Structuring a sales presentation

154 recently offered the following advice to a sales team that wanted to build a presentation internally. I thought it might be useful to share here.

Most presentations answer the following questions, in approximately this order:

1) Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) Do you understand my business?
4) What are the answers to my problems?

Because of that, there are usually five to ten slides at the beginning of the presentation that are a complete waste of time. Think of the last time someone presented to you. Remember that first slide that you started thinking, "hey, that's useful?" I've got ten dollars that says it wasn't "About us," and another five that say it was slide six or later. For your presentation, you need that slide - the one that first matters to the audience - to be slide number one.

To help make that happen, it is useful to ask some of the same questions in a different order, and some entirely different questions. Try this:

1) What is the broad problem that the audience faces? (one level up from the problem they think they have - so not "how do I make more widgets?" but "in a down economy, we need to either cut expenses without decreasing output or increase output without increasing costs")

2) What is my part of that problem? (e.g. "make more widgets"). The most important thing is to put this in the language your audience actually uses to talk about the problem. If you use the words "optimize," "innovate," or "synergy," you are not using the language they actually use.

3) What are the economics of the problem/solution?

4) What are the current solutions available - and what is their business model? Give a sense of how the industry works.

5) What are the economics of your solution?

6) What is the full description of your approach?

7) Who is (Your Company Here)?

My two points for you, if you do nothing else: 1) figure out how your potential clients talk about the problem you solve. Use their language. 2) Start with content. If you have six slides of empty calories before you start adding value, no one will kick you out, but you'll seem entirely average. There's no reason that should be your highest ambition.