It happened last week and I cringed. A new client wanted to know how to create a winning sales presentation and he asked me, “Hey, could you take a look at my slide deck? I teach my salespeople to present from it, and they just aren’t doing it well. That should be one of our areas of focus.” With great fear, I asked, “How many slides are in it?” “41,” he replied proudly, telling me that he’d paid a lot of money to a marketing firm to develop it.
Oh, God. When I looked at the deck, it was just as I feared. Some great graphics, lots of one-size-fits-all puffery, and precious little that any customer would care about. I called my client and told him to never use it again. I know I burst a big bubble, but the truth is that “slide decks” don’t do anything for you in the Solution phase of the Buyer’s Journey (or really, any other phase), UNLESS you are presenting to a large buying committee and need the visuals to keep everyone interested. And even then, it shouldn’t be one size fits all. Our job in the Solution phase is to persuade. Customers aren’t persuaded by slide-deck babble. I’m going to show you a simple three-step process for building a presentation that will persuade.
First of all, we need to understand how people are persuaded. Pardon me while I get a bit nerdy, but I first learned how people were persuaded in competitive debate in high school and college (yeah – I was a real babe magnet). In debate, we constructed our cases in three parts, in a tight, logical flow that would set the stage for a debate and give the judge reasons to give the win to us. Of course, there were many speeches yet to go before we won! When I started selling, I found that this same three-part presentation could create a winning sales presentation that engages customers and guides them towards a purchasing decision.
In my experience, the most persuasive sales presentations follow a simple three-part structure – Observations, Plan, and Advantages. If you can master this format, it will focus your customer calls, guide the buyer on their journey, demonstrate that you have expertise in solving their issues, and highlight the payoff of buying your stuff. With that said, the three parts look like this:
Observations: Start with Observations (you don’t have to use this terminology if you don’t want to – but think of it this way). The Observations are called that because it’s what you have observed. In this section, you should concisely and clearly detail the customer’s situation based on your questioning and research – and confirm with the customers that you’re right. Demonstrating an understanding of their challenges, needs, and goals shows that you care and sets the stage for your proposed solutions.
For example, “As we discussed earlier, your current issues include a lack of insight into sales rep activity, over 20% quarterly customer churn, and the inability to segment customers for targeted marketing campaigns. I understand how frustrating these problems are, especially for recurring revenue growth. Do I have that right?”
I’m not a big word guy – but after you have confirmed that your Observations are right, there’s a three word phrase that you should use, because it lets the customer know that he or she is in good hands.
“Here’s my plan.” Yep, this time, use the word “Plan.” You’re giving the customer confidence and communicating authority.
Plan: After reflecting the customer’s observed needs, transition into the Plan – your recommendations based on expertise. Provide an overview of the proposed solutions, how they address the discovered Observations, and what actions the client should take.
For example, “Based on your situation, I recommend acquiring our CRM platform with built-in AI and analytics. This will provide real-time visibility into all sales interactions, help you spot vulnerable customers so you can stop churn before it starts, and let you segment your customers for precisely-targeted email, social media and ad campaigns.”
Frame the parts of your plan (in debate, we called the “plan planks,” but you don’t need to) around the issues called out in the Observations so the “win” is clear. Where it’s appropriate, include calls to action such as scheduling demos, signing contracts, or next steps. In fact, if your solution isn’t simple, a proposed implementation timeline is another element that can give your Buyer confidence to move forward in their journey.
Advantages: Now let’s win this thing, and show your Buyer the reason why you’re the only solution. The final Advantages section should vividly illustrate how your solutions positively impact the customer. Focus on clear “before and after” scenarios – contrast the current frustrations from the Observations against the vision of success enabled by adopting your Plan.
For example, “With our CRM, your sales manager can coach reps based real metrics instead of flying blind. When we set up customer risk alerts, we trigger automatic retention offers or actions customized for each segment. And marketing campaigns will resonate 10x more powerfully thanks to hyper-personalization.”
Want to take it to the next level? Add in case studies or testimonials to offer proof that your Advantages really happen.
The Advantages close the loop opened by the Observations, creating an elegant cause-and-effect circle. The Buyer can clearly see how your solution leads to the resolution of their pains. This spurs action – signing contracts, scheduling follow-ups, or purchasing – all of which move the Buyer’s Journey forward.
Here’s a bonus tip. I’ve written this article as if the Solution phase is a separate activity from the Investigation phase – in other words, you ask questions, you go back to the batcave to develop your presentation, and then you come back. The real challenge is to know your stuff well enough that you don’t have to do that. Create what I call a Mental Slide Deck of presentation points for your main products and how you solve the most common needs that you face – and then quickly organize the three-part presentation in your mind and give it. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it requires an agile mind – but that’s what your Buyer expects.
The key thing to remember is that, in the Buyer’s Journey, you are guiding them through the journey. You are digging to define their needs and Desired Future State, you are using your expertise to solve their problems, and you are persuading them that yours is the solution to adopt. If you use this 3-part framework to create a winning sales presentation, you will be more convincing and you will consistently close more deals.