How to structure the perfect sales presentation
A successful sales presentation turns a potential customer into a buyer. The key to doing this isn’t to force-feed your audience with your product. Instead, tap into the power of storytelling. Narrating a hero’s journey that starts with your buyer’s problems and ends with their success sets your sales team up to deliver a great sales pitch.
In this chapter, we’ll take you through the arc of your sales presentation outline and provide content ideas for your slides. Building on your research about your target buyers, you’ll learn how to create slide decks that feel relevant and personal to your audience. By crafting slides that elegantly narrate your prospects’ stories, you’ll build a standardized sales presentation template that stays on-brand and anchors your sales team’s presentations. You’ll walk away with a clear sales presentation structure that you can adapt to your own product, buyer journey, and customer personas.
Do research before building a presentation outline
An effective sales presentation outline begins with knowing your audience. Doing the research about your ideal customers and using available data from your product or existing users will help you focus on the value proposition and key points.
Learn about your buyer
What and how you should learn about your buyers depends on when sales gets involved in the buyer journey. The exact content of your sales presentation will change depending on whether your sales team is doing discovery calls or reaching out to product qualified leads (PQLs). But the nature of the story will stay the same.
Here are some ways to learn about your buyers:
- Look at where or how they entered your sales funnel
- Monitor how they’ve previously engaged with the product
- Perform user interviews with existing customers
- Find out details during a discovery call
Ask yourself another critical question before diving into your sales presentation: Are you dealing with a lead, a prospect, or a buyer? While teams should nurture leads and prospects, a buyer is where your sales team should focus their energy. A buyer should satisfy three requirements:
- Have a problem they want to fix
- Be willing to change
- Clearly understand the impact of making (or failing to make) the change
Once your team has qualified the buyer intent and understands what the buyer wants, they can build a tailored sales deck.
Not all first calls need to be discovery calls. Many businesses today have product-led growth strategies that allow users to trial a product or use a freemium version. And with businesses that don’t offer these services, prospects may have already visited app review or comparison sites. Sales teams today are dealing with buyers that are better informed and more sophisticated than ever before. As a result, your sales presentations need to offer new knowledge to truly add value.
The best sales presentations present the story of a buyer in the midst of trying to figure out the solution to their problem. You’ll know your sales team has gotten it right when a prospect or buyer starts parroting back the information that’s being presented — it’s a sign that they see themselves in the story.
Assign account executives their homework
Today, a successful account executive needs to wear several hats to deliver a successful sales presentation. They need to think beyond selling and act as customer success and onboarding support to build customer relationships.
To do this, AEs need to understand the product. To thrive in today’s environment, sales teams need to collaborate — with product, marketing, customer success, and even engineering. The more AEs understand a product and empathize with customers’ pain points, the better they can anticipate what buyers will ask.
To build a successful and scalable sales process, your sales teams need to develop more than just presentation skills. They need to do regular homework to understand customer needs as well as the value the product brings.
Now that you’ve gathered information and done your research, it’s time for the fun part: building your sales deck.
Essential elements to include in a sales presentation
Your sales presentation should reflect your audience’s unique position in their hero’s journey. Below is a quick recap of the hero’s journey covered in Chapter 1:
- Departing from the status quo
- Battling the refusal of the call
- Showing the supernatural aid
- Crossing the threshold
- Unveiling the path to success
The narrative stages mentioned above bring a checklist of slides to life with a story. Every sales presentation needs slides about product features and client testimonials. Presenting them in a natural way that centers on the audience will make them feel relevant. With these slides as an outline, sales professionals can take a buyer on a journey that builds an emotional connection with your product and brand.
So how do the storytelling tactics translate into a sales presentation outline that can deliver repeated success? That’s what we’re about to find out!
How to structure a sales presentation
Structure and pacing distinguish average sales pitches from a great sales presentation. Pay attention to how much time you spend on each section, as well as to the way you transition from one section to the next. Every presentation has its basic ingredients — but how they come together should never feel formulaic.
In this section, we’ll break down how to structure your sales presentation and choose the key points that will catch your audience’s attention and deliver your product’s value proposition.
Step 1: Introduce your prospect's pain points
Be respectful of your prospect’s time by cutting straight to what matters most: the pain points they want to solve. Use this problem to frame the rest of your sales presentation.
Your first slides should succinctly outline your buyer’s most pressing pain points. This is where your company’s research — on both an ideal customer persona (ICP) and your prospect — should be used. Mapping your prospect to a specific ICP focuses the type of sales presentation you’ll create. Your information on the prospect might come from your own research. It could also come from product usage data, like inviting a team member into their workspace.
Use whatever data you can gather to tailor your delivery. As you assemble your slides, think about what visual aids best support the problem statement. For some products, it might be a photo, while others may require diagrams to visualize a relationship to the audience.
Be concise in this section. It leads into what really matters: the impact of the problem.
Step 2: Describe the problem’s impact
Once you’ve highlighted a preestablished problem, it’s time to hone in on the impact that problem has on your buyer’s work and business. This is where you can use assumptive language to provoke a response.
You’ll need to frame the impact in a way that makes sense to your buyer and their unique position within the company. For instance, their current way of doing things could be negatively impacting time, human resources, or funds.
There is no fixed way to visualize this in your sales deck. The most effective approach is one that fits the type of audience you’re speaking to — and your AE’s pitch style. But it usually requires a balance between numbers and relatability. Numbers, such as hours lost weekly, make the human story concrete. This is the impact that’ll likely drive your prospect to look for a solution. These numbers lead to a polarizing statement that highlights the problem’s inflation if it’s not addressed now.
This section of your presentation is crucial for establishing rapport with your audience. While the best-case scenario is body-language agreement like nodding, disagreement isn’t necessarily a problem. Using assumptive language or a provocative statement engages the audience and helps you separate a lead or prospect from a buyer. If they agree, can they tell you more? If they disagree, can they share why? If your audience engages with an opinion, they likely intend to change their current status. And voilà, you have a potential buyer!
The exchange will lead your prospect to engage with the next part of your sales presentation: an explanation of why change isn’t just possible — it’s urgently necessary.
Step 3: Why change now?
Urgency and momentum drive deals. But great sales presentations aren’t about forcing prospects to buy blindly. They help prospects understand the impact of change and navigate the path to success.
This part of the sales pitch pivots from pain points to alternatives on the horizon. Successful presentations transform this section into a critical fork in the road that requires the potential customer to act now. Without being too heavy-handed, clearly show the audience what they stand to lose — especially against competitor companies — by not acting.
Step 4: Present the solution
With the stakes raised, your audience needs a solution: a clear path toward their goal. An effective sales presentation presents your product as a means to the prospect’s end. This section isn’t about showcasing every feature or selling all the propositions of your product. Instead, embed your product as an aid in your prospect’s journey. Remember, your prospect is the hero who’s about to embark on a quest to save their company — so make that clear in your presentation.
The strategy here is simple: present the right answer to your prospect’s problem! In other words, show your prospect how they can implement your product, and which product features solve their specific needs. Don’t dwell on all your product benefits. Instead, keep up your storytelling momentum by describing the impact on your prospect’s company. What improvements should they notice in their path toward the promised land? What results will indicate they’ve arrived?
As you present the solution, take note of your audience’s attention. If it’s an in-person meeting, maintain eye contact and read their reactions. Your sales pitch is designed to help your prospect see their path to success — but check in to see whether they agree. Remember, agreement is ideal, but engagement is crucial.
Step 5: Address reservations and FAQs
An engaged buyer is sure to have questions. However, your sales deck and presentation should address the basic considerations so that you can focus your energy on buyer objections.
After you’ve presented your buyer a clear path toward success, you need to provide evidence. This is where you include:
- Social proof and major clients
- Client testimonials
- Data on business impact
While it may be tempting to cover all your bases, stay succinct with your slide deck so you can spend more time on the conversation. If experience and data show that you need additional supporting materials, you can add slides to an Appendix or FAQs section to reference only when asked. Common slides for an Appendix may include:
- Advantages over competitors
- Case studies
- Pricing structure
If you’ve developed your sales deck in Pitch, you can send your prospect a private or custom link and add additional slides after your pitch. That way, your prospect can check the slides whenever it’s convenient. By sharing your sales deck, you give your prospect and their stakeholders a convenient way to view, forward, and comment on the slides. If you’re using Pitch Pro, you can use presentation analytics to see how often a prospect has opened your sales deck to gauge interest and engagement.
To efficiently build sales decks, you can create a sales presentation template complete with the latest FAQs and case studies. This’ll allow you to quickly duplicate a deck and prepare a dedicated sales presentation for each new prospect in minutes.
Building and upgrading your presentation
After you’ve built your presentation outline and filled in the initial contents, it’s time to give your deck a final polish. To accurately represent your brand, sales teams need to involve experts from other departments. Have your product teams check that feature descriptions are current. Have your brand team ensure assets are updated, and ask designers to make sure everything is pixel-perfect. With Pitch, you can easily do this by assigning slides to colleagues. They can set the status of their slide as done once they’ve finished.
Customizable, ready-to-use sales presentations
Are you interested in using Pitch to create decks that convert? Check out our professionally designed sales presentation templates to get started for free!
Interview: Belal Batrawy from GTM Buddy
How do you effectively identify and speak to a buyer?
Belal: People become buyers when they declare that they're in an evaluation or decision phase. The crossover point is consideration — when someone starts considering options and looking to see what's available. That's the beginning of their buyer’s journey.
In your call with your buyer, you want to understand if they have buying intent. Have they understood the problem and the impact it has? And, critically, are they willing to change?
One of the ways to figure this out is to make a polarizing statement that gets a yes-no response. If it’s yes, that’s great! If it’s no, invite your prospect to tell you more. You want to engage with your audience. If they care, they’ll respond.
How do you emotionally connect with a buyer and keep them engaged throughout a presentation?
Belal: When you’re delivering your sales pitch, present some sort of limbic brain messaging to trigger an emotional response. Say something provocative, and get them engaged.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people respond to negative scenarios. As a buyer, I may not agree with your assessment of how to make me the first or best, but I definitely know I want to avoid being the last.
Can you walk us through a sales deck flow that puts a prospect at the center?
Belal: Your slides should focus on nailing the problem statement. How companies do that can vary, but here’s one blueprint for your deck:
Slide 1: Start with an optional credibility slide.
Slide 2: Relate to your audience and say, “I know people like you. You constantly have this particular problem.”
Slide 3: Show the current status and say, “You do this with these tools, and this is the undesirable outcome.”
Slide 4: Here’s something different.
Slides 5–10: Tell the story of the buyer’s quest for success so that they understand the jobs to be done and what needs to happen.
What should an MVP sales deck answer for a prospect?
Belal: People have different views on how to build sales decks. I build them visually so that AEs can focus on the storytelling. Your sales deck helps you do three things to engage your audience: state the problem, outline the impact of the problem, and deliver your proposed solution.
If your buyer is interested, they’ll probably loop in someone else — and that person will start the buyer journey all over again. Your sales presentation needs to summarize the relevance of what you talked about in earlier meetings, and move along to what’s relevant for everyone in the room.
To do that, illustrate how the first person helped you (the AE) understand that problem as well as the impact of that problem. You can admit you don’t know the second person’s willingness to change it — but you know their problem and the impact of fixing it. Ideally, your sales deck will lead into an engaged conversation.
How many slides should a sales deck have?
Belal: When you make a really great deck that’s highly relevant to the person you're presenting to, the number of slides doesn't matter. In other words, if 80–90% of the deck is about me, you can make it a 30-slide deck. If it's about your company and your product, then it better be the fewest slides possible because the audience won’t care!