other solution on the market.
Obviously, these are a big deal.
But you shouldn’t lead with them. Instead, you should lead into them. Spend some time describing the problem and the solution (ie, solution selling), and then focus on what makes your product unique.
Otherwise, your customers won’t have the context they need to truly appreciate what you’re saying.
7. Sculpt your tone to match your audience.
The tone of your presentation matters, even if it’s difficult to sculpt.
As a general rule, your writing should match the tone of your intended audience. If you want to reach a professional, experienced decision maker, your tone should be polished and formal. If you want to reach a more laid-back middle manager, work with something friendlier and more casual.
If you get stuck on this point, look up some presentations by and for your target audience to see what kind of language they use.
8. Capture attention before delving into details.
If you can’t capture immediate attention, the rest of your message is practically useless—that’s why email subject lines are so important.
Accordingly, your first goal as a sales presenter is to get your audience’s attention.
Start with something striking. It could be a shocking statistic. A cool story. Or even an astounding video.
Whatever it is, it needs to give your audience a reason to focus now—that way, the rest of your presentation can work its magic.
9. Write a concise, compelling headline for each slide.
Each slide in your presentation should have some kind of written header (with a few possible exceptions). These headers will explain the intent of each slide—and make it much easier for people reading it to find what they’re looking for.
Headers should be descriptive, but concise. So don’t overload these headlines with too many words, or they may eclipse your main message.
10. Keep text content minimal.
It’s also a good idea to keep your text content minimal throughout the presentation. If you have multiple paragraphs of information to dispense, consider the alternatives; you can break this content up into multiple slides, or you can write an abridged version and dispense the remaining details when you present the material.
Content minimalism will prevent audience fatigue and keep your slides tightly designed. It may also help to stop you from reading your slides (more on that later).
11. Choose photos with expressive people.
Presentations are a mostly visual format, so it makes sense that you’ll be including lots of photos. Photos of your solution (and potentially, the core audience problem) are a no-brainer, but you should also include photos of expressive people.
Show people smiling or laughing in a natural environment (when possible). You’d be amazed how much of an impact this can have on public reception of your presentation.
12. Leave room for engagement.
Presentations may seem like a kind of unidirectional monologue. But they work much better when they’re engaging; your prospects and audience members should feel like they’re interacting with your work.
The easiest way to achieve this is to include engaging questions throughout the presentation.
Ask your audience what their main pain points are, and what they think the solution could be. This is even more effective when you’re delivering your presentation to an audience member directly.
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13. Tell a real story.
People respond favorably to stories; they’re a powerful communication tool. Use stories, with beginnings, middles, and ends, to frame your points within your presentation’s narrative.
For example, can you tell the story of a client who used your solution and saw amazing results?
Can you tell a horror story about a company that failed because of a common problem? As long as it has a narrative structure, it will carry your points well.
14. Focus on competitor strengths—not just weaknesses.
In most cases, it pays to at least acknowledge your competitors in your presentation. Otherwise, it may seem like you’re trying to hide something.
The common approach is to rag on your competitors, listing their weaknesses and rubbing in the fact that they’re inferior to you. But if you do this, you’ll open the door to criticism—and it might be seen as being in poor taste.
Instead, it’s actually usually better to talk about your competitors’ strengths—and why those strengths aren’t a good fit for your audience. Then, talk about your own strengths as a differentiator.
Social proof is incredibly powerful as a persuasive tool. When people see that others have engaged in a service and have been satisfied, they’re much likely to engage in that service on their own.
You can present social proof in a number of different ways. For example, you can list some of your biggest and most successful clients. You can include a smattering of reviews and/or testimonials.
You can even post some tweets and social media posts doting on your brand. Just make it clear that other people like you.
16. Keep your slides clean.
Minimalism is in when it comes to sales presentation design. The cleaner your slides are, and the more white space they contain, the better.
Minimalism and white space make it much easier to pay attention to your core content. It also signals polish and professionalism.
Unfortunately, there’s no hard rule for this; instead, you’ll have to experiment with different volumes of content and different design choices, and see which ones work best.
17. Wait until the end to talk about price.
At some point, you’ll have to talk about price—the proverbial elephant in the room. You can solve this problem for your customer, but how much is it going to cost?
Some people like to mention price upfront to get it out of the way, but in most cases, it’s better to save it for the end. Don’t let your customers think about price—make them think about problems and solutions, and why your product is awesome.
Then, once they’re convinced it’s awesome, give them the pricing to help them make the final call.
18. Make your presentation scannable.
Ideally, your customers would read every word of your presentation.
But let’s face it. They’re not going to.
We have to set our expectations low and assume our audience is going to read the headlines and bullet points of each slide only. They’re going to scan it quickly and move onto they’re next task. They are busy, after all.
Instead of fighting against this, lean into it. Make your presentation scannable by improving readability and making the main points clear. Your customers will thank you, and your core message will be more likely to be understood.
19. Trim the fat.
No matter who your audience is, they’re going to appreciate it if you respect their time.
Make your presentation more digestible, easier to read, and less time consuming by “trimming the fat.” Go through your presentation when you’ve completed the first draft and see what you can remove.
Are there slides you can outright delete? Are there paragraphs you can whittle down? How else can you make this bulky presentation more concise?
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
20. Measure your performance.
So at this point, your presentation is pretty much done. But there are couple more things we need to address about your drafting process.
First, you need to measure your performance. When you send out the presentation, how many people respond to it? When you give the presentation, when do people stop paying attention? Which parts do they love? When you conduct a survey, what do people find most and least valuable in your presentation?
All these data need to guide you in refining your presentation—and possibly helping you decide to start a new one from scratch.
21. AB test.
While these best practices can be helpful, sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going to work and what isn’t for your target audience. The only way to know for sure is to experiment—like a mad scientist.
The best approach here is to create multiple versions of your presentation with slightly different variables (an A version and a B version, let’s say), and test them out in similar environments. This is known as an AB test, and it can help you decide which variables are most important.
You may not land on the perfect presentation after a single AB test, but after repeated iterations of AB testing, and the willingness to continue experimenting, eventually, you’ll polish your sales presentation to perfection—or at least find peace with a never-ending cycle of AB testing and ongoing improvement.
Bonus Tips for Presenting
In the previous section, we covered a lot of ground on creating the perfect sales presentation.
But what about actually presenting it?
Depending on the circumstances, you might simply send off your presentation to a prospective reader and hope for the best. But most of the time, you’ll be in charge of giving it to people.
As presenter, there are many ways you can enhance the core content:
Presenting is a sales skill, and like any skill, you’ll get better at it with practice and with time. Long before you get ready to give your presentation to an audience, you should be rehearsing it. Just don’t overdo it here, or you’ll end up sounding like a robot when it comes time to present the real thing.
Prevent or fix technical issues.
Even if your presentation is suitably compelling, it’s not going to land if it’s plagued with technical bugs. If you can’t get the presentation to open, or if the formatting doesn’t load quite right… sheesh that would be embarrassing.
Prevent this nightmare by getting ready early and double checking to make sure everything works as intended. If you have an issue, fix it before it’s too late.
Take your time.
Have you ever been given a speech where the presenter rushed through their words like they were in a race? It’s pure agony. Not only do you have a hard time following, you also get the impression that this person is nervous or unconfident.
Don’t be that guy. Take your time. Using pauses and slow speech to your advantage can make you a much more compelling presenter.
Don’t jump into the presentation and start talking about your business. You have to warm up first.
Introduce yourself to the room. Make some light small talk. Get people feeling comfortable before you start trying to sell them on something.
Do more than reading slides.
Please. For the love of God. Don’t simply read your slides.
This is advice you’re given in high school, yet many professionals continue to neglect it. Feel free to use your slides as prompts to guide your discussion, but you need to add something else, or say things in other words.
Otherwise, your audience will feel bored and cheated—after all, they could have just read this presentation on their own to save time.
Joke a little.
Even in the stodgiest room, most people enjoy a good joke. Feel free to pepper in some humor throughout your presentation if the mood feels right. It’s a good way to lighten the mood, make people more comfortable, and show how confident you are.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.