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How to build a sales presentation that will keep senior executives engaged
We’ve all sat through sales presentations where the senior exec switches off halfway through. In the real world you see them look down at their phone, or step out of the room. In the zoom world they just turn off their webcam.
The reason they disengage is simple: They don’t find the content interesting.
It’s human nature to be more interested in yourself than in others, especially in a work context, yet the overwhelming majority of sales presentations are incredibly seller-centric; talking about mission, product features, competitive positioning, and so on. Throw in the struggle of trying to simultaneously read the slides while following what the presenter is saying and it’s no wonder buyers tune out.
The key to solving this is to make the presentation buyer-centric.
Buyer-centric presentations are not a new idea. The classic approach is to tap into the buyer’s rational pain points, by asking what their primary KPI is and then building the presentation around improving that KPI. It can be effective but it requires a lot of interrogation and usually leads to a black-and-white ROI discussion.
The modern way of doing this is to tap into the buyer’s emotional pain points and provoke engagement. For senior executives this comes down to two areas:
Competitive strategy—execs spend a lot of time worrying about their market share, what their competitors are doing and how to gain an advantage.
Industry trends—execs need to make investments ahead of revenue. Knowing which way the wind is blowing in their industry is a crucial input to this.
When a sales presentation centers on these two types of emotional pain points, a senior executive cannot ignore it—because it’s like looking in a mirror. They see their own reflection, and in it their own imperfections—and this makes them ask questions.
The most effective way to build a buyer-centric presentation is with unique insights.
Insights, delivered in the form of numbers and charts are 100x more powerful than words, because they are quick to grok and leave little room for misinterpretation. And the most effective insights are those that are derived from your own 1st party data—namely your product usage data—because it’s the intersection of two important things:
The emotional pain points of your prospective customers.
The outcomes your existing customers achieve from using your product.
The best chart format is one with product usage metric on the y-axis and time on the x-axis, like this:
The great thing about this format is that it works across many industries and use cases. Here are a few examples I’ve seen:
Example #1: An ad-supported social media platform shows its prospective customers how often users mention their brand vs their competitors - in this case UberEats vs DoorDash:
If you are a senior executive at UberEats, the first thing you are going to ask is why DoorDash is growing and what are they doing differently from you. Conversely, if you are DoorDash, the first thing you are going to ask is what you need to do to increase your advantage over UberEats. Either way, these are clear buying questions, which naturally lead to a discussion of how a paid social strategy on the platform will move the metric in the right direction. This type of chart is also guaranteed to get circulated around the exec team.
Example #2: A dev tools company that helps engineers launch code faster shows its prospective customers how often its existing customers deploy code:
If you are a senior tech exec, the first thing you are going to wonder is how your own team’s output compares to this chart and the second thing you are going to ask is how this software enables teams to increase their daily release velocity and what they are doing differently. You are also going to want a copy of this chart to show your CEO that there is a solution out there that will increase the pace of innovation.
Example #3: A software platform for pizzerias shows its prospective customers how many online orders its existing customers are receiving per month:
If you are a pizzeria owner in Seattle, the first thing you are going to ask yourself is how many online orders you are doing compared to your competitors and the second thing you are going to ask is what does the software do to drive this kind of growth and how are the competitors keeping up with the increased demand.
Example #4: A CRM platform for high-velocity sales teams shows its prospective customers the average sales cycle of its existing customers:
If you are a head of sales, you will already know your sales cycle so the first thing you are going to ask is what these customers are doing differently to close deals faster, which naturally leads into how the product removes friction at key points in the sales process. You are also going to want a copy of this chart to show your CFO that this software is worth investing in.
The key to implementing this approach in your sales process is to make it the cornerstone of your sales enablement process.
While the exact metric you use will depend on your company, the steps to implement it are the same:
Define the two or three cuts of your product usage data that best demonstrate the outcome your customers get from using your product and mock them up like in the examples above.
Set up a process to extract the data from your production systems on a weekly or monthly basis. In most cases this can be done with a simple SQL query.
Make the data easily accessible to your sales reps. Most use cases can be supported by housing the data in a Google Sheet, which auto-generates a chart that can be pasted into a slide.
Train your reps on how to speak to the source of the data and how to use it to drive.
Sit back and watch your reps come back surprised at how well it works :)
I have run this play hundreds of times in multiple companies and without fail, the senior executive in the room ALWAYS looks up from the phone or turns their webcam back on and starts asking questions. It’s a guaranteed executive engagement driver!