Who’s running the sales pitch – you or your PowerPoint?

Many years ago, when I worked on sales presentations, my team would spend 80% of our time working on the PowerPoint – debating slide order and color, bullet points and font size, this graphic over that graphic. You name it, we debated it.  After all that, we’d spend only 24 hours preparing to present that flawless PowerPoint presentation. We would scramble to get our story together, adding undue pressure and stress to ourselves, and we wouldn’t personalize the story as much as we should have.

Eventually, we began thinking differently, flipping our energy and focus – 80% of our time forming the story and preparing our team, and 20% on the supporting materials. This 80/20 rule helped us focus on our end goal: preparing for a sales presentation, not the supporting materials.

Using the 80/20 rule
It’s all too easy to put your time and energy towards your PowerPoint and supporting materials. But PowerPoint doesn’t run your sales pitch – you and your team do. Applying the 80/20 rule (80% story/team preparation and 20% supporting materials) can keep your sales preparation focused and on track.

Here are four tips:

  • Materials – To maintain audience interest, your PowerPoint should be as visual as possible – avoid long lists of bullet points or heavy text. Spend less time making all the changes to text and instead focus on what you can say differently (this article has some good PowerPoint reminders.) Your PowerPoint should be a visual aid to the presentation – not the presentation itself.
  • Teamwork – Often, there’s one person who presents 90% of the time.  If you’re the “rainmaker” there for the sale, think about how to incorporate the team since the committee likely knows you’re gone after the sale. How can you highlight their expertise? If it’s a finalist presentation, your audience has probably done due diligence and believes you’re capable for the job. They want to know how your team works and how your team will work with them.
  • Rehearsal – I’m a big fan of live rehearsals. It’s easy to walk through the slides and discuss what you’ll say and how you’ll say it, but that doesn’t prepare you for actually saying it. Schedule a few rehearsals. Avoid overly scripting, you’ll come off as unnatural — focus on your key points. You should do 2-3 dry runs of the presentation over a two-week time frame so it feels natural. Work out any kinks, practice seamless hand-offs and discuss how to answer the tough questions you could get asked.
  • Flexibility – PowerPoint tends to be somewhat static, but try your best to be flexible.  Present the agenda and then ask if there’s anything your audience would like to focus on or go over that’s not on the agenda. Nothing demonstrates preparation more than a willingness to be flexible with your own presentation.

Your audience does not want another PowerPoint presentation – so don’t let it run the sales pitch. Use the 80/20 rule – apply 80% of your time on your story and preparing with your team, and 20% of your time on readying your PowerPoint to emphasize the story.


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In addition to blogging here, I also tweet regularly about advisor-focused practice management topics like sales and lead generation, marketing, service and management/operations. Follow me on Twitter at @Rschutty.

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Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company. Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, Member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers. Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor. Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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