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What the Most Successful Sales Decks Have in Common
Dive into this guide filled with insights from industry experts, strategic steps, and storytelling techniques that transform a sales pitch into a compelling narrative.
What does your sales deck look like right now? Is it beautifully organized, optimized for storytelling, and perfectly supporting your sales reps through a series of picture-perfect demo calls?
Or, is your deck collecting cobwebs, resembling more of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle than a masterpiece of sales enablement?
If you’re cringing right now, just know that we’ve all been there. Making little changes to a sales deck over time can result in a real convoluted mess. And if you’re starting from scratch, the level of blank-page syndrome can be paralyzing.
Never fear. We’ve collected thoughts from sales and marketing leaders to put you on the path to making sales decks your secret weapon to captivating storytelling and inspired selling
To get us started, let’s allow a couple of experts to set the tone for our overall approach to building a successful sales deck.
Oriel Belzer, VP of Sales at Codefresh says,
“A sales deck should tell a compelling story about your product or service. This can be done through customer success stories, case studies, or by highlighting the unique features and benefits of your offering. Your story should be authentic and relatable, and should help the audience understand how your product or service can solve their problems or meet their needs.” -Oriel Belzer
“Rather than get down in the weeds of product details, let’s help them envision a brighter future. Let’s thrill them, not deliver a mountain of drudgery.” - John Miller, President and Founder, Scribewise
Now, let’s get down to the details.
What Should a Good Sales Deck Include?
1. Identify the Shift That Keeps Your Prospect Awake at Night
What overwhelming change is threatening the success (or even the survival) of your prospect's business? Showing that you see the seismic shift that grips their business is the best way to establish trust and mutual understanding and to tap into their fear of messing up (FOMU).
In the words of Andy Raskin, legend of strategic narrative,
“Name the undeniable shift in the world that creates both (a) big stakes and (b) huge urgency for your prospect.” - Andy Raskin
2. Articulate and Agree on the Problem
The magic happens when your product solves the problem resulting from the shift, but first you need to be on the same page about what the problem IS.
In the case of Zuora’s famous sales deck above, the problem resulting from the shift from products to relationships is that companies that sell products don’t have the platforms to support the relationships they need to foster with their customers.
Anika Harvey, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Kompyte by Semrush shares,
“Sales decks must include the pain point or the "gap," the space between where they are and where they want to be. If you can’t articulate the problem you're going to solve, there's no reason for them to continue on the journey.” - Anika Harvey
One way to foster conversation around the problem your prospect is facing is to show you understand the possible issues without presuming that they are, in fact, struggling with all of them.
Instead, ask, “Here are some of the challenges we see people struggle with as a result of (the shift). Do any of these resonate with you?”
Chris Orlob, CEO at pclub.io recommends then showing what other companies have tried in order to overcome the problem, asking what they've tried, and how it turned out. Next, show them what we might call “the timeline of pain”. You’ll probably see them cringe at this point. That’s OK, you’re going to provide the solution in a minute!
Ask them about their unique pain. Now you know exactly what they need to solve, the words they use to explain the problem, and they know you understand them completely. Trust established!
3. Tease the Transformation
Before they can get excited about your solution, they need to see themselves in that “after” state or “Promised Land.”
“Your Promised Land should be both desirable (obviously) and difficult for the prospect to achieve without outside help. Otherwise, why does your company exist?” - Andy Raskin
In the image above, if the “before” state is that 52% of salespeople missed quota last year, what is the “after” or “Promised Land” state? Certainly it involves more salespeople hitting quotas, but for a compelling story that builds a vision to believe in, try addressing a number of items in that timeline of pain as well.
For example, we may enjoy seeing 50% more reps hitting quota, but we may also see successful efficiency initiatives along with an improved culture and employee retention.
4. Present the Way to the “Promised Land”
Here is where you start building that bridge between the before state and the “Promised Land.” The bridge, of course, includes your product or service! Now is the time to start explaining what you offer and how it works.
Here’s how NOT to do it, according to Tim Dingersen, Creator of the Modular Presentation System,
“Traditional sales presentations often emphasize the product features and specifications of the product or service, which typically results in a long list of bullet points. This feature-focused approach can lead to cluttered presentations that overwhelm the buyer.” - Tim Dingerson
This may be a good time to move away from the slide deck for a few minutes and show them around the tool.
5. Highlight Your Unique Value Proposition:
This is where you differentiate yourself from the competition. Highlight what makes your product or service unique and why it's the best choice. If you haven’t quite nailed this down, finish this sentence, “Only we….”
Here’s a beautiful example from Uber.
If your prospect is also talking to your competitors (and you can assume they are!), it's important to make sure that you have up to date information on your competitors' features, their own unique value propositions, their messaging, and what they may be saying about you. Read more about why your sales team needs competitive intelligence.
6. ROI and Success Stories
Hypotheticals only take you so far. You need real numbers and stories. This is where your prospect decides if your product can get them to the goal. Provide as many details as possible. How are the people in the stories like your prospect? What specific, relatable challenges did they overcome?
Where possible, choose an example that is most similar to your prospect.
“Just as you need to elevate the stakes for winner and losers early on in your deck, you need to illustrate the tremendous success achieved by your customers. Doing so helps prospects understand how you will help them.” - Courtney Chuang, Dropbox
7. Social Proof:
Building on your ROI and success stories, it’s now time for your prospect to hear, in the words of a happy customer, how you solved their problem. Wherever possible, include the customer's name, company, and photo.
“We’ve curated customer testimonials that align with the story we tell in our sales deck. The testimonials reflect how customers have used DocSend to turn the Promised Land into reality.” - Courtney Chuang, Dropbox
8. Pricing and Packages
Provide clear information about pricing and any packages or bundles you offer. If your pricing compares favorably with your competitors, you may want to showcase that as well.
9. Introduce the Team
Introduce your team to build credibility. Showing the faces and expertise behind the product or service can build trust with potential customers.
A Note About Slide Deck Design
Remember, a successful sales deck isn't just about the content, but also about the presentation. The design should be clean, professional, and on-brand. Also, keep the text minimal and easy to understand, focusing more on visuals and storytelling.
It's also crucial to tailor the deck to the audience as much as possible, speaking to their specific needs and concerns. Consider including the prospect’s logo or other identifying information.
Kompyte's Graphic and Web Designer Konstantina Tomoska shares,
"A successful sales deck is really about brand. It communicates the values of a company and product. It’s a bridge between you and your customers. It’s where trust and loyalty starts to build.
Your sales deck should be, clean, clear, professional, and efficiently communicate well-chosen key concepts and visual elements. It should be a harmonious and balanced canvas of colors, typography, and space."
"The visual elements should be brand appropriate, and altogether should illustrate the company’s vision, support product values, and let messaging take center stage." - Konstantina Tomoska
“Can You Send that Deck?”
If there’s any interest in continuing the conversation, your prospect will ask for the deck if you don’t offer it first. And sure, you can send your deck, but since you’re keeping the text to a minimum and using this sales deck as a guide, create and share a version of the deck that needs little or no context.
Conclusion: What the Most Successful Sales Decks Have in Common
Remember, your sales deck isn't just a collection of slides; it's the path you're paving for your potential customers to step into a brighter future, a future where challenges are overcome, needs are met, and their success is protected.
Just as a builder is only as good as their tools, a sales rep can be empowered or held back by the quality of their sales deck. So, invest the time, apply these insights, and create a sales deck that not only sells but inspires.
Recall Oriel Belzer's words:
"Your story should be authentic and relatable, and should help the audience understand how your product or service can solve their problems or meet their needs.”
And as John Miller reminded us, let's focus on thrilling our customers rather than overwhelming them with details.
So, the next time you find yourself gazing at that incomplete jigsaw puzzle of a sales deck, remember this guide. You have the tools to turn that puzzle into a masterpiece. And when that transformation happens, it won't just be you who's applauding — it'll be your entire team.
The only thing standing between a good sales deck and a great one is you. So go ahead, make the leap from good to great. We are all cheering for you.