Too often, sales presentations underwhelm prospects because they fail to provide a compelling narrative arc. As a marketer, you’ve done your research and conducted your focus groups. You know your audience, and you understand exactly how your product meets their needs. But are you treating those details like a sales pitch—or a compelling story that grips your prospects like a page-turner?
All of us have experienced the “death by PowerPoint” feeling. At some point, many sales teams just accepted that presentations work like bulleted lists. You run through the major points and facts, but there’s no narrative to keep anyone engaged. There’s no real story or personality. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, it shouldn’t be that way.
If you really want to get your prospects on board and excited about moving to the next phase, you need to approach your presentations the same way you've been taught to design your website—like a book. In other words, your sales presentation needs to have a story, and that story needs to be told in a compelling way. Websites and books both lay out a clear path for the audience. Whether through intuitive navigation or a narrative arc, you're guiding the audience through the story you want to tell.
It all starts with developing a presentation architecture that leads your audience through a defined, concise journey. It’s how you excite prospects, keep them engaged, and close the deal.
Tips for Telling a Better Sales Presentation Story
Countless sales teams across multiple industries are currently making do with disjointed sales presentations littered with bullet points and bloated copy. Most sales teams probably don’t even realize they have this problem. Creating a narrative arc within your sales stories is a major key to success, but it does take some work. Here’s what you have to do.
1. Give Your Narrative the Length It Needs
You don’t need to take the one-sheet out of your toolbox entirely. But you do need to understand when and how to use it. We've seen plenty of clients hyper-focused on the idea of the one-sheet. Their intentions are ultimately good. No one wants to burden their prospects with a lengthy presentation.
However, if those one-sheets are littered with excessive copy and poor design, what type of story are you telling? Is this the best way to represent your products and services?
The length of your presentation really doesn’t matter as much as your sales team might think. If your presentation tells a compelling story and leads your prospects on a concise journey, it has done its job regardless of length. Don’t try to do too much on a single slide or a single page just because you think the audience wants a shorter time commitment. The one-sheet can complement a sales story by distilling facts, but it can never replace the narrative.
2. Relate Your Sales Story Directly to Your Audience
One of the quickest ways to lose your audience in a sales presentation is by leading with a product or service pitch. You need to empathize with your prospects' problems and explain how your product or service solves them right out of the gate. That’s how you relate to your audience. It’s not a matter of telling them how innovative your product is. It's about demonstrating how your innovation allows your prospects to meet their challenges in new and better ways.
That solution shouldn’t just be tacked on at the end of the presentation, either. It should be woven throughout the story you’re telling. Relate to your audience by:
- showing empathy
- sharing your solution
- showing how that solution will work for them
With so many elements to incorporate, it would be difficult to tell your full sales story on a single one-sheet.
3. Define Your Sales Story's Narrative Arc
When crafting your sales story, working in incremental steps is the best way to build your narrative. A lot of companies have a story to tell but fail to present it in a single, unified narrative arc. Instead, it's spread out across a fragmented series of assets—marketing materials, slightly differentiated sales decks, and so on. To nail your sales story, you must first pull these disparate elements together to craft a single, unified narrative arc.
Pulling these bits and pieces together in their most basic form—stripping away all design elements and working with as little copy as possible—helps to establish the high-level hierarchy of the more concise story. Identify the opportunity or the problem you’re addressing, and take only what you need to tell that part of the story. Then move on to the solution, doing the same exact thing. What you’re doing is creating an outline of your story’s chapters. Move the various pieces of the story’s puzzle around. Play with it until it flows in a natural, informative way. Take out any elements that distract from or add nothing to the story.
From there, it’s a matter of incorporating design elements and finishing touches to ensure that your presentation is on-brand and visually appealing . This may be possible using existing assets, or you may need more of a complete overhaul. But the important thing is to lead with your story. If you dive right in and try to overhaul every aspect of your sales presentation all once, you’re not going to achieve the action-driving results you need.
Make Your Sales Team Part of the Process to Tell a Better Story
You and your marketing team are the foremost experts on your organization's offerings. Your sales teams will leverage sales decks and materials to land clients, but they aren’t the ones who should be tasked with telling your story. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be part of the process, though.
When you’re ready to revamp your sales story and give it that narrative structure it currently lacks, make sure all the relevant parties are brought in right at the start. Sales and marketing must work together for this process to succeed. Sales knows what they need to do their job, but they’re not copywriters, designers, or layout artists.
Once you’ve figured out what’s necessary to successfully package your sales presentation, it’s time to lock everything in and give it to the sales team in its final form. It takes work to get there, and you may need to bring in an outside team that specializes in this type of story design. But once it’s there, you’ll see a night-and-day difference in your sales presentation materials—and business development success, too.