A sales deck is a key asset in your business. It’s the tool you’ll use to tell a consistent story to your prospects about how you can help them.
Much hype is given to the “best deck” or the “perfect pitch.” It’s even in the title of this article. But your sales deck is just an instrument you’ll use at the right time in your sales process, and having an effective deck will help you increase your win rate and the repeatability of your sales process. It’s one piece of a larger puzzle.
In this article, you’ll learn why a sales deck is so important, how to make one that works, and the structure you can follow for your own sales deck.
What’s the point of a sales deck?
The point of a sales deck is to think through the critical ideas you need to hit in every sale, and facilitate telling a story you’ll tell to your prospects. It’s just a sales fundamental that you need to get right.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, the thinking that goes into the creation of your deck is more important than the resultant deck. Stay with me here.
My rule for a well-developed sales process, as outlined in the SDS Method, is this:
If you can’t fit your sales presentation onto 10 or less slides, your sales process still needs work.
It’s a simple test you can use to gauge the maturity of your sales process. The only way to have a tight and refined presentation is to make hard decisions about what to keep, what to leave out, and what combination of elements will have the greatest impact on your prospects. I’ll get to the specific slides you need in the last section of this article.
As Henry Thoreau said, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” That’s the challenge of putting together a tight and impactful sales deck.
You see, your sales deck is emblematic of the clarity of your thinking in how you present and sell your services. It represents your understanding of how clients buy from you, and the information they need from you in order to make an informed decision. It represents how well you know your clients.
Should they work with you or not?
By the end of your sales presentation, it should be clear to your prospect what they’d get from working with you, and whether they want to proceed.
Why Your Sales Deck Is So Important
I hear two primary objections to creating and using sales decks:
- “Every client and sale is totally unique.”
- “Slides are boring.”
While it’s accurate to say that every client and sale is totally unique, it’s not very precise. Unless you’re truly reinventing your business for every prospect, there are patterns shared between clients that you can use to develop leverage in the sales process.
And for #2, everyone is interested in themselves and how they can become more awesome. Focus your slides on making your clients more awesome, and they won’t be bored. Rather than strictly delivering yoru slides, you can also take questions, scrap your presentation, and have a conversation sans slides at any point. There are no rules here.
Creating a slide deck ensures a consistent process. It’s impossible to optimize your sales process – or even begin to understand it – without some consistency. A sales deck builds more structure and consistency where it was lacking before.
Slides engage more senses. Most everyone is remote selling these days, and engaging more senses is critical in your remote selling technique. The reason is obvious: you’re meeting with people over the internet, they’re sitting in front of the world’s greatest distraction machine, and you need to work to keep their attention.
Slides can tell a visual story, too. You’ll hear me singing the praises of storytelling skills over and over again on this blog, because mastery of narrative is a core sales skill. But slides give you the opportunity to show in addition to telling. Pictures evoke emotion, graphics show relationships, and images are highly memorable. Our eyesight predates language by 100,000 years, so visuals can reinforce your words, and a slide deck will help you do that.
Slides are a training tool. However you plan to increase your earnings – selling your business, growing your staff, or increasing profitability – your selling needs to become more predictable and repeatable. Slides will help you do both, and become an important training tool if and when you decide to hire a dedicated salesperson on your team.
How to Make a Deck That Works
You already have all of the tools you need to make a fantastic slide deck. In this section, I’ll give you a few tools that I use to create winning slide decks.
To begin with, skip all of these tools and build your sales deck by yourself, with no outside help, and with no visuals.
Write your deck as a simple text-only outline, then adapt it in the slides program of your choice. I do all of my writing in ia Writer (unpaid endorsement!), but you can open up a Word or Google Doc and start typing.
Here are the tools I use to make decks:
Google Slides: Google Slides doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of Keynote (Mac only) or Powerpoint, but I prefer to use it because it’s cloud-first, has all of the features I really need, and the collaboration features are best-in-class.
The Noun Project: a desktop app with over 3 million icons you can use in your slide project. It’s only $40/year at the time of writing, and can quickly add important visuals to your deck.
Fiverr and Upwork: these are great sites to find freelance designers and slides experts who can put the finishing touches on your slides. Even if you’re an adept slidesmith, your deck will benefit from having a talented designer update the design for you. I recommend you hire at least 3 freelancers to do a few slides for you, then choose the best one to complete the design.
Sales Deck Structure: The 9 Slides You Need
Nine slides are all you need to quickly elevate the quality of your sales presentations. For context, this sales deck should be presented in the Offer stage of your sales process. If you’re not sure what that means, reference the SDS Method article to orient yourself.
Your sales deck structure is simple, but certainly not easy to execute. The actual messaging on your slides comes from years of research, understanding, and close client work that gives you a strong handle on your client’s pains, goals, and the value they receive from working with you (I call that trifecta PGV). This is a core tennet of value-based selling.
PGV is an important input to your deck, and the specific language and framing you use will be a key determinant in the impact of your deck.
Here are the 9 slides you need in my SellingStory Framework:
- Hook: the “why we’re here” slide where you grab their attention by announcing the key outcome that they want, and you can deliver; if they remember nothing else, it should be the message on this slide
- Your Why: the reason why you’re in business and the greater purpose for the work you do
- Where They Are Now (Pain): a recap of your client’s pain (as they stated it in their own words), along with reasons why the stakes are so high to fix their problems, and the cost of not taking action
- What’s Possible (Goals): an overview of the specific outcomes you can deliver to your client
- What It’s Worth (Value): the qualitative and quantitative value of your client achieving her goals, which serves as an important upward anchor (and context) for your price
- How You Can Help (Solution): an overview of how you can help your client reach her desired goals and realize the value
- Your Credibility (Proof): objective proof that you can deliver what you say you can, often a case study paired with a testimonial, logos, or other forms of credibility
- Options (Packaging and Pricing): options for scope, outcomes, or levels of service you can deliver
- Next Steps: specific instructions on what your client needs to do next to move the sale forward and/or buy from you; this is also the time that you should prompt your client for their interest in your offer, or for a firm decision if you’re speaking to a single decision maker (like a business owner)
And finally you can optionally have backslides at the end of your deck. Backslides are a collection of slides you can use as reference to respond to common questions, objections, or other information that prospects sometimes need but isn’t core to your sales story. You can have as many backslides as you want, building and organizing them over time in anticipation of occasionally using them.
Creating or updating your sales deck is one of the best investments you can make in your sales process.
Even if you sell custom solutions or value price your services, a sales deck is a good first step in adding important structure and clarity to your whole process, not just the Offer stage.
To get started, draft an outline following the key slides listed above. Once you have your outline, you can begin to piece together your slides and try them out in your next sales presentation.
Check This Out Next
- Sean D’Souza’s talk on why customers buy, which heavily influenced my thinking on sales presentations and marketing messaging
- Blair Enns’ talk on Pricing Creativity
- Raj Nathan’s ClientCon talk on sales presentations
- Why You Need Sales Skills to Sell Your Expertise
- Sales Call Planning template to plan out your next call
- Qualifying Questions for your initial sales call