Sales Presentation Tools Evolve to a Go-to-Customer Approach
Tools for sales presentations have evolved greatly in the past few years as companies continue their digital transformations. That trend was accelerated by COVID-19, which put a halt to traditional sales presentations that could be delivered at trade shows, conferences, and simple in-person meetings.
Though many conference venues and live events have opened back up, salespeople are expected to continue with the newer sales presentation tools they started using during the pandemic lockdowns.
“The pandemic forced every business into a rapid digital transformation,” says Dave Irwin, founder and CEO of Polaris I/O, a go-to-customer platform provider. “Traditional go-to-market strategies focused on selling products aren’t committed to or capable of customer-centric commercial systems. Go-to-market needs to be replaced with a go-to-customer strategy.”
A go-to-customer strategy focuses on solving problems facing the executive suite. Such a strategy puts more pressure on sales professionals, according to Irwin “They need to increase efficiency, improve ROI, and redefine the activities needed to achieve strong commercial health. To do this, you have to weave this mentality through all connections with the client, including digital meetings.”
“The goal of a great sales presentation is to move your audience,” says Rajat Mishra, founder and CEO of prezent.ai, a business presentations software supplier. “You’re trying to convince them that the way that they do things today could be done easier, faster, and better with your offering. Simultaneously, you want your sales presentation to compel your audience to take action immediately to fix their situation.”
The best tools simplify the development of sales presentations so sales reps can instead concentrate on actual sales, says Greg Sheppard, chief marketing officer of Templafy, a content enablement solutions provider. “The way content infrastructures are set up today, sales teams often spend far too much time building documents to support their pitches. Time is the most valuable commodity for sales teams, and time spent re-creating, correcting, or starting from scratch on content means less time for selling, generating revenue, and meeting sales goals.”
Templafy’s next-gen document generation platform enables salespeople to access the latest company sales content within every platform they already use, such as Microsoft Office, Google Workspaces, Salesforce, etc.
"In the new age of digital sales, sales teams and account managers must put the experience of the viewer first and foremost to help them not simply push products, but to co-create value with their customers. To do so, we recommend always using a mix of assets, not just relying on slides," Irwin says. "The right combination allows sales executives to better enable illustration and collaboration. One way we do this is to engage with different views of the material to show it in a couple of different ways. Sometimes it’s a chart and audio clip, other times an infographic paired with a video and word map."
All of that content can be overwhelming for companies as they look to develop sales presentations while also staying current with the latest branding and regulatory requirements, Sheppard says. “Sales reps today have tech stacks a mile high to help them find prospects and build pipelines, but content is often overlooked, even when it’s the key to closing a deal. Content infrastructures today allow outdated and incorrect information to make its way into sales pitches and presentations, posing a serious risk to companies’ reputations and bottom lines.”
A recent Templafy survey found that 96 percent of finalized content contained errors despite the fact that an average of 10 employees were involved in the review process.
The amount of content can also be overwhelming for prospects if not handled properly, Irwin adds. “At Polaris I/O, we do asynchronous presentations, sending bite-sized recordings to individual clients so they can watch on their own time and send back comments. Depending on the meeting and client, we do this before the meeting to help facilitate the discussion or use as follow-ups to keep the conversation going after the Zoom meeting has closed.”
“Most sellers rely on sales decks built by their marketing teams, typically in Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides, but sellers are often sharing these without personalizing them; sending outdated versions; or saving to their desktop and editing by hand for each prospect,” says Kyle Lacy, senior vice president of marketing at Seismic, a sales enablement platform provider. Such a strategy wastes precious time and resources, leading sellers off-message and out of compliance. Not only is the content often out of date, but it’s also static and text-based and forces prospects to scroll through dozens of pages to find what they’re seeking, he states.
Seismic’s interactive content tool seeks to solve this by turning existing content into personalized, interactive experiences designed to capture buyer attention.
“Content that is visual or interactive performs better across the board, with deeper message penetration through images and video [compared with] text-based content,” Lacy says. The solution converts existing presentations into live content, enabling the salesperson to deliver embedded animations, transitions, videos, GIFs, etc., much like they would in person using presentation tools like Microsoft PowerPoint.
There’s no arguing that a greater number of sales presentation tools are available today from a variety of sources, but experts argue that not all of them meet the needs of many salespeople.
“Crafting a great sales presentation requires an intimate understanding of the preferences and context of your audience. It requires an exceptional visual design built around a great storyline while maximizing the impact of the content,” Mishra of prezent.ai explains. “For the most part, most sales presentation tools today only provide a subset of these capabilities.”
Mishra adds that most sales presentation solutions have these shortcomings:
- They’re general-purpose productivity tools built for mass utilization.
- They are missing the context of specific messages or audiences.
- They’re unable to guide users to a great storyline geared toward a particular sales meeting.
“The capabilities and features that they do have were built for the least common denominator of a user, not necessarily for sophisticated business interactions and sales storytelling,” he states.
To pull everything together to develop a compelling sales presentation, Mishra recommends using an artificial intelligence-powered platform that is compatible with Google Slides and similar programs. Prezent.ai’s solution is designed to ensure the salesperson can pull together all of the relevant content for different presentations, combining audience empathy, business storylines, and beautiful design to help salespeople create hyper-personalized presentations The solution allows users to create and access templates with consistent company messaging and branding and update in real time to avoid inaccuracies.
Beyond those already mentioned, several other sales presentation tools have emerged or evolved from older offerings over the past several years. Here are just a few of them:
- Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Radu Tyrsina, Windows Report CEO and founder, calls Adobe Creative Cloud Express “an incredibly powerful software tool that makes it incredibly easy to create visually stunning graphics stories. This tool offers an easy way to get started for newbies with the help of its exclusive ready-made premium templates.”
Users can choose a design template that reflects their brand’s style, add photos and text, and re-size the presentation without a lot of design experience, Tyrsina adds.
Adobe Creative Cloud Express is available both as a stand-alone subscription or as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud plan.
Canva is a free graphic design tool for presentations and other content. “It has all-in-one functionality that allows users to release their talent on the canvas and build any presentation as a PowerPoint alternative,” Tysrina says. “You can amaze your audience with descriptive and easy-to-follow presentations, using slide templates, and personalize the pages how you need to.”
Canva enables users to have thousands of presentation models included in various categories to match their subjects. Numerous layouts and graphic elements are available, allowing users to start from scratch and quickly build comprehensive decks immediately.
With Canva Live, users can add participants and present pitches in real time, gather feedback, and freely engage with other team members.
“The quality of your sales presentation will often determine whether a prospect buys from you or one of your competitors,” says Tracy Ackler, GetPaydayLoan’s CEO. “Most presentations lack glamour and are seldom compelling enough to motivate the other person to make a buying decision. Technology has created tools that help entrepreneurs to develop quality sales presentations that attract customers to buy their goods and services.”
Focusky is one of these tools, according to Ackler. It is a slide-less platform that can help sales reps create captivating sales presentations and turn them into conversations.
“With Focusky’s sales presentation solution, you will be able to add rich media and animation effects, zoom into details, customize multimedia content on the fly, and more,” Ackler says. “The presentations will liven up your sales presentation and enable the presenter to dive into the bullet points.”
Tools like Focusky are essential, adds Igal Rubinshtein, founder of Home Essentials Direct. “Focusky helps you take your brilliant ideas and transform them into a visual experience for your audience. It’s easy and intuitive software with a user-friendly interface and amazing features like an animation editor, rich media presentations, built-in word art, video backgrounds, and more. By getting the hang of this tool, you can become more adept at creating appealing presentations.”
“The No. 1 tool for creating professional-quality sales presentations is actually Google Slides or PowerPoint if you prefer Microsoft products,” says Evan Tarver, cofounder and CEO of SellingSignals.com. “While there are presentation tools like Prezi available that have bells and whistles that can add some pizzazz to your presentations, they’re often unnecessary and can actually make your message more unclear vs. being direct and focusing on communicating the most important message. I always create presentations in Google Slides and recommend that others do the same.”
Slides, a free Google tool, functions the same way a cloud-based Microsoft PowerPoint tool functions, Tarver adds. “You can create individual slides from scratch as well as use prebuilt templates, and because it’s in the cloud, you can collaborate with team members in real time from anywhere in the world.”
The cloud-based offering is especially handy in the hybrid working situation where many companies still find themselves, adds Philip Pasma, founder of Asterisk Marketing, who particularly likes the quick exchange of files and data that Google Slides offers.
Tarver recommends that users employ the tool to create simple yet effective presentations that communicate the most important aspects of their pitches, but nothing more, with the possible exception of a product demonstration that helps target audiences understand the value of the offering without being overwhelmed by too much content.
Miro offers a graphic whiteboard to zoom in and out of areas of an architecture to better facilitate an interactive, productive discussion, Polaris I/O’s Irwin says. “We use this for internal and external meetings and love the sense that the document is a living, breathing document that can be adapted and changed. This reinforces the mentality that as a company we are flexible to meet clients where they are at and shift to where their needs go. We find it a nice visual representation that subtly plants that seed.”
“This is a very popular tool for creating presentations that have many linked parts of the business. Prezi helps you create a dynamic presentation by breaking the content into pieces and gives you a 360-degree view,” Pasma says. “You can add voiceovers, animations, and even music.”
Prezi “makes presentations look more like Hollywood productions, with lots of movement and colorful visuals,” says James Evans, director at Vensa Coaching, which helps people develop public speaking skills. “For clients who want to participate in the presentation, they’re plugging in other tools to keep things interactive.”
By now it should be abundantly clear that there’s a wide range of sales presentation tools available today. Whether salespeople are drawn to a comprehensive solution with AI, content generation, and many other features or to one or more of the free or low-cost, low-complexity tools available online, they are sure to find one that meets their particular needs. And many offer free trials to help in that process without requiring an initial commitment for something that might not work.
Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.