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How to Make a Sales Deck That Closes 70% Better (2024)

Learn how to make winning sales pitch decks; what slides to include, best format and structure, design, and writing best practices. Plus examples & templates.

Dominika Krukowska

14 minute read

How to make a sales pitch deck
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Short answer

How to make a winning sales deck?

Build your deck around your prospects’ core concerns and address the unspoken questions they have in mind.

  1. Grab attention with a video cover (Is this interesting?)

  2. Introduction and value proposition (Why change? Why now?)

  3. Problem (Is this relevant? Why does this pose a risk?)

  4. Solution (What’s the way out? Why you? Why pay?)

  5. Outcomes (How will life become better?)

  6. Getting to the promised land (Can you prove you can actually do it?)

  7. Social proof (Can others vouch for you?)

  8. Pricing plans or pricing range (How much will it cost?)

  9. Next steps (What should I do if I’m interested?)

Does your sales deck demonstrate value without you presenting it?

A sales deck can get in front of decision-makers which you cannot - does it demonstrate value without you?

As a sales professional, you've mastered the art of getting your foot in the door. You're a champ at tackling the competition and you've got your pitch down to an art.

But there's a limit to what you can do.

You will never have direct access to all the essential decision-makers and you’re almost never there, in the room, when critical decisions are made.

This is the reality in 83-95% of the time buyers spend considering a purchase according to a Gartner study.

Tough luck you can’t be there, but your sales deck CAN and should be there.

You rely on your champion to sell your solution internally, but they rely on your sales pitch deck…

So knowing this, you should be troubled by this question - does your sales deck effectively communicate your solution’s value when you’re not there to support it?

In this blog post, I’m going to guide you on how to create that sales deck that fills in the gaps where you can’t be.

By the end of this post, you’ll know how to make a sales deck that communicates your value perfectly. A deck that will be your voice carried by your champion behind closed doors which you can’t enter.

Let’s go!

Why do most sales decks fail?

Most sales decks fail for 3 main reasons: (1) they fail to stand out and spark curiosity, (2) they fail to engage and hold attention long enough to expose prospects to your main message, and (3) they fail to demonstrate value.

Imagine you’re a buyer that gets 20-50 sales approaches a week. How do you distinguish value from noise? 99% of sales decks are practically same-old (though beautifully designed) PowerPoints.

You can’t do what everyone else does and expect to be interesting.

Now picture your mother asking you “What is your company doing?” You hand her a sales deck filled with jargon and complex graphs.

Without you there to guide the content, it feels to her like trying to read a terms and conditions document. How long will she last trying to read it? Long enough to understand your value?

If you don’t make your sales deck reading experience frictionless, then it just ends up feeling like homework. Your prospects say to themselves “I’ll get to this later”, but they never do.

How to make a sales deck stand out?

99% of sales decks get only about 15 seconds to make their case before they’re thrown into the trash and forgotten. Even the best salespeople struggle to rise above the noise. The competition is just ginormous.

So how do you ensure your sales deck stands out and doesn't get the same 15 seconds of shame everybody else does?

Here’s how -

1) Go from static to interactive content

Upgrade your sales decks from a reading task to an engaging experience by making your decks interactive.

  • Start with an animated or video cover that lets your prospect know immediately that this deck is something different.

  • Let your prospects interact with content - explore live charts and graphs, click around infographics to expose more information, input their information in calculators, communicate with your chatbot, select a meeting date in your calendar, and more.

This makes your prospects active participants. It makes them curious, supports their understanding and decision-making, and ultimately leads to more sales.

Here’s the difference between static and interactive decks. Which would you want to read?

Static PDF or PPT
Interactive Storydoc

2) Go from text-led to multimedia decks

Replace text with multimedia. Don't just tell them; show them what their life will look like with your solution in it.

Bring in media elements that engage your audience and keep them hooked. Think videos, infographics, and interactive charts. They're not just fun; they make your message stick.

Here's a great example of a multimedia deck by one of our clients:

3) Go from spouting facts to storytelling

Construct your deck around a transformational narrative with your prospect and their pain at the center.

In his book “The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business”, Peter Coughter gives the following piece of advice:

“Use some of the creativity and story-telling ability that went into creating the work (...) into selling the work. (...) If you follow this method, you will differentiate your firm from most of the other organizations in the world (...), you’ll sell more work, and you’ll win more business.”

Breathe life into your sales decks with narrated design that guides your audience through complicated information with sound, video, animation, and annotation. We talk more about narrated design further ahead.

Here's an example of a narrated sales deck:

4) Go from generic to personalized

Don’t be generic. Personalize your deck to specific decision-makers.

Address them by name, add a personal video message, tailor your language to their level of understanding, and show that you understand their unique needs and wants.

Note: you can easily do this at scale with Storydoc by integrating our sales deck creator with your CRM. This lets you generate personalized decks based on your contacts’ information directly from your CRM.

It also provides support for calendar integrations, contact forms, and even live chat widgets, so you can stay in touch on the go.

If you like these ideas but have no idea how to actually make it happen, I got you. Stick around and I’ll show you how.

And if you want to see these concepts in action you may want to check out our post on sales deck examples.

How to make a sales deck engaging?

Engagement is the key to a successful sales deck. It's the difference between a presentation that's scanned and a presentation that’s read with undivided attention.

But how do you create a sales presentation that not only captures attention but holds it throughout? Let's dive into some proven strategies.

1) Spark curiosity with an information gap

Your sales deck should spark curiosity. By presenting a problem or question at the beginning and promising the answer later, you create an information gap. Your audience's natural curiosity to fill this gap will keep them engaged.

This approach is based on information-gap theory by George Loewenstein and his research in Behavioral economics and Neuroeconomics at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here’s a handy resource about how to use gap theory in your content.

2) Use peer envy to make them feel like they’re missing out

Priming your sales deck by establishing peer curiosity and peer envy can be highly effective.

  • Start by sharing a story about a professional peer who faced similar challenges to your prospect.
  • Then detail how they successfully used your product or service to overcome those obstacles.

This piques your prospect’s curiosity, but more importantly, makes them feel envious.

Envy is a strong motivator. It taps into prospects’ innate biological aversion to risk and their need for status. They think - “someone like me is doing better than I do” (status). And if I don’t do the same, I could fall even more behind” (risk)”.

Here’s the legendary sales leader Mike Bosworth explaining how to use peer curiosity and peer envy (start at 5:55):

How to use peer curiosity and peer envy

3) Set clear expectations in terms of value for time

Let your audience know what they stand to gain from your presentation. Make the value from reading the deck instantly clear and give them an assessment of how long they will have to spend reading it.

Without knowing the interaction cost they can’t (unconsciously) calculate if the value is worth their time.

But if you provide this information they're more likely to decide to invest the time but also more likely to stay engaged to the end.

4) Prioritize important information

Our research shows that the first 3 slides and the first 15 seconds are your windows to hook your audience.

So, prioritize your information. Put your most compelling points upfront. Make them so intriguing that your audience can't help but stick around for the rest.

5) Demo your product

A product demo is your chance to show prospects how your product fits into their world. Highlight features that directly address their challenges, demonstrating real-world application.

Encourage interaction from your audience. Invite them to envision how the solution would work in their own context.

This way, the demonstrated value from your demo becomes concrete and specific to them. This makes it more memorable and much easier to relay to decision-makers.

6) Break down complex information

Complex information can be a roadblock to engagement. But the way around it is narrated design - also called scrollytelling (I swear I didn’t invent this word, kinda wish I did…).

What is narrated design?

This innovative approach to buyer enablement breaks down complex information into bite-sized pieces.

Think of it as a journey. Each scroll is a step forward, revealing a new piece of the puzzle.

This could be steps in your implementation process, components in your expansive solution, rows in an elaborate table, or critical junctions in your roadmap.

Scrollytelling mixes text and media explanations with visual cues to make each step simple and clear, while scroll navigation allows readers to go at their own pace.

With scrollytelling your audience isn't just passively receiving information; they're actively discovering it.

This active engagement means that with each interaction, the reader becomes more involved and more invested, which makes them more motivated to continue.

But most importantly, the reason great sales teams use scrollytelling is that it helps to cement the information in the prospect’s memory, which supports decision-making and triggers the sales event.

Here's an example of Storydoc scrollytelling:

Narrator slide example

How to make a sales deck memorable?

“When you speak to your customers it is important to be memorable because they will make decisions in your favor based on what they remember, not on what they forget”.

- Carmen Simon, neuroscientist and author of Impossible to Ignore: Create Memorable Content to Influence Decisions.

There's no decision that the brain ever makes without involving memory. But people forget 90% of what you present after 48 hours. And the 10% they do remember? It's often random.

So, how can you control your 10% to ensure your audience walks away with the right bits of information?

Here's the secret sauce, straight from the world of brain science.

How to use science to create a memorable message

1) Clarify your core message

Pinpoint your core message. What's the one thing you want your prospects to remember?

Don’t make it about your agenda; make it about the reward you're offering.

And keep it simple. Our brain doesn't have the energy for a laundry list of points. Stick to 3 or 4 max.

2) Use the power of repetition

Once you've nailed down your message, don't just say it once. Repeat it. And then repeat it again.

This isn't about sounding like a broken record; it's about creating a pattern that your audience's brain can latch onto. This is called 'retro-cueing', and it's a powerful tool for memory.

3) Keep your message consistent

The brain sees consistency as validity. So, by repeating a clear, consistent message, you're not just making your sales deck memorable. You're also making it credible (prospects perceive it as factual).

4) Link your message to reflexes and habits

The brain loves to conserve energy, and reflexes and habits are its go-tos for this. Linking your content to these automatic responses can make it easier for your message to stick.

Use size, shape, and color to draw your audience’s attention to specific areas of your sales deck. By guiding them where they look, you can control what they remember.

Avoid visuals that look too similar. They can confuse your audience, as our brains need to work harder to understand and create meaning from such elements.

By pointing people to what you want them to see, you make it easier for them to absorb your content.

Here’s a good example of using reflexive cues to direct attention:

Using reflective cues to direct attention

People naturally focus on information that aligns with their existing habits. Once you understand these habits, you can use them to guide attention.

For example, if you’re selling a corporate social networking platform, you can display your logo among some familiar icons and use a standout color.

Guide your audience's focus by reactivating old memories, noting relationships between concepts, elaborating on past learnings, or deriving meaning.

Questions like “What does the way your team communicates say about your organizational values?" engage your audience and promote long-term memory.

How to personalize your sales deck to your buyer (advanced)

Most buyers now expect your sales decks to be personalized to them and their specific needs. And you should do what they expect if you want to win.

Personalizing your sales content contributes to a 5-10% revenue uplift and 20-25% higher sales productivity and efficiency, according to a McKinsey study.

According to our own research, personalized decks can lead to a 68% increase in full reads and a 41% boost in average reading time.

Even more compelling, these tailored decks are shared internally 2.3x more often, expanding your reach within the prospect's organization.

Let’s take a look at a few practical things you can do to start personalizing your sales decks and collect on your increased commission.

B2B sales personalization

Note: Take a closer look at the bottom part colored in purple. You can use Storydoc both as your sales CMS and as an effective way to deliver your pitch. The best part is that this process can be automated by integrating Storydoc with your CRM.

1) Research your audience

Start by diving deep into your audience's world:

  • Use analytics to understand their behavior

  • Conduct interviews to gain insights into their needs and pain points

  • Review customer service conversations to identify common issues

  • Listen to sales call recordings to understand the questions and objections that arise during the sales process (or use tools like Gong)

This research will give you a well-rounded understanding of your audience.

2) Define your value proposition

Once you have a deep understanding of your audience, define your value proposition.

This is a clear statement that explains how your product solves customers' problems, delivers specific benefits, and why it's better than the alternatives.

Your value proposition should be compelling and directly address the needs of your audience.

Here's a video explaining how to write value propositions for sales presentations:

How to make a winning value proposition for your sales deck

3) Outline your narrative (make it about your prospect, not you)

Your sales deck should follow a story - a narrative that portrays your client as a hero embarking on a journey to overcome a major challenge and reach the safety of a better future.

The narrative should position your solution as the trusted guide leading your client through uncharted waters and empowering them to fulfill their full potential.

The “challenge” should be an acute pain felt by your prospect that you can solve, and the “better future” should be the outcome they seek.

This approach makes your sales deck more memorable and adds a layer of emotion prospects can relate to.

It structures the sales deck around your prospect and helps you avoid the common pitfall of talking too much about you and your solution.

Here’s our recommended storyline:

pitch deck storyline

4) Gather relevant social proof

Social proof in a sales deck has 2 goals: (1) to create peer envy and (2) to prove you can do the job.

To create peer envy, your social proof should be as close as possible to the prospect's own circumstances.

It should answer the question “Is this solution good for people like me?”

Take into consideration that ”People like me” is a perceived label, not a factual label. So put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and ask yourself “Who am I (aspiring to be)”.

For example, I could be an executive manager aiming to become a CEO. In this case, a testimonial by a CEO would serve better than a VP.

To show you can do the job, make sure to add quotes and case studies that show you’ve already brought the outcomes they want to a company like theirs or (preferably) bigger.

social proof testimonial slide example

5) Segment your sales deck for different decision-makers, industries, or use cases

It’s a commonplace challenge to build a sales deck that addresses all the critical decision-makers for landing the deal. But you aim for one and you miss the others, that’s just life, right? No… it’s not.

You can segment your sales decks for multiple decision-makers without giving up anything. This is how -

Use tabs - For example, you could have a tab for each industry you serve, each decision-maker role, or each use case of your product. This way, decision-makers will be exposed only to the information they want.

Use dynamic variables - For example, you could use a dynamic variable to address known decision-makers by name within your content, where their specific attention is needed.

Link to resources for specific decision-makers - For example, information the CFO, Legal, or CIO might need to access before they make their decision.

They get their info while you get to avoid the anticlimax of including financial spreadsheets, legal documents, or cyber security specifications in your sales deck.

Here's how you can do this using Storydoc:

Segmentation using tabs

6) Prepare original visuals

Use visuals that exemplify the prospect’s world. Show people like them doing what people like them do.

But also avoid generic stock images and videos. Show your own people in action if possible, or better yet, find images or videos that show real people from real clients.

It may take more work but it will make your content instantly more credible and relatable.

7) Bonus: personalize decks at scale

How do you send out personalized sales decks at scale? Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps using Storydoc -

3 steps for automating sales deck personalization:

  1. Insert prospect's information: Once you’ve added the prospect's name and company details, all you need to do is click "Send". Your prospect will receive a deck that feels specifically made for them, increasing the chances of engagement and conversion.

  2. Use CRM integration: Storydoc integrates with your CRM, allowing you to pull prospect's data directly from there into your decks. This means you can create personalized decks directly from the contacts page in your CRM, saving you time and effort.

  3. Add dynamic variables: Storydoc allows you to add dynamic variables to your deck. This means you can sprinkle personal touches throughout your presentation, making it feel more tailored to the prospect.

Here's an example of a personalized deck:

how to make a good personalized presentation slide

How to write a compelling narrative for your sales deck

Very few people prefer dry facts over a story. We evolved to understand the world through stories and examples. But using this to your advantage in your sales decks is hard to do.

Still, your sales deck narrative is the single most effective way to enable buyers to understand your value and remember it enough to make an informed buying decision.

So, how do you do it? First, let’s take a step back and get a bird’s eye view of a few of the best sales deck structures.

What should a sales deck structure include?

We've analyzed over 100,000 presentation sessions and it turns out that sales decks, like buildings, have a basic structure that you shouldn’t deviate from if you want them to hold.

Each piece of the sales deck structure answers subconscious questions the buyer needs to be satisfied to make a decision.

9 must-have slides of effective sales decks:

  1. Eye-catching cover (Is this interesting?) - the cover slide is your first opportunity to grab attention and stand out. Use an animated or video cover slide to communicate that your deck promises something different and interesting.

  2. Intro (Why change? Why now?) - set an instigating event that creates the context for the sales pitch. This is where your value proposition comes in.

  3. Problem (Is this relevant? Why does this pose a risk?) - define the problem prospects face in their words, and label the emotions connected to their predicament. Empathize with (and reinforce) their feelings. Ask open-ended questions (like “How are you expected to deal with this?”) and let it hang there for a while. Don’t “pitch slap” them with your solution just yet.

  4. Solution (What’s the way out? Why you? Why pay?) - show your prospects there’s a way to solve their pain. Assure them you can guide them to safety, but don’t yet go into details.

  5. Outcomes (How will life become better?) - this is where you tell the story of how you’ve helped others in their situation. Help your prospects envision themselves arriving at a future where their pain is over and they’re more successful than ever (their promised land).

  6. Getting to the promised land (Can you prove you can actually do it?) - go into the essential detail of how you can bring them to their desired outcomes. Don’t drown them in technical jargon, give top-level explanations focused on the main desired outcome. Provide examples from similar clients.

  7. Social proof (Can others vouch for you?) - this is the time to deal with the prospect’s lingering doubts about your credibility. Use customer logos, quotes of success, and case studies to lend trustworthiness to your story.

  8. Pricing plans or pricing range (How much will it cost?) - Most buyers will need to know the cost of your solution to consider against their budget. Don’t waste time on those who can’t afford you or those who use pricing as an excuse to get you off their back.

  9. Next steps - this is where you offer your prospect a way to continue the conversation. This is the key moment of your story, don’t end it with a dead-end “Thank you”. Tell your prospects what they can do now. Ask for a small concession like booking a demo, trying your product, or reading a white paper. Integrating a virtual business card is also a good idea for a powerful and actionable CTA.

If you wanna see how these slides are used as a complete presentation, you may want to go see our sales presentation examples page.

Here's what your sales deck structure should look like:

Elements of a great sales deck structure

Your practical checklist for writing a sales deck narrative

1. Cover

  • Grab attention with motion:
    Video background (make it highly relevant)
    Animation (should support the text)
  • Grab attention with personalization:
    Logo, name, brand colors
    Personal video message
  • Use words charged with emotion in the title and subtitle

2. Intro

  • Create context and establish relevance with your value proposition:
    Address the audience, their need, and your unique solution
    Make a big promise but leave out a critical piece of information
    Tell a short story of how a peer of theirs used your product and achieved success.
  • Build authority, credibility, and trust with your introduction:
    Introduce your company, team, and leadership
    Establish authority and credibility with credentials, achievements, and awards
    Humanize your company with personal images, quotes, or videos

3. Problem

  • Establish a burning problem:
    Use detailed real-world examples by your buyer’s peers
    Outline the likely loss by not taking action and staying with the status quo
    Establish urgency by outlining the likely loss by not acting now

4-5. Solution & Outcomes

  • Explain how your offer is a uniquely well-suited solution to the problem:
    Narrate the journey from problem to solution (including details, ups, and downs)
    Don’t explain with words - demo your product or service
    Reuse the example used to present the problem for detailing how the solution was achieved
    Explain who your solution is not a good fit for (to filter out irrelevant prospects)

6. Social proof

  • Add social proof by peers that struggled with and overcame similar issues. The social proof should support your value proposition or stress the dangers of inaction (staying with the status quo):
    Add a video testimonial
    Add testimonial text quotes
    Add a case study (or link out to one)
    Add positive quotes by relevant industry influencers
    Show awards, credentials, and reviews from trusted sources

7. Next steps:

  • Aim for a small concession that shows interest to continue the conversation.
    Don’t end with a dead-end “thank you” slide
    The prospect should concede to pay a small price in time, effort, or cost to continue the relationship
    Make acting immediate and easy to do
    Make the benefits from taking the next step clear
    Provide a fast reward for taking the next step
    Reiterate the risk of not acting and sticking with the status quo

How to create a sales deck in 6 magical steps with AI

Creating a winning deck is a tall order, but with AI on your side and a clear plan in place, it’s a surprisingly straightforward process.

Here’s how you can make it happen:

1. Tell our AI what type of presentation you want to create

Give our AI assistant a bit of information about the sales deck you want to make. This initial step helps it understand your goal so it can generate the right content structure.

2. Introduce yourself, your company, and your solution

Give our AI a quick rundown of the product or service you're selling, and the industry you're operating in. This information helps the AI tailor the sales deck content to your specifics.

Introduce yourself to Storydoc's AI assistant

3. Choose your design style

Choose from design style options optimized for performance based on real-world data. Pick one that aligns with your brand and sit back as our AI assistant generates your deck.

Pick a Storydoc design template

4. Customize your sales deck

  • Add your text, tweak the design, and watch as the design adapts to fit your content.
  • Use our AI assistant to write or improve your copy, or help you think of new ideas.
  • Upload your own images or generate originals with our AI assistant.
Customizable Storydoc multimedia presentation

5. Personalize at scale

  • Add dynamic variables to your sales deck (the same way you do in email automation).
  • Integrate Storydoc with your CRM and automatically populate your variables by pulling contacts’ information into your deck.
Personalized Storydoc multimedia presentation

6. Polish and perfect your sales deck

Review your sales deck. Make sure everything looks good, the flow makes sense, and your message is clear.

The beauty of Storydoc is that it lives online, so if you spot any mistakes after sending the deck, you can still fix them. You're in control of the version everyone sees, forever.

Storydoc multimedia presentation

How to measure and optimize your sales deck performance?

A truly effective sales deck is never born great, it becomes that way through trial and error.

But trial and error require knowing what works and what doesn’t. It requires getting your hands on engagement analytics.

Wouldn't it be great to know how long prospects spent reading your decks, what parts they spent time on, and which they skipped? Did they click your CTA? Did they share your decks internally and with who?

The good news is - you can. Every presentation you create with Storydoc comes with out-of-the-box analytics. You can get insanely valuable real-time insights into your prospects’ engagement with our sales deck analytics.

Here’s a quick rundown of Storydoc’s deck analytics:

Storydoc analytics pa

Sales deck templates

If all you do is follow best practices to create your sales deck, you’ll never stand out. And even if you go beyond that (having read this entire post in full), it would still be hard work.

But we can make it easier for you. Many of the techniques and concepts we covered were built into our interactive sales deck templates.

These templates were built for performance based on insights from our real-life data, and they were all tried and tested for every device and screen size.

Grab one.

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Dominika Krukowska

Hi, I'm Dominika, Content Specialist at Storydoc. As a creative professional with experience in fashion, I'm here to show you how to amplify your brand message through the power of storytelling and eye-catching visuals.

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