Sales presentations (aka sales decks) are the most critical sales enablement asset for any company. Yet too often, individual salespeople update and modify the decks themselves – either because they do not get any support from the Marketing Team or because they prefer to do it themselves without “interference” from Marketing. This should not be the case. Sales decks should be a collaborative effort.
A painful lesson
Years ago, I was a salesperson and our manager was adamant that the Sales Team should be in control of the sales deck. Every quarter, we would lock ourselves into a conference room and learn how to present the latest deck created by our sales manager. Any salesperson that deviated from the script was harshly reprimanded. We became a team of sales automatons – each delivering the sales pitch the same way to every prospect.
Over time I began to realize that my style of presenting and selling was at odds with the way the sales deck was structured. It focused too much on the features/functions and not enough on the problems we were trying to help our customers solve. The standard presentation also did not provide the opportunity to engage prospects in conversation, which was my strong suit. Worse, I found that our sales deck did not match the messaging on the company website or other marketing materials.
After a few months of delivering the sales deck the way my manager dictated, I decided to secretly create my own version that was more suited to my style of presenting and aligned with some of the messaging that the Marketing Team was putting out. My success rate doubled.
Unfortunately, I did not truly learn the lesson from this experience and I made the mistake of trying to force a sales deck that I created on the Sales Team when I first became a VP of Marketing at a different company. After several painful months of trying (and causing a rift between Marketing & Sales that never really healed), I realized I had become something I had once loathed – a manager that was trying get a team to deliver the sales deck the same way. I thought I knew better and I was wrong.
Through that painful lesson, I learned that no one person or one team knows better when it comes to sales decks.
Marketing aligned with flexibility for Sales
From that point forward, I have used a more collaborative approach to creating sales decks. I now expect and lean into the fact that the Sales Team and individual salespeople are going to modify the deck to suit their unique styles and preferences.
Here is how I put this approach into practice.
- I start by identifying the 3 key messages that I want to ensure the audience leaves with
- I then craft a deck outline that delivers and reinforces the key messages
- I flush out the text of each slide so that it matches the tone and wording used on other marketing assets like the website, brochures etc.
- Once the main deck is done, I then create additional slides that have supplemental information (1 slide each, never multiple slides). Examples include: client case studies, product features, company history, upcoming events, etc.
To ensure the deck remains visually appealing, I do the following:
- Use a sans-serif font that is available in PowerPoint (no fonts that must be downloaded)
- Set the font size such that each slide can have only 5 single-line bullet points on it
- Only use photo backgrounds on a few slides for emphasis – having too many slides with picture backgrounds makes it harder for salespeople to customize
- Create different slide layouts in the Slide Master so salespeople have multiple choices
- Stick with colors that show up well on a projector (ie: avoid yellows and light pinks which get washed out on older projectors)
The goal for Marketers is to create the “base layer” of the sales deck that has the core messages delivered in a way that is consistent with other marketing assets while simultaneously making it easy for salespeople to personalize the deck in a way that is consistent with the company’s brand. When done right, the deck will be aligned with marketing but also has built-in flexibility for sales.
Here is an example of the typical “logo slide” that is a must-have in a sales deck. This slide was designed by the Marketing Team and matched the way the logos were presented on the company’s website.
Immediately following this slide were two blank ones that salespeople could use to highlight two specific clients. There were no restrictions on which clients could be highlighted. It could be clients they had sold to, or clients that matched the prospect they were presenting to, or the latest two clients we signed…whatever suited their needs. All they had to do was copy and paste the logo into the blank template.
Maintaining Sales Decks
One of the biggest challenges is maintaining sales decks and unfortunately there is no silver bullet. I’ve tried to use content management systems, email alerts, centralized drives, etc. Nothing works 100%. However, there is one “trick” that got me close – leveraging the competitive nature of salespeople.
I would give the new deck to one salesperson and work with them to personalize it. Word would quickly spread that this salesperson had a better deck and soon the other salespeople would begin asking for their copy of it.
Sales enablement starts with a great sales deck
As a marketer, whenever I think of sales enablement my mind goes immediately to the sales deck. It not only vitally important, it is also a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with the Sales Team.