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How to Create Sales Decks That Work In 2023

If you want to close deals, you need sales decks.

The demo-only approach doesn’t work anymore. With an average of 6.8 people involved in each B2B deal, you need sales decks that can carry your message from the champion you met to the buyer you didn’t.

Together with 18 of the top minds in sales, I’ve assembled this complete guide to sales decks that wow and convert.

💡 Too busy to read? Jump to the SlideShare version.


Table of contents


What is a sales deck?

A sales deck is a slide presentation which is produced in PowerPoint or Slides, which is shown in meetings with prospects to help explain your company’s product and why they need to buy. It’s used to supplement a sales pitch and a demo.


What should a sales deck include?

A sales deck needs to say who you are and what problem you are trying to solve. It needs to outline the “before” state when the prospect has a problem, and the “after” state when that problem is solved. The presentation needs to show how you will get the prospect from one state to the other.

We’ll look in more detail at how that’s done, below.


What are the key elements of great sales decks?

"We just do demos isn't enough anymore." This image contains two sales deck slides reading, "B2B Sales is becoming increasingly complex, with 6.8 buyers per deal (up from 5.4 two years ago) on average." and "The more people involved, the lower the likelihood of closing the deal."

Sales decks are critical to accelerating your sales process, and yet most end up in critical condition.

Here’s how we get them wrong:

1) Listing out product features rather than telling a story

2) Overloading slides with too much information

3) Presenting a document live that was meant to be read, or vice versa.

How we get sales decks wrong today. Includes three sample sales deck slides reading Product Driven, not Story Driven, Too much Text and Information Overload, and Confusion over Delivery Format.

That’s why we built this guide — to help you build and present a more compelling sales deck in three key steps.

1) Building out your storyline

2) Customizing and visualizing content

3) Flexing the format based on your delivery method

I’ll illustrate this advice from industry experts with tactical examples, so you can put it into practice immediately.

How this guide will help you build your next sales deck.


Part 1. How to build out your sales deck storyline

“When you’re building your next sales deck, keep one thing in mind: Prospects don’t care about your product.” – Courtney Chuang, DocSend

“Story” is a buzzword in sales today. But for good reason.

Prospects remember 5-10% of statistics and 25% of images. But when there’s a story involved, retention shoots to 60-70%.

Why?

In this age of information overload, stories not lists of features are the best way to make your message stick.

To prove it, DocSend recently overhauled their sales deck. Here’s what they found:

“Once we overhauled the DocSend discovery deck, we saw our completion rate triple.

“This meant prospects were actually finding our story compelling enough to complete the entire deck.

“This was crucial because it meant prospects were ready to convert to the next stage of the sales process.”

Sales deck slide: Why story matters to your sales process. Two graphs demonstrate the effect on dropoff rate of using story in your sales process (80% without story, 40% with story)


How do you know which type of story to tell in your sales presentation?

It depends on the size of the company and with whom you are meeting.

In general, if you are speaking with a:

C-level executive: Tell a high-level strategic story like the now-famous Zuora deck. Use Andy Raskin’s framework as your guide.

Budget Holder (VP/Director level): Make your case with the pragmatic framework laid out by Pete Kazanjy in Founding Sales.

Practitioners (or a technical buyer): Rely on defining your category and executing a well-framed demo.

You can flex this depending on the size of your prospect, as well:

A chart cross-referencing audience seniority level (CXO, VP, Director, Manager and IC) with company size by revenue.

 

The CXO sales deck

Your goal here is to get high-level buy-in so that an executive believes not only in your product but also in your vision. Once they share this belief, they can offer tops-down pressure to accelerate your deal.

What goes into the CXO deck? Andy Raskin popularized this narrative framework in his now-famous post about Zuora’s deck entitled “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen” (a staple for any enterprise sales team).

To give a quick overview of his work, here are the core elements you’ll need:

The CXO Deck represented as a graph, from Opening to Proof You Can Do It.

The most important piece of this narrative is your opening. What’s the big change in the world that made your company not only nice, but necessary?

Opening slide of the CXO deck: the Big Change in the World.

How do you know what that big change is? The best resources are your happiest customers.

Pick 4-6 customers most passionate about your product and ask them:

  1. What has fundamentally changed in your business in the past year?
  2. If your business fails, what will be the cause?
  3. What companies do you align yourself with, and why?
  4. Finally, how has [Product X] impacted your company?

From here, you will start to see patterns to show you how to present your story from the perspective of the buyer, not the seller.


The Budget Holder Proposal sales deck

This is the “brass tacks” sales deck for the budget holder who actually makes the purchase.

Your goal here is to give this person confidence in the ROI of your solution by de-risking the decision to accelerate the purchase.

A solid resource here is Peter Kazanjy’s Founding Sales work outlined in First Round Review. To share the highlights, here are the core elements of this type of sales narrative:

The Budget Holder Proposal -- How to Create Sales Decks That Wow and Convert

In this logical sell, you need to nail your ROI argument.

Where the CXO deck is propped up on a big change in environment or culture, this narrative is founded on cost of the problem today:

The Budget Holder Proposal sales deck second slide: This problem costs $X today

Starting with the cost of the problem tees you up to position your solution as a true creator of value, enabling your buyer to make the price of your solution a no-brainer.


The Practitioner’s Demo sales deck

With this sales deck, your goal is to drive adoption from the day-to-day future users of your product.

Don’t dive straight into a demo! Instead, build rapport and jumpstart bottoms-up adoption of your product by confirming the problem, then build from there.

Here’s what it looks like:

The Practitioner's Demo sales deck -- don't dive straight into the demo! Start by confirming the problem.

Start by framing your demo with the problem they are looking to solve.

Then, prioritize the demo accordingly.

Sales deck slide example: The Practitioner's Deck, slide 1. What we will cover in today's demo.

Orchestrate your demo as a series of moments that directly address the problems they have highlighted.

For example: If your product has 6 key features, just highlight the 3 that most directly address the problem they are looking to solve.


Part 2: How to customize and visualize content

Even if you haven’t seen the latest MarTech 5000 slide, you’ve undoubtedly felt the overload first hand.

With more companies than ever competing for your customer’s attention, this is what you are up against:

The legendary "Martech 5000" slide, featuring 5,000 companies in the marketing technology landscape.

How do you break through? Customization and visuals.

Why is customization important for sales decks?

Personalized emails earn 26% higher click-through rates, and deliver up to 6X higher transaction rates per email.

So you can imagine the impact of personalizing your sales decks.

Why are visuals important for sales decks?

Over 65% of people learn best visually, and visual presentations are 43% more persuasive than bullet-point ones.

If you don’t believe the statistics, look at the behavior of your coworkers:

Moments before a meeting, they are scrolling through Instagram, Slacking GIFs, and texting emojis. Afterward, they are checking Snap stories, liking Facebook photos, and commenting on LinkedIn videos.

How do you expect your bullet point slides to compete?

They can’t.


How to customize your sales deck

Regardless of which storyline you are using, you have opportunities to customize your deck periodically throughout. The most important slide to do this is your opening.

“Your first slide needs to be about what you’ve learned from YOUR CUSTOMERS. Use the voice of your customers to give you credibility.” – Doug Landis

This sales deck slide walks you through your key learnings about your prospect.

To really stand out, you can customize your deck to your prospect’s brand as well. Standard practice is dragging and dropping in logos, but you can take it a step further and use your prospect’s brand colors as a theme throughout.

This slide shows examples of how you could customize your sales deck using your prospect's logo and brand colors. Pretty clever!

How to visualize your sales deck content

Here are a few ideas:

Use visual metaphors to tell the story

Before customers buy anything, they have to understand what it is.

Sounds simple, but so many companies (particularly highly technical products) mess this up. Big time.

Metaphors enable your prospect to instantly grasp what you’re trying to do.

Drift’s CEO David Cancel does this well when he describes Drift as the sales attendant in your store (your website). This metaphor – and the visual to go with it – elicits an emotional response that sticks with you far longer than a feature list could.

This slide on visual metaphors includes a quote from Drift CEO David Cancel: "You wouldn't invite your customers into an empty store, so why would you do that with your website?"

Use simple visual diagrams in your sales deck

As salespeople, we aren’t trained in art, because art is not our job.

Communication is our job.

Visuals are an incredibly efficient and memorable way to convey information, because our brains process visual information 60,000x faster than text. And we retain 4X more information we see vs. read.

Don’t get too complicated! With slides, less is more.

Here are some examples of simple visual layouts good for sales slides:

A slide containing 16 clean, simple designs for visuals for sales deck slides.

Bonus: How to visualize your case studies

The purpose of case studies is to provide credibility and proof your solution works. Nothing accomplishes this better than a visual case study:

A sample sales deck slide highlighting a customer case study.

In other parts of your presentation, iconography can be powerful tools to build a shared story.

Because icons are conceptual, your customer has to do some of the “work” to imagine the new future with your product.

When it comes to the case study, though, you want to make the examples as concrete and credible as possible.

Use photographs and videography to demonstrate that these other customers aren’t just ideas, but they are real, relatable people, too.


Part 3. Best practices for creating your sales deck

“Maybe your marketing team made you a beautiful one but they’re ONLY meant for explaining live, not showing to a decision maker offline.” – Cole Fox, LeadIQ

You just gave a compelling presentation to the end-users of your product, using your new practitioner’s framework. As you’re wrapping up the call, your prospect asks, “Can you send me something I can send my boss?”

What you don’t want to do is send the deck you just presented.

Here’s what to do.

Make multiple versions of your sales deck for different delivery modes

Never send someone your presentation deck to read.

Why?

Slides for presentation decks should contain a maximum of 20 words. That’s because the slides are simply support for your verbal presentation. Without you there to deliver the context, any reader of your presentation deck is going to be confused.

Instead, make a version of your deck aimed at readers. Limit your text to 60 words per slide for a deck to read. Given average reading speeds, a 10-slide deck with 60 words per slide will take about 5 minutes to read — the maximum you’d expect to get from a CXO.

Here’s what this looks like in practice.

Split your content into two text boxes in the original deck design for your 60-word version:

What happens when your prospect asks for something to send to their boss? That's why you create the reader version of your sales deck, with up to 60 words per slide.

Then, when it’s time to present, just remove the body text boxes for your 20-word version:

Here are a few slides to guide our conversation

Finally, more and more buyers are viewing content on mobile devices (up to 42% are using mobile devices during the purchase process), which should further limit the text density of your content.

If this is the case, your targets should be at least half the aforementioned limits (30 words instead of 60 for a read-ahead), as reading speeds slow significantly when moving from a full screen to a mobile device.


Sales deck examples

We’ve drawn our inspiration from three examples in particular:

DocSend Sales Deck Example

docsend sales deck example

DocSend deck

Zuora Sales Presentation Example

zoura sales presentation example

Zoura presentation example

Sales Deck Examples for Founders

sales decks for founders

Sales presentations for founders

Finally, here are some more great sales presentation examples.

Check out the full SlideShare version of this guide here

Published Jan. 2018. Updated Jan. 2023.

 


Also published on Medium.

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      Profile picture of Irina Kostiuk
      @irinakostiuk
      ( 350 POINTS )
      2 years, 3 months ago

      Wow, this is super helpful! Thank you so much for sharing this guide Alli! @alli-mckee

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      Profile picture of Rebecca Wilson
      @rebeccawilson
      ( 230 POINTS )
      2 years ago

      This is so helpful and concise – thank you!

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      Profile picture of Ivy_2021
      @ivy_2021
      ( 190 POINTS )
      1 year, 9 months ago

      So far the most complete sales deck know-how I ever read, thank you!

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      1 year, 8 months ago

      Thanks for the useful information.
      I have tried Meet Alfred It provided me alot of leads in 1 month.
      You should also try and see the amazing results.

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