As a business development agency with an involvement in the entire sales process, we help our clients to influence the brands we’ve created opportunities to pitch to.
This article of insightful tips helps you to structure a professional and powerful sales presentation so that you can pitch your agency with conviction, confidence, and clarity.
Tip 1: Define the objective of your presentation
Are you looking to persuade (e.g. sales meeting), inspire people into action (e.g. budget decision makers) or educate (e.g. brands will want to know you understand their industry and target audience therefore new interesting insights will add credibility to your presentation). In a pitch or sales meeting situation, you will be looking to do all the above. The presentation content should then reflect your objectives, which can be measured quantitatively or qualitatively.
Examples of measurements are:
Sales: Did you win the project or progress to the next stage?
Inspirational: When questioned, do the decision makers commit to both the principle and action associated with your presentation topic?
Educate: Did your insights create further discussions?
Tip 2: Understand your audience and venue
Sometimes the presentation title defines the audience. Sometimes it’s the audience who define the title.
Things to consider on your audience are:
* Who are the people attending your presentation (marketing, finance, procurement)?
* How many will there be, and from what backgrounds?
* How will your audience be dressed, and expect you to dress (ideally the presenter should be aligned in appearance to the audience. In large corporations, shirt and tie is expected. In Marketing Communications, if you are targeting other agencies i.e. white labelling work, it’s more likely to be smart casual. Pitching this wrong can create a barrier to building rapport with your audience.
In terms of venue:
* The size of venue needs to be appropriate to the number of expected attendees.
* Ensure that you know exactly what technology is available to you and take what you need to with you. Even where the venue supplies this, always have a back-up plan. A decade ago this meant having printed copies for all your audience. Now it’s more likely to be a laptop and USB to store your presentation content
Tip 3: Using PowerPoint or video presentations
Using a poorly prepared and visually unattractive presentation can decrease the overall value of your content, as well as the perception of its delivery.
A few simple rules to avoid this happening are:
- Make the presentation visually interesting. In an ideal world, video should be used, but this can be impractical if you need to edit your presentations frequently (e.g. sales), where PowerPoint will suffice. That said, you can easily embed a mini-video presentation within an otherwise editable presentation. This can be driven by some small headers on the front page of a presentation, alongside your company logo (typical headings for a sales presentation can be “testimonials”, “financials”, and “proposal”)
- Do not overuse words and bullets. The rule of thumb here is that if I can present or read the content of your presentation without you being there, then it is a poor presentation. Only rely on key phrases or topic headers. Additionally, a thirty slide PowerPoint with nothing but bullets on it will bore your audience to sleep. Imbed “interest peaks” into your presentation (see below).
- Do not under use or over use animation. Often people feel the need to overuse animation, which can become distracting and over the top. Equally, dropping an entire slide into view means that the audience will inevitably read ahead of where you want them to be. Bring each salient point in as required.
- Make sure that you know in advance how much time you will have and plan your presentation accordingly. In sales presentations, if the client reduces the time you have to pitch, do not rush through a one-hour presentation in fifteen minutes. Discuss the most salient points or re-appoint to another time.
Tip 4: Create “interest peaks”
A standard presentation is 40 minutes in length. In this time, your audience will be at their most attentive in the first 10-12 minutes, and the last 5. This is because people “drift off” during presentations that are heavy in content, visually dull, or poorly presented. To counter this it is important to continually keep your audiences attention by offering new, interesting stimuli in terms of content and delivery.
Good methods of achieving this are:
- Anecdote – People like to hear a good, relevant story.
- Quotes – It is common to open and close presentations with quotes, which make an important point related to the presentation title, or to inject some humour.
- Jokes – On that very subject, jokes can keep audience energy high, but only if they are tactful, relevant to the presentation, and funny. Do not stop and wait for rapturous applause, because if it isn’t forthcoming you will look very silly indeed.
- Video or film – Changing the media you use will inevitable re-engage those lost during the presentation.
- Using different presenters – A single person for a long period can become dull. If it is realistic, and assuming both are good presenters in their own right, this can help to keep a longer session more engaging.
- Activities – It is said, “you remember 10% of what you hear, up to 80% of what you hear, see and actually experience yourself”. Where possible get your audience involved in appropriate activities.
Tip 5: Body language
The key mistakes made by inexperienced presenters are:
- Shuffling from side to side
- Playing with pens, watches, or anything you’re holding
- Staring at a single point or at the back of the room. Equally it’s poor etiquette to look at the screen whilst presenting. You should know the content, and even if you do not, use confidence cards for guidance. Remember YOU are your best visual aid in making presentations interesting.
Chris Gallagher is the Strategic Development Director for UpFront Business Development