How to Make a Sales Presentation

Five Parts:Preparing Your ResearchWriting Your PresentationCreating Visual AidsRehearsing Your Sales PresentationClosing the Sale

An effective sales presentation not only educates prospective customers about your product or service, but it also explains how you can meet a customer's specific needs and help him achieve his goals. Creating a successful sales presentation requires thorough research and careful preparation. Time invested in doing your homework will lead to a higher percentage of closed sales.

Part 1
Preparing Your Research

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    Organize your information in advance. Make a list of all of the information you need and where to find it. Itemize and gather all of the necessary materials. Plan your research process and devise a system for keeping all of your information organized.[1]
    • Keep separate files for product information, company information and details about your prospective customers.
    • Include lists of sources for all of your data so can refer back to them as needed.
    • Create an organized filing system and naming conventions for your files so you can access them as needed.
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    Research the product or service you are selling thoroughly. Learn about the product inside and out, and strive to keep abreast of any new developments. Ask questions and read all available literature. Train yourself on the use of the product if appropriate. Learn the features of your product or service and the potential benefits to your specific customer. Don't rely on jargon or buzzwords to describe your business. Rather, assume your client has no prior knowledge about your company, and be prepared to discuss it in detail.[2]
    • Take care to distinguish between features and benefits. A product or service can have many features, many of which are not important to a prospective customer. The salesman's task to show how a specific feature will have a meaningful benefit to the prospect.
    • For example, features may include cost, size, usability, lack of maintenance, easy repair, or warranty, among others.
    • Have an exhaustive understanding about how the product is manufactured and packaged.
    • Know the history of your product and learn about any advances in product development.
    • Familiarize yourself with shipping procedures and policies.
    • Study the history of your company and how it has grown, and be prepared to discuss your company's values.
    • For services, identify important features and benefits like peace of mind, security, cost, ease of use, etc.
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    Gather as much information as possible about the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. Understanding who you're up against will make your presentation more meaningful. It will allow you to respond to questions and objections about how your company can better meet the needs of your prospective customer. If your prospect is already working with your competition, identify key differences that set you apart. These differences can be either product/service based or company-based. If required, a salesman can distinguish himself from other salesmen. Compel your customer to invest in you because of the higher value you offer.[3]
    • To beat a competitor, first try to determine their competitive advantage. That is, why customers buy their products rather than yours. Again, it is not the features that count but the perceived benefit that the customer expects to receive from the purchase.
    • Scrutinize the details of their product or service and how yours compares. If you are a caterer, for example, determine if you use fresher food or better ingredients, or if you prepare food in a unique way.
    • Learn their marketing and communication strategies and how they differ from yours. Perhaps you offer special discounts that they do not, or your printed materials are in full color and are printed on higher quality paper.
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    Fully acquaint yourself with your prospective customer's business. To argue convincingly about the potential benefit you offer, you need an exhaustive understanding of your customer's products, services and clients. Learn how long he has been in business. Assess how adequately he meets his customer's needs. Know whether your competition is currently selling to him.[4]
    • Learn your potential customer's needs. If you can, talk to him before you pitch (by phone or in person) and learn as much as you can about what will really make him interested in buying. Does he need lower price, better reliability, finance terms, faster delivery, etc. Try to figure out his "trigger."
    • Consult the company's annual report, trade publications, website and the local chamber of commerce to learn this information.[5]
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    Understand the market in which your prospective customer competes. Characterize her target customers and what their expectations are. Identify her key challenges in meeting her clients' needs. Assess how you can help her to be more competitive.[6]
    • Analyze her business and current economic indicators to determine if her product and services are in demand. A food services distributor, for example, could help a coffee shop improve their menu with new equipment or better ingredients.
    • Determine her biggest competitors[7] and the benefits the competitor provides to the customer. To get a sale, you will need to offer a better benefit than what she might be receiving.
    • Consult trade groups, business magazines and academic institutions to learn about business trends and how your prospect could use your services to be more competitive.[8]

Part 2
Writing Your Presentation

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    Tailor your presentation to connect with your target audience. Once you've written your presentation, adjust your delivery style to match the expectations of your audience. Find out whether you will be presenting to a large or small audience. Speaking to a large group, a small group, or an individual is entirely different, and the amount of interaction necessary is directly proportional to the size of the audience. Tweak the length of your presentation, your presentation tools, and the amount of visual aids to deliver your message most effectively.[9]
    • Shape your presentation to the power-level of attendees in the meeting. Are they decision-makers or gate-keepers? Understand (ask if you don't know) the process for making a purchase decision and who will be making it.
    • If the audience will be small, deliver a short, interactive presentation and then lead a discussion. Ditch the Powerpoint and instead try printing out a few detailed slides to pass out to the small group.[10] Keep in mind the importance of body language and eye contact with your audience.
    • For a large audience, prepare a staged, formal presentation with polished visuals. Avoid distracting colored text or ClipArt. Use clear language, show enthusiasm for your product, and keep things moving at a lively pace.[11]
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    Write a complete script for your presentation. Whether you're planning a formal presentation for a large audience or an interactive meeting with a small group, write out every detail of your presentation in advance. This guarantees that no important information will be left out. An ad-lib presentation lacks structure, appears disorganized and confuses the audience with repeated or omitted information.[12]
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    Write the introduction. Confirm your prospective customer's need (which you determined before the presentation) and how your company can help. State your understanding of the customer's objectives and get an affirmative response before proceeding. Then, detail how your product or service fills her needs, and repeat this constantly during the presentation. Discuss your company's history and what sets you apart (but only if this information will give you an advantage). Lay the groundwork for the rest of your presentation and create a compelling argument for why your prospect needs you.[13]
    • Use simple, short terms for more punch. Try using action verbs when possible.
    • A caterer pitching to a wedding planner, for example, would discuss his proven history of providing high quality food at a reasonable price.
    • A cleaning service presenting to an office manager would state that they can enhance employee productivity by keeping the office clean and organized.
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    Confirm your customer's expectations and objectives for the meeting. List all of your key tasks. Give an overall time-frame for the delivery or completion of all of your objectives. Be ambitious but honest about what you can deliver. Earn your customer's trust by providing realistic goals.[14]
    • Your opening should include a restatement of his objectives and the assurance that you will meet those objectives during the presentation.
    • A caterer's objectives, for example, would include planning a menu, ordering food, preparing food and arranging for delivery within a given time-frame.
    • A cleaning service would list daily tasks, such as cleaning the floor, sanitizing bathrooms and removing the trash. Less regular tasks, such as cleaning the windows or equipment dusting, would also be listed with the expected frequency.
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    Explain how you will accomplish each of the objectives. Provide details about how much time you need for each step. Include the results the customer can expect to see at the conclusion of a step. List deliverables, or tangible objects, the customer will receive at different intervals throughout the project.[15]
    • The steps for planning a menu, for example, might include meeting with clients and setting up taste tests. The deliverable would be a written copy of the menu.
    • The details a cleaning service would specify include how long it takes to complete tasks, the materials and number of personnel used and whether or not they bring their own equipment.
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    Provide the cost of your services. Be as meticulous as possible. Disclose information about all potential costs so the customer knows exactly what to expect. Prepare detailed spreadsheets that fully explain the costs involved.[16]
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    Detail the advantages you can offer your potential customer. This is not the time to be modest. Withhold no information about how valuable you are. Explain how your product or service can help the customer overcome his key challenges.[17]
    • A caterer would use this opportunity to emphasize his skill at timing food preparations so everything is perfectly cooked and doesn't get cold before it is eaten.
    • A cleaning service would highlight the positive impression that a clean, organized space makes on clients and how this also maintains property values.
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    Ask for the order. Find out the timeline for the sales process, if it is appropriate. You should have already learned the process and who will make the buying decision. If you are with the decision maker, ask. If it is a gate-keeper or expert who will make recommendation, find out when and to whom. Confirm that no other information is needed to make a decision. If other information is required, write down what is needed so that you can provide it.

Part 3
Creating Visual Aids

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    Create presentation slides thoughtfully and editorially. If your slides look like nothing more than your speaking notes, then you shouldn't even use them. [18] A list of bullet points not only bores the audience, but it also reduces the likelihood that they will remember what you said. Pictures communicate messages more clearly than written text or even the spoken word.[19]
    • Find fresh graphics instead of using stock ClipArt or templates. If the budget permits, enlist the help of a graphic artist.
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    Bring a model or example of your product if possible. If you are selling a product, have a model available for your customers to see. Allow them to interact with the product as you discuss its features and benefits. If you can't bring the product, bring a video or photographs.[20]
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    Skip old fashioned overhead projectors or slide projectors. Not only are they noisy and unreliable, but the projector obscures the screen for some audience members. If you must use them, arrange the room so everyone can see the screen and speak audibly to be heard over the motor. If at all possible, opt for digital presentation tools.
    • Make sure you check the visual aids and sound equipment that might be available in the venue, and find out the requirements for use.
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    Record comments during interactive meetings or brainstorming sessions. If appropriate, use a whiteboard if appropriate and record comments. Write neatly and legibly, and make your letters large enough that all audience members can easily see them. Use black or blue for writing since other colors may be difficult for others to see. Take notes as necessary, but limit the amount of time spent with your back to the audience.[21]
    • If a smart board is available, use it to annotate graphics with your customer's feedback. Save your annotations at the end of your presentation so you can review them later.
    • Bring a flip chart or white board and an easel for taking notes and recording comments if an interactive whiteboard is not available. Test your markers ahead of time and only bring those that work. If your paper is unlined, draw lines with a pencil to keep your handwriting horizontally aligned.
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    Distribute handouts. Share them at the beginning only if the presentation contains complicated charts or graphics, which may be easier for audience members to read in a handout than on a screen. Save handouts with relevant summaries of key information for the end of the presentation. Otherwise, audience members may read the handout instead of listening to you.[22]
    • You would only distribute them if you are not talking to a decision maker who is not ready to make decision.
    • Be aware that anything left with client is likely to wind up in the hands of a competitor.

Part 4
Rehearsing Your Sales Presentation

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    Practice delivering your presentation. Commit it to memory so you need only glance at your notes. Practice your mannerisms, enunciation and the pitch and volume of your voice. [23] Record yourself or go through the presentation with a friend or colleague in order to identify areas that need improvement.[24]
    • Avoid slang and jargon and never, ever curse.
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    Exude confidence and enthusiasm with your body language. Smile and shake hands when entering a room. Make eye contact and address people by name. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Wear the appropriate clothes and be sure your shoes are polished. Keep your hands out of your pocket and don't fidget during quiet moments.[25]
    • If you are giving a presentation to a very large audience, don't just stand on the stage as people file in. Mill about, introducing yourself and greeting people you know.
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    Familiarize yourself thoroughly with all technology used in the presentation. Practice working with a smart board or with a laptop and projector so you can troubleshoot any problems ahead of time. If necessary, bring your own equipment with you. If possible, set up all technology in advance on the day of the presentation.[26]
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    Anticipate objections and rehearse answers. Go through your presentation and write down any potential questions or objections on a separate piece of paper. Ask a friend or colleague to role play as the customer and ask questions or raise objections that you did not anticipate. Draft answers to all possible objections and be prepared to deliver them.[27]
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    Practice assessing whether your audience is following along. Pause for questions where appropriate. Watch body language that indicates your audience doesn't understand something. Maintain your energy and enthusiasm throughout the presentation. Try to control the meeting by announcing when questions will be taken. This can help you to avoid interruptions at a critical time. Recognize, however, if you are speaking to a decision maker, you might not have a choice.[28]

Part 5
Closing the Sale

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    Ask for the sale directly if you detect a positive response to your presentation. Ask if you have the authority to proceed with the order. Request a signature on an order form. Confirm delivery and invoice addresses. These actions communicate that you expect to receive the customer's business.[29]
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    Convert negatives into positives. Use customer objections as an opportunity to explain a benefit your product or service provides. If a customer raises an objection about the price, for example, discuss the added value you provide with higher quality materials or craftsmanship. A caterer might respond by discussing his use of organic, local produce for better taste and freshness, or extra staff for more efficient food preparation. Be careful, however, not to contradict the customer or dismiss his concerns.[30]
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    Alleviate concerns by offering choices. Examples include flexible payment schedules or expedited delivery. If necessary, offer compromises to help you close the deal. For example, if you normally charge for delivery, but the customer has an objection to price, consider offering free delivery in order to make the sale. [31]
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    Establish the next step in the process. If you sense that the customer is not yet ready to commit, show you are serious about doing business by scheduling a follow-up meeting or phone call. Schedule that follow up before you leave the office. Otherwise you risk never hearing from that customer again.[32]
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    Ask questions and listen to the answers. Prepare open-ended questions that assess your customer's interest. Ask how your product or service can benefit the customer or whether you haven't covered something that is important to her. Take notes so you can adequately respond to the customer's comments.[33]


  • Understand your audience and follow their lead. Executives may be under time crunches and dislike small talk or extended presentations. Be prepared to shorten your presentation upon request.
  • Build genuine rapport by discussing sports, asking about family, or mentioning common acquaintances or colleagues. People like to do business with other people they like and trust.[34]
  • Don't put your customer in a superior position by saying, "I won't take up too much of your time," or "I really appreciate you making room in your busy schedule to see me." These statements sound like you think he is doing you a favor, when you should communicate with your demeanor and confidence that you are there as an asset to him.[35]


  • Be aggressive but honest about what you can offer to a prospective customer. Remember that it's better to under-promise and over-deliver.

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