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Creating and Giving Sales Presentations

No matter how successful you’ve become, it all still comes down to sales. How’s your pitch these days? Has it gotten stale because you have gotten busier with other demands?


A sales presentation should be a complete package designed to convince your prospect to buy your product or service. The better prepared you are for your presentation, the greater your chances of making the sale.

Start by asking yourself, “Why am I making this sales presentation?” Your answer should be along the lines of, “To address the prospect’s needs and prove that we can meet them.”

In this Quick-Read you will find:

  • How to gather relevant information.
  • How to develop the sales presentation.
  • How to focus on benefits.


First, bring together all the information you’ll need for your presentation. This should include:

  1. Facts about your product or service. Your product knowledge should be thorough. Assume your prospects know nothing about what you’re selling. It will be up to you to explain features and benefits.Be prepared also to prove that your product or service is right up-to-date. For instance, you could point to recent technological advances that have improved the design or performance of your product or service.
  2. Your company’s history. Perhaps you started the business in a two-car garage and now do $2 million-plus in sales and have 45 employees. Evidence of growth conveys success and stability to prospective customers.Be ready, too, to cite your company’s values and ethics — “We believe every customer has a right to the truth about our products — and that’s what we deliver. If any item doesn’t live up to our claims, we replace it or refund the full price.” Prospects will be more inclined to trust you when you make this kind of pledge.
  3. Competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Do your homework on their products and customer service so you can make comparisons with what you’re offering. Be sure to examine competitors’ Web pages for ideas. More tips on gathering information may be found in the Business Builder “How to Conduct and Prepare a Competitive Analysis.” If the sales prospect comes out with either positive or negative comments about the competition, you’ll be ready with an answer that might get you the sale.
  4. Your potential customers. Find out how long they’ve been in business, their main products, major clients, and how well those clients’ needs are being met. If your prospects are already buying from the competition, you’ll need to emphasize the added benefits of buying your product or service. Stop in and ask the receptionist for whatever brochures and company descriptions are publicly available. Consider calling or e-mailing before you visit prospects to ask what applications they need help with.
  5. The market. Learn about the markets to which your prospects sell. You should be able to point out how you’ll add value by helping prospects meet their sales goals: “We’ll provide a beautiful display case with a seasonal theme that will be a strong attraction for your Christmas buyers.”Tip: Your ability to enhance prospects’ sales will be a key selling point when you make your sales presentation.

Developing your presentation

Sales presentations typically include an introduction defining the project or need, benefits of your product or service, and cost. Follow these guidelines:

  • Prepare an introduction focusing on your prospect’s need. Show that you have a thorough understanding of what the prospect is looking for.Avoid overly solicitous statements, such as “We are truly grateful for the opportunity to propose….” This elevates the prospect to a superior position and relegates you to the subordinate. Your every word, and the style in which you deliver it, should underscore your expertise and imply how fortunate the prospect is to benefit by it.
  • Describe the service or product you’ll provide. Give an accurate time frame for delivery or completion of key items. Be realistic. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Build trust for a long-term relationship by under-promising and over-delivering.Example: As a catering service, you promise the prospect you’ll “provide high quality foods and service at a reasonable price for the Jones wedding on September 18.” Key tasks would include:Planning the menu: completion date June 6
    Ordering the food and supplies: completion date August 12
    Arranging for flowers: completion date September 1
  • Expand on critical details about your product or service. Provide enough information so that the prospect can follow you easily. But don’t provide so much detail that you narrow the prospect’s options or disclose your recommendations prematurely.Example: If the prospect wants to overhaul his accounting system, describe the process you’ll use to evaluate the best system. But don’t offer any preliminary suggestions at that point. The prospect may have already, unknown to you, investigated and rejected them as options.
  • Describe all benefits the prospect can expect from your products or services. When creating your list of benefits, consider what you can do to help your prospect look good and succeed. Pay special attention to the prospect’s role, responsibilities, and level in the organization.Example: You’re selling a manager on an upgraded telephone system. Know his key challenges (perhaps reliability and cost), then stress how your system overcomes them (high consumer confidence ratings, modular features, etc.)If, however, you don’t know who the decision maker is, tie the benefits of your product or service into the overall goals of the organization. Be prepared for research. Check out the company’s advertising campaign, focusing on their claims and target customers. Read annual reports to find the company’s key initiatives.
  • Present the costs of your product or services. Be as detailed as possible to forestall misunderstandings. On larger projects, estimate costs for each stage. Here’s an example for installing a new computer system:
    1. Evaluate hardware options: 100 personnel-hours $10,000
    2. Select and order hardware: 1/3 cost up front $60,000
    3. Install hardware: 1/3 cost
    200 personnel-hours
    4. Debug system: 1/3 cost
    100 personnel-hours
    5. Train: 50 personnel-hours $5,000
    6. TOTAL $225,000


Also estimate potential hidden costs and inform prospects so they won’t face unpleasant surprises. Example: Your phone system installation requires travel, but you’re not sure how much. Quote for installation plus reasonable travel expenses.

  • Wind up your presentation. Remind the prospect why you’re the best choice.


The sales manager for bicycle manufacturer TRED Inc., launched the conclusion of her sales presentation to a major prospect this way: “As the largest cycle manufacturer in the United States for the past 40 years, TRED has supplied more than 10,000 leasing businesses with more than 10 million bikes.…”

She ended with a closing paragraph expressing her interest in working with the client — and the advantages of buying from TRED: “All the employees at TRED are dedicated to the highest standards of service to our customers. Our free overnight delivery service means no spare part inventory for you, and here I’ll also draw your attention to other benefits of doing business with TRED.…”

DO IT [top]

  1. Listen to your potential clients. You can’t offer solutions if you don’t clearly understand their problems and needs.
  2. Anticipate objections. Review your presentation for any points to which prospects might raise objections. Recruit a friend or colleague to scan for objection points too. Then insert into your presentation positive statements that will neutralize any potential objections.Example: You anticipate that the prospect will say, “The widgets I’ve been getting from XYZ, made from the same material as your widgets, seem to rust within three months after we receive them. I can’t live with that.” Be prepared to counter this objection before it’s voiced by the prospect: “Instead of spray painting our widgets, we dip them in a noncorrosive coating to eliminate the possibility of rusting.”
  3. Perfect your delivery. If your sales presentation requires that you give a talk, practice it in front of others in your organization. Get their feedback and refine your delivery.Work on the tone you want, expressing humor, concern, empathy, or any other emotions you feel are appropriate. Practice pacing yourself and enunciating clearly and crisply. Use hand gestures for emphasis, and change the pitch of your voice to make a point.Be sure that the prospect is following what you’re saying. If a prospect becomes inattentive, ask “Do you have any questions?” Keeping your own enthusiasm high will help keep the prospect interested in what you’re saying.If you’re planning a demonstration as part of your presentation, design it step-by-step. Practice, then do a dry-run in front of friends or colleagues. Ask them to role play as prospects firing questions at you. This will help you learn to think and respond quickly.
  4. Evaluate your presentation when it’s over. What did you do right? What would you do differently next time? Assessing your performance will help you perfect your sales presentations.



Close More Sales: Persuasion Skills that Boost Your Selling Power by Mike Stewart (AMACOM, 1999).

Winning Group Sales Presentations: A Guide to Closing the Deal by Linda Richardson (Dow Jones-Irwin, 1990).

Creating and Delivering Winning Advertising and Marketing Presentations, 2nd edition, by Sandra Moriarity and Tom Duncan (NTC Business, 1995). Mostly on preparing and using visual aids.

Selling 2.0: Motivating Customers in the New Economy by Josh Gordon (Berkley, 2000).


Pow! Zap! Sell!” by Michael Kaplan, Fast Company, December 1997.

No Guts, No Glory?” by Miles Spencer and Cliff Ennico, Entrepreneur, December 1999. Excerpt from Moneyhunt: The 27 New Rules for Creating and Growing the Breakaway Business (HarperBusiness, 1999).

Internet Sites

Art of Communicating Effectively. Presenting Solutions.

Article Contributors

Writer: Kathleen Conroy