If I Had More Time I Would Have Written a Shorter Sales Presentation

11 Feb 15

Prevent losing the opportunity to learn more about your client and his needs. Get advice on how to maximize the effectiveness of your sales presentation.

One of my favorite quotes about writing has been attributed to many great authors, including Pascal, Cicero, Twain, Franklin, Thoreau, and others. Though it was said in different ways and different languages, the general premise is that “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”  

The common theme is that making your communications more concise and more impactful is difficult.  It takes effort to simplify your message to just the important concepts.

Unfortunately, many sales professionals often add every slide they have available into the presentation in the hopes that “something sticks” and that they look smart in front of the client. They then feel compelled to present every slide and spend the entire meeting doing the talking – losing the opportunity to learn more about the client and his or her needs.


Two Distinct Types of Meetings

In a typical sales cycle, there should be two distinct types of meetings one to narrow in on the client’s needs and qualify the opportunity, and a second one to validate their needs and present the solution.


Meeting #1: Narrow in on client needs and qualify prospect

The first meeting should be about asking great questions and sharing enough information to create interest for a follow up presentation or proposal. Nowhere in this conversation is there room to present dozens of slides on your company’s capabilities.


Meeting #2: Validate needs and present solution

The second meeting should be a solution presentation that is all about your understanding of the customer’s business, requirements, and how you can help them solve a problem in a compelling, differentiated way. The focus here should be much more on the client and their problem than about the slides in a canned marketing deck.        

For this second meeting, a sample storyboard for a solution presentation might include:



  1. Purpose: In the initial section, you want to include a clear statement of the objectives and expectations for the meeting. You should get their agreement on why you’re here and what you intend to discuss. You should have a clear idea of what desired action you expect the client to take at the end of the meeting if you are successful.

  2. Need: Based on your initial conversations and your research, this should be one or two slides that speaks to your understanding of their business and what they are trying to accomplish with this initiative.  It is critically important that you get the client to confirm his or her need.

  3. Solution: Here you outline at a high-level how you will solve their problem or improve their situation. This should include the products or services that you will use to meet their needs.  In other words, how your solution will create value for the client. Here it is important for you to stop, ask questions and ensure the client understands your proposed solution and feels it will meet their needs. Selling the “wrong” solution won’t benefit the seller or buyer.

  4. Differentiate: In this section, you should show how your solution maps to their specific needs, and why your offering is the best fit for their situation compared to the competition or doing it themselves. This is where you may also want to provide information on your company and why you are uniquely qualified to be their partner on this initiative.

  5. Proof: Here is need to support any claims or assumptions you’ve made in your solution overview by providing additional information and examples that reinforce your position. You shouldn’t make claims or assertions if they can’t be backed up with some combination of case studies, research, white papers, testimonials, or references.

  6. Pricing estimate: After you have presented your solution and received feedback that you’re on the right track, you should present the pricing or cost estimate for your solution. You should provide clear messaging around your assumptions and scope that was used to develop the price estimate. Once you get buy in on the estimate it will be easier to transition later to a formal proposal and agreement.

  7. Next Steps: This section is left for the discussion of what needs to happen for them to receive the benefits of your solution. You should provide a timeline and discussion items for when the proposal will be sent, how long it will take to get the project approved and by whom, when the project would start or the product will ship, and when they can expect the implementation to be complete.

While a few of these topics might require more than one slide, you should really work to narrow your messaging to stay focused on their needs and your solution. If you feel that you must include additional information about your company or products, it’s best to put that into an appendix and reference it only if a question comes up. Keep track of how often you need this additional “fluff” and see if it can’t be cut out altogether. You can always send follow up material to respond specifically to a question or objection, once you understand their specific concerns.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Presentations

Guy Kawasaki, a legendary entrepreneur, author and venture capitalist promoted the concept of 10/20/30 for presentations. While this concept was originally intended as a guideline for venture funding presentations, it applies equally well as a guideline for Sales Presentations. The idea is that you should have no more than 10 slides, 20 minutes of material and no font size smaller than 30 points.

Using these guidelines really encourages you to be concise and focused in your messaging, and allow more time for dialogue. With 20 minutes of material, that means you have 2/3rds of the meeting available to engage with the client, listen to their needs and answer questions. If you fill up the meeting with 60 minutes of content, when are you ever going to hear from the client whether you’re on track or missing the mark?   

Your goal should be to take the time to write a shorter sales presentation that really focuses on the client’s needs and your understanding of their situation – and see if that doesn’t make you more articulate, effective and influential in your communications.

Sales Training Research Report by Sales Readiness Group


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