Structuring a presentation that sells effectively; Issue #227 January 18, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Structuring a presentation that sells effectively

In my consulting work, I recently worked with three different CEOs on presentations where the primary objective was to sell their ideas or services.  The reason an executive hires me to work with them on a presentation is not because I am a designer who creates fancy looking slides.  They hire me because I work on the content of their presentation to make it effective and create slides that support the message (if you want to see if I would be a good fit for your organization, read this page).  Today I want to share a few ideas on making sales presentations more effective.

The foundation is to get a clear structure as the starting point.  Let me use one of the recent situations as an example.  I asked the CEO to answer the three key structure questions.  First, what do you want the Board of Directors to do at the end of the presentation?  While this sounds like an easy question, it took some discussion before we came up with the specific action he wanted them to take.  It was not to make the buying decision that day.  Don’t always settle for the first easy answer to this question, because it may not be as clear and specific as you need it to be.

The second question was what situation did the Board of Directors find themselves in at this time?  There was a history of what had happened that was causing them to search for a new supplier of this service.  What were the pain points?  Was there a looming deadline (there was, within three days of the presentation)?  What other competitors were they also asking to present a proposal?  Finding out as much about the current situation is critical in setting the stage to answer the third question.

The third question is what arguments will you make that will move the Board of Directors from their current situation to the desired action by the end of the presentation?  There should be three to five of these key ideas.  If you have more than three to five, group like ideas into broad categories  Think of these as the elements of an equation, where you would be able to say that because of argument one, plus argument two, plus argument three, plus argument four, the conclusion is that the Board should take the following action.  These must be logical and in sequence to take the Board on the journey.

Getting a solid structure takes some time, but it is critical to the success of the presentation.  I worked with this CEO on the structure over 2-3 phone calls and we developed answers to all three questions.  He was amazed at the clarity it gave him on what needed to be said during the presentation.

Only then could we decide on what slides he would use to support the arguments in the presentation.  Your slides are never the starting point for the presentation.  We created slides that demonstrated his company’s unique approach and expertise.  When he went to present, he was confident because he was clear on the message he was to deliver.  Any questions that came up could be answered easily because he knew what direction he wanted to take the conversation.

The end result, he won the deal worth over $200,000.  Having a good presentation structure is a key ingredient to selling your ideas effectively in any setting.  Start with structure, then create slides to support your arguments.