(This blog is a 5th in a 15 part series titled ‘Definitive Guide to Making Killer Sales Presentations’. Sign-up now to be the first to receive the full-fledged guide.)
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
This is as true with sales presentation slides as with anything else in the world. It is very important for the presenter to be simple with his sales presentation if he wants the audience to remember any takeaway from it and hopes to entice action.
Easier said than done. Making things simple is but the hardest thing to do. As John Maeda, Design Partner at KPCB, MIT Media Labs professor and a lifelong designer and a technologist, correctly points out in his TED talk ‘Designing for simplicity’, that humans understand simple things but they love complexity. Thus, it is important for any person trying to make somebody else understand an idea to be simple in their approach.
There is an entire field of study, termed, Information Design, which deals with study of turning complex information into broken down simple ideas which can be easily digested one-at-a-time.
From its Wikipedia Page:
- On a large scale, it implies choosing relevant content and dividing it into separate manuals by audience and purpose.
- On a medium scale, it means organizing the content in each manual and making sure that overviews, concepts, examples, references, and definitions are included and that topics follow an organizing principle.
- On a fine scale, it includes logical development of topics, emphasis on what’s important, clear writing, navigational clues, and even page design, choice of font, and use of white space.
Having said that, let’s talk about the core principles of simplicity any sales presenter needs to keep in mind before designing and delivering his next great sales presentation.
- Being simple visually
- Being simple structurally
1) Being Simple Visually
It has been well documented in science and design research, things or concepts which force lesser decisions on the users’ end are more desirable and fun to use.
Slides should be designed for impact and to convey one takeaway per slide. Have as less text as possible and more images and visuals to convey the impact.
As per this paper on power of visual communication by HP,
10% of what they hear
20% of what they read &
80% of what they see and do
There is a reason why people love Apple products. They don’t love the products, they love the thought behind the product. They love the simplicity, the daily ease and predictability of an Apple device. More work a person has to do to understand some concept or idea or product, less likely is that person to enjoy using the product.
Apple Keynotes are known to be accompanied with beautifully minimal designed slides
There are entire tutorials on creating Apple Keynote style presentations.
An associated but side topic to presenting information succinctly in a visual manner, is the use of omnipresent infographics in modern sales presentations. This book says that users spent more time looking at the text when a hierarchy of text is displayed visually and overall findings confirmed that visual synthesis of text and graphics usually increases perceived quality by a user.
While delivering your sales presentation, the entire focus of the audience should be on the presenter and not on the slide. To achieve this, keep the following simple design rules in check:
- the text should be very minimal (should have almost zero percentage of the text which is spoken) because an audience member can at most at one time either read the text written or listen to you. Not both. Trying to do both only confuses the audience and they are not able to remember the core message of the slide.
- the visuals in the slides should be very carefully chosen keeping in mind that they should support whatever the presenter is saying
- one slide should only have one takeaway. Number of slides is irrelevant. Don’t try to cram too many data points into one slide just to reduce the number of slides.
- mask any unnecessary info using whiteboxes to show only the most important info
- no information should be repeated
- always follow the gridlines and rulers. All designers swear by this one simple rule
- keep your color palette consistent (3 complimentary colors + 3 neutral colors like light blues and greys)
- organize and keep similar themed/related objects/elements in a slide together
- limit the number of fonts used to a maximum of two
- use contrast to draw attention and white spaces to reduce chaos and noise and to keep things neat and elegant
- illustrations, clip art, photos should be done in the same style relevant to the theme throughout the presentation
- always maintain a visual hierarchy
Read some tips on creating better slide decks from TED.
Also, read this great resource on some quick tips to design beautiful slides.
Top Infographic tools:
Top Icon libraries:
Top Image libraries:
2) Being Simple Structurally
Most people just jump right into making a presentation without putting a thought to what is the core point they’re trying to make here. It is important to sit down for sometime with a pen and a paper and just write down the core objective of the presentation, the broad structure and the story before even opening your favorite presentation software.
Almost all presentations exist to entice an action on the audience’s end, be it buying a product, visiting a website, donating for a charity or supporting a cause, to name a few. If the sales presenter can’t conjure up a story in easy to understand, simple concepts, the audience is never going to really get the core idea of the presenter and would never do the intended act expected of him/her.
Slides should follow a flow or a story where each slide should lead to the next slide and should be interlinked logically. Typically, one should always give out one major ‘why’ for the audience to care about listening to your presentation. It can be a major statistic or a shocking fact which gives the audience a hook, a reason to stick around and listen. Let them know at the very beginning that you can solve a major pain point in their life.
The solution discussed should be relevant to the client context and should be kept to a maximum of 3-4. More than 3-4 solutions in a single presentation just dilutes the information which is to be stored in the audience’s minds.
All this should be neatly tied up into a cohesive structure:
- The ‘hook’
- ‘Big Problem’ Slide
- Opportunity slide 1 → Solution slide 1 → Impact on your business 1
- Opportunity slide 2 → Solution slide 2 → Impact on your business 2
- Opportunity slide 3 → Solution slide 3 → Impact on your business 3
- Net value/benefit/impact achieved
- Ending note & Call-to-action
Nancy Duarte, the famous writer, speaker and CEO of Duarte Design, evangelises the importance of a great structure to deliver a great presentation. She even has a TED talk where talks about how she found out about the hidden pattern in structure in some of the greatest presentations in the world including the ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King and the 1st Apple iPhone launch in 2007 by Steve Jobs.
The structure follows a story format where the presenter starts with a likeable hero (the audience), encounters conflicts (problems or challenges faced) and ultimately emerges transformed (the solution and the ideal world).
The presenter starts with the status quo, the ‘what is’, the problems and then shows the ideal scenario with all problems solved, the utopian world, the ‘what could be’. They alternate between these two states for some time and ultimately end with a promise of a new world, a ‘new bliss’ where all current problems will be solved.
As a next step, know the end goal of a presentation and end with a strong call-to-action.
Always be closing. Have a clear next step and create a sense of urgency to close the deal.
A lot of people shy away from asking for business at the end of the presentation forgetting the main goal of giving a presentation. Always lead the client towards making a decision.
Ask what’s stopping them from buying? Do they need to think this over? Ask what exactly is unclear, where they need more information and what aspect of the presentation do they need to think over specifically? They don’t have the budget? Are they willing to pay in installments or by next month if we arrange financing for them? Some people just don’t want to buy or aren’t a good fit. Make sure you’re chasing the right prospects. If they don’t fit your criteria, move on. You can probably spend that time closing a bigger deal.
With the above steps, you would make sure that all your sales presentations are resulting in moving your sales pipeline forward.