A sales deck is a presentation shown to prospective clients to introduce your product/service. A good sales deck is personalized to specific prospects and key decision makers. The best sales decks use data visualization, video, and text to deliver storytelling that resonates with potential buyers.
As a sales professional, you know how to get your foot in the door, but once you’re in front of prospects you’re fighting against strong competitors, and worse still, you're competing against the status quo.
And even being the superstar that you are, 99% of the time you can’t be there, in the room, when the decision to give or deny you the deal is being made.
The problem — Buyers make their final decision when you aren’t there
According to the latest Gartner study, 17% of buying decisions are made in-between meetings. You need something that will tell the pitch story for you when you’re no longer in the room.
The solution — a sales deck people actually read and engage with!
Your sales deck is, arguably, *the* document that will make or break your pipeline. It has to complement your narrative when you’re the one presenting and communicate that same value when it’s shared internally among business partners.
In this article, I’ll explain how to make a winning sales deck and what practices to avoid. In a couple of minutes, you’ll have all the knowledge necessary to prepare a sales deck that virtually sells for you!
The key difference between a sales deck and a pitch deck is that a sales deck is about a potential deal opportunity, and a pitch deck could be for various things - a great business idea, a new start-up investment, academy research, or a new product you'd like potential partners to be interested in.
These decks are time-tested, but their success has also made them tedious. Now that they are everywhere, they have become the new normal (which is not necessarily good).
This is why this guide will follow the basic evergreen principles of making great sales decks that never go out of fashion and keep your voice unique, no matter what.
Now that you know what a sales deck is and how you can use it to your advantage, it’s time to actually build one.
Let’s start with the sales deck structure. Because just like a big shiny skyscraper (where your prospects will read your deck), the structure is what makes it stand, and it will make your deck stand out.
The secret to making highly engaging sales decks is using a storytelling structure. This is more simple than you’d think. In order to turn your readers from casual to engaged, you need to take them through a captivating storyline that contains 7 basic elements.
7 elements of a great sales deck structure:
1. Intro - set up an instigating event that creates the context for the sales pitch.
2. Your Problem - make prospects feel that there is peril on the road they tread.
3. Our Solution - show your prospects how you (their knight in shining armor) can save the day.
4. How your life can be better - this is where you introduce a vision of your prospects living happily ever after (with the help of your solution).
5. How to get to the promised land - this is where you guide your prospects to taking the next step (like booking a demo or signing up).
6. Why you should believe - the place to add a layer of trust to your claims. Customer logos, quotes of success and case studies are all great tools to help customers trust you and believe in your story.
7. Next steps - this is the key moment of your story, don’t end it with a “thank you”. Tell your customers what they need to do now to move forward and enjoy your solution.
Let’s take some of our favorite Netflix TV series for example. They take you through an entire cycle of emotions that gets you hooked and makes you want to binge-watch the whole season in one sitting.
Maybe someone dies in the very first episode (your instigating event) and you can’t wait to find out who did it. Or maybe it’s a tearjerker rom-com and you’re curious to see if there’s a happy ending.
If you take your prospect through an exciting story, they’ll stick around until the end.
No matter what your solution is or what you’re planning to use the sales deck for, there are some universal common elements every successful deck needs to have.
8 slides any effective sales deck must include:
Now let’s take a look at each slide in depth.
1. Cover slide
The cover is the opening slide of your sales deck, so you need to include your company name and logo along with a catchy tagline.
As it will be the first thing your prospect sees, you need to immediately make it clear how your company is relevant to the industry they’re in and meets their requirements.
Let’s take a look at a great example of a sales deck. Ocean is a product that automates cloud infrastructure for containers.
Just by looking at the cover slide, we can quickly understand what their offer is, and how we can benefit by choosing them over other competitors. An industry-related cover image is a nice added touch too.
Each sales deck tells a story. The first part under the cover slide should be your story Intro. In this part, you should give context about the world we’re about to explore in this story.
Think of it as the sales deck equivalent of the “in a kingdom far far away…” The main thing you should be trying to achieve here is give your customer a strong reason WHY they should be reading your deck in the first place.
Introduce your company, but keep it relevant to your prospect at all times. If you’re trying to get them sold on software to automate their shipping process, they won’t care that you also own a cruise line. (Good for you, though!) I know it’s an extreme example, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Ocean’s sales deck does a great job of always keeping relevant. They also make a point of being concise. By breaking down text with an interactive visual, they guide the reader through the slide and make the information easy to follow.
3. The problem
The problem section of your sales deck needs to show the main challenges your lead is facing.
Depending on the stage of the sales cycle, this could either be a problem they brought up during your discovery call or a common issue many companies in their industry struggle with.
But, if you straight-up tell them they have a problem, they can get defensive. They may not be aware of the problem or not willing to admit they have one.
So, instead, think of it as presenting what the world looks like before adopting your solution (in negative terms).
However, pinpointing what needs to change isn’t enough to close the deal. You need to create a sense of urgency to make them desperate for a solution.
And how exactly do you do that? Nobody’s in the business of losing money. You need to imply how much avoiding the problem is costing their company.
Examples of cost implications for your prospect’s company you can use in your deck:
Process automation could reduce costs by 90%, leading to savings of an additional $x on a monthly basis.
Developers are overburdened with menial tasks. For every hour they do admin work instead of fixing bugs and improving customer experience, it costs $x.
Employees lose motivation to work, increasing the likelihood to quit their job by x%. This, in turn, leads to decreased employee retention by x% and increased training costs (an average of $x each month).
On the next slide of Ocean’s sales deck, we can see a brief overview of the main issue plaguing the industry.
The problem statement ends with a promise for a better world. This plays to the prospects’ emotional curiosity. They think - “Wait, I can get rid of the problem and save tons of money at the same time? Show me the solution now!“
4. The solution
In this section, you need to paint a picture of how much better your lead’s world and business will be thanks to your solution. They need to be able to visualize their future version using your product or service and all the benefits it can provide.
The best way to do that is by implementing a great storyline. In a world where prospects are overloaded with flashy figures and walls of text, stories are what truly makes a message stick.
Your lead needs to see themselves as the main character in your story, in which you take them away from the problematic situation and lead them to a new, hassle-free world.
By tickling their emotional pain and curiosity, you’ll be offering more than your solution. You’ll be offering change.
You might need to tweak your story depending on your audience. However, you need to bear in mind that your sales deck will likely be shared internally, so you need to hit that sweet spot between a universal and personalized story.
On the solution slide of their sales deck, Ocean uses the same approach as with the Company slide. They included product screenshots in order to explain how their solution works.
They used short descriptions that walk prospects through the entire process step-by-step. This makes even more complicated concepts easier to understand and digest.
5. Key benefits
By now your prospect knows who you are and what you offer, but you’re not the only one in the market. As a matter of fact, your competitors must be pitching them as we speak. So, why should they go to you and not to them?
Make sure it’s perfectly clear why your solution is the best choice for your prospect.
For example, if you have some impressive stats, now’s the time to flaunt them. Or, maybe there are some go-to-market strategy or business model benefits that are worth mentioning?
It may feel intuitive to focus on product benefits only, but if your company excels in other areas too, your audience should know that. Paint a story of how their life will be much better with this newly proposed solution.
Let’s take the example of WiseStamp, an email signature manager. They used the running numbers slide that clearly explains how much time and money prospects can save by implementing WiseStamp’s solution.
6. Social proof
Now, your prospects surely know better than to take your word for it. You can promise them the moon, but how can they be sure you’re going to deliver? After seeing your social proof slide, any doubts they may have had should disappear.
If you’re an established company you should have no problem to include testimonials from past customers, case studies, quotes from industry experts, or media mentions. A simple “as featured in…” section can instantly build up people’s confidence in a product or service.
But, what if you’re a startup that’s currently working to build its client base and doesn’t have a lot to show for it yet? In this case, you can provide your prospects with a safety net in another form.
For instance, maybe your employees have professional certifications that confirm their expertise? Or you can enter into mutually-beneficial partnerships with industry influencers to obtain endorsements.
Of course, there’s also the good old money-back guarantee or the promise of a free trial. By decreasing the risk of purchase to a minimum, your prospect is more likely to trust you with their money.
In addition to featuring a slide with client logos and the average saving amount, Ocean chose to include a link to a case study.
It describes the main challenge one of their clients faced and how Ocean’s solution simplified their infrastructure management while providing cost optimization.
7. The “details”
After the customer has bought into your story and is convinced that they want your solution, you need to show how you’re going to make it happen.
Just like Cinderella wouldn’t have made it to the ball without the help of the Fairy Godmother, make it clear your prospect can’t get to the promised land without your solution.
Now’s the right time to present aspects like the implementation process, key features and integrations, and your pricing structure. They need to act like stepping stones towards that desired state where traditional solutions don’t reach.
For example, Ocean provides an overview of their integration options before including a link to their full product demo.
8. Next step
Finally, we made it to the end! But, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. If you don’t close your sales deck with a powerful call-to-action, all that effort can be lost.
You need to open up two-way communication between you and your prospect. Make them move forward with these next steps by naturally embedding them in your deck.
Then, end with a clear and easy call-to-action. Should they fill out a contact form or book a call with your sales rep right away? Trust me, they’ll appreciate that you’re not making them play the guessing game.
Because let’s be honest, no one’s going to be searching for your contact information after viewing your sales deck. If they can’t see it immediately, they’ll close the deck and move on to the next one. That’s it.
You can kiss those $$$ goodbye. You didn’t get all the way down to the end to let such a silly mistake decide your fate, right?
At the end of their sales deck, WiseStamp gives prospects 2 options: they can either start a free trial and play around with the tool first or get in touch right away.
Now that we’ve established what your sales deck should include, it’s time for some actionable tips. B2B buying has significantly changed since the pandemic. It’s no longer a single person you have to win over, as 7 people on average are involved in most buying decisions.
Your chances of getting in a room with the whole decision unit are slim. So, you need a sales enablement tool that will hook everyone—from the champion you met to their boss that you didn’t.
It’s, therefore, more important than ever to get in the right mindset and apply the right sales deck creation concepts.
If that previous statistic wasn’t worrying enough, here’s another one: 57% of people make B2B buying decisions without ever making contact with a vendor representative. Yes, that’s correct! More than half of people are essentially invisible to your sales team.
The only way you can do anything about it is through a sales deck. It’s your salesperson when you’re away, so you can get in front of the whole decision-making team.
Your competitors are likely only dealing with the people they can actually interact with. By crafting a powerful slide deck, you have a leg up over your competition!
In order to communicate successfully with potential clients and prospects, you need to lead them through a narrative that will convince them that they’re going to see value. And how to do that? By making it about them, not you.
We all like to feel special. Your prospects are no different. Personalization is the key predictor of success. According to our study, 68% more people read decks with a personal note vs. generic decks.
When creating the first draft of your sales deck, you need to evaluate each slide. Does it say more about them or about you?
It may feel natural to throw 20 customer logos into your sales pitch deck. ‘Look at all these amazing clients that trusted me, why shouldn’t you?’ But… Why should they? What’s in it for them? Add some context to the slide.
For example, you can include similar companies from their industry and tell a story about each customer. Your prospects will recognize these names and see that if your solution worked for them, they should get in on the action too.
Instead of making their sales deck about what their tool can do, WiseStamp turned the narrative into showing the main benefits for prospective clients.
The universal truth about human beings is: not knowing something makes us uncomfortable. We often forget that the other side has less knowledge about our field of expertise. So, we tend to overcompensate with too much information and overload our prospects with features and data.
Remember—people like to buy things that they feel comfortable with. Why don’t smartphone companies market their products to elderly people? Because they simply wouldn’t spend their money on a complicated device that could end up being more frustrating than useful.
Same with your prospects. Avoid too much professional lingo in your pitch deck. Think of it this way. If I only have 5 minutes to go through your sales deck, and I’m not familiar with your field, will I understand it or will it make me stupid? If it’s the latter, simplify.
WiseStamp breaks its service down into 4 simple steps. This way, it’s easy to visualize the signature creation process even if you’re not familiar with the tool.
By viewing your sales deck, people give you their valuable time. Show your appreciation for it. You need to let the other side know that you’re serious and that you’ve done your homework. What’s the best way to do that? By giving them a tailor-made offer.
Avoid pitching general features or speaking about your existing customers too much. Including a personalized copy and a customer’s logo on the cover can make all the difference.
Make sure they can visualize themselves within your sales deck and you’re onto a winner!
WiseStamp does this beautifully by including a customizable form. This way, they can plug their prospect’s data into the deck before sending it.
And amazingly, just as their prospect scrolls past the deck’s cover slide, they will see a personally tailored email signature with the prospect’s company info, logo, and custom features beneficial specifically to them.
It’s a great way to make your prospect feel special and experience your product or service first-hand.
At the end of the day, your sales deck is a marketing piece of content. People are going to be forming impressions of you based on your presentation.
So, just like you wouldn’t show up in a sweatsuit to a business meeting, you need to make sure your pitch is as impressive and exciting as can be.
We generally think of buying decisions as rational. There’s a need, we weigh up different options, and choose the one that satisfies said need best. That’s it.
In reality, things aren’t so black and white. Buying decisions nowadays are more emotional overall. We’re all more attached to stories than cold information. So, you need to take your prospect through an impressive story that will ignite a buying emotion.
You can paint a story that will show people what the world would look like with your solution and why it would work for them to get them excited. Or, in the case of security solutions, you can tap into people’s fear of data leaks or losses.
Deliveright, an AI-powered logistics and delivery technology company, does this in the following way:
After presenting the key problem and their solution, they provide an overview of what the world looks like vs. how their solution can change it for the better.
It plays into people’s emotions. By the time they’ve gone through the sales deck, they can’t imagine going back to the old way.
As you start planning your sales deck, your first instinct might be to focus more heavily on the core sections. You’d probably spend most of your time perfecting the description of your solution or explaining different market segments. Well, that would be wrong!
The data shows clearly that the first 3 slides of your sales deck will get most of your prospects’ attention. As many as 80% of people who view them will read your entire deck!
If we go back for a moment to the sales deck structure, these are the slides where you evoke a sense of crisis and introduce your solution.
Again, think about the WiseStamp example I mentioned earlier. Right after the cover slide, the company takes a personal approach.
Once a prospect is impressed with their new snazzy email signature, they’re shown a short video that presents the tool’s main features and USP.
By the time they get to the core sections, they’re already excited about the solution!
Case studies are the least used asset in B2B because of the time and effort it takes to produce them. But, not including them in your sales deck is one of the worst mistakes you can make.
You want to know why? Because at the same time, they’re the most effective type of marketing asset.
By including a case study, you’re essentially allowing your customers to sell for you. However, the main problem many people have with case studies is that they’re often actually ads disguised as case studies.
In order to be trustworthy, you need a true case study. And what does that mean? A true case study tells the full story, including product limitations and real-world capabilities.
I know this might sound like bad business advice. Naturally, you want to put your best foot forward and skip anything that might paint your product or service in a bad light. But, by not giving your prospects the full picture, you’re actually doing them a disservice.
Now, if I came across a business that claimed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, with no disadvantages whatsoever, I’d assume there’s something they’re desperately trying to hide.
If the full story comes from you, you’re in control of the narrative. You get to decide how you’re going to portray the not-so-great sides.
So, you can take something seemingly negative and spin it in a way that doesn’t sound so bad to a potential customer anymore.
It’s better they hear it from you than make assumptions based on what they discover. Or, even worse, find out about the flaws from your competition!
Another great thing about case studies is that you can compile a list of sales talking points and have your customer cover them in their own words. This is the ultimate key to success!
Remember when I mentioned the Ocean case study right at the beginning? In addition to the traditional text-based case study, there’s a short video in which a satisfied customer describes all the things they love about Ocean:
I’ve already briefly touched upon this topic—images speak louder than words. You may spend hours crafting the perfect text for your slide, but nobody’s going to read the whole thing until they’ve seen the image.
That’s just human nature. Our eyes naturally flick to the visual first. Then, if it’s compelling enough, it convinces us to keep reading.
Avoid text-only or text-heavy slides. If you can find an image or a video that conveys the same message, you’re making it easier for your prospect.
According to our research at Storydoc, presentations with a video embedded in them enjoyed a 37% longer average reading time and a 17% increase in the CTA click-through rate!
And the best part is, your prospects don’t even need to open the video for you to reap the benefits. Just the fact it’s there makes your sales deck appear more legitimate!
When presenting their software, WiseStamp could’ve listed the main features in bullet points. But, by including the video I showed earlier, they’re keeping viewers more engaged!
Finally, I know that we’re all used to ending presentations with a ‘thank you’ slide. Most presentations have one. The thing is, when you’re done pitching your business idea, you have your prospects’ full attention.
And what happens when they see ‘thank you’ on the screen? They feel like the conversation is over. You got to say your part and that’s it.
Think again about what you’re trying to achieve with your sales deck. You’re trying to bag another meeting and close the deal, right? So, how is a prospect meant to get in touch with you when you’re not inviting two-way communication?
Instead, lead the conversation wherever you want it to go. Are they supposed to email your sales team with potential questions? Or, do you want them to book another meeting straight away?
It’s a simple fix, but one that can increase your chances of another meeting by 27%!
Storydoc makes it easier than ever to invite your prospects to the next step. Our sales deck creator provides support for calendar integrations, contact forms, and even live chat widgets, so you can stay in touch on the go! If you need more information, visit our integrations page.
Storydoc decks are developed for all possible use cases. They’re easy to use— just pick a template, fill in the blanks, and the design follows! Inside our tool, you can find dozens of interactive components that are built for storytelling.
All decks are optimized for a flawless mobile viewing experience, making them more engaging for your audience. With our set of dynamic variables, you can also personalize decks at scale within a matter of seconds!
And the best part? With our analytics panel, you can easily track your customers’ internal processes and get all the necessary data.
There are some seemingly small sales deck Do’s and Don’ts that can influence the performance of your sales deck.
These small details can determine whether a prospect is going to get all the way down to the end, or bounce after a few slides. On average, it takes people 15 seconds to decide whether they want to continue reading your deck.
Once prospects get through the first 3 slides, 80% of them read the full deck. That said, here are a number of sales deck design best practices to turn those 15 seconds into a couple of minutes!
Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. It just means it’s easier to lose your prospects somewhere along the way. Wherever possible, compress the information to make it easily digestible.
Make sure all the elements of your sales deck are consistent across the entire document—from colors to sizes and spacing. In Storydoc, we have an option to pull branding from your website, so you can be sure you’re always staying 100% on-brand!
Don’t overlook the importance of this innocent-looking blurb at the top of a deck. This simple fix can lower your bounce rate by 24%. That’s right! A quarter more people will continue reading your deck if they know how long it’s going to take them.
A third of all decks are opened on mobile. So, make sure you optimize your deck for mobile devices so that your investors can learn more about you on the go!
Don’t overload prospects with walls of text and complicated figures. By leveraging white space, you’re improving the readability of your decks. Make use of data visualization elements, such as interactive charts and graphs.
We’ve already established that personalization is key when it comes to sales decks. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Personalizing your templates at scale is something we have a comprehensive solution for. Our presentation maker offers multiple integration options. You can connect your Storydoc account to your CRM and use dynamic variables to personalize your decks in just a few clicks!
Our library includes a wide range of professionally designed templates that have been carefully crafted according to all of these guidelines.
No matter what industry you’re in, we have something that will make you irresistible in the eyes of buyers!
So, you’ve created your sales deck, but how do you check if it is resonating with your audience? Even though there are many great metrics to track and evaluate your sales deck performance, we have done the heavy lifting for you and came up with the top 3 metrics to look at:
1. How many different people read it. The best indication that people are interested is seeing that your sales deck traveled internally between different stakeholders.
2. % of people who read it all the way down. It’s a strong indication that they found your deck interesting.
3. Average reading time. Simple, yet powerful. A great indication strongly correlated with deals moving forward.
1. Use interactive decks and ditch the stale static PowerPoints. Interactive, scroll-based designs will improve your user experience and increase the closing rate. Static decks are a thing of the past and can cost you the gig.
2. Decks structured as stories perform better. Start by presenting a big shift in the world and show how your solution will take prospects from the current situation to the new, desired state. Make your customer the main hero of your story.
3. Make prospects feel valued by personalizing your decks for specific readers. As B2B decision-making teams are getting larger, this will ensure you’re getting in front of everyone and make prospects feel valued.
4. Use data visualization techniques to keep complicated sales decks easy to read. Replace walls of text with data visualizations, videos, and case studies to increase engagement.
5. Make your sales deck about your prospect, not you. Focus on the main benefits and how your solution can get them to the promised land.
6. Constantly analyze and optimize your decks. Use sales deck analytics to regularly check the key metrics to make sure your deck is resonating with your audience.
Now that you know all there is to know, why don’t you put these tips into practice? Just choose a template from our extensive sales deck template library and work your magic!
If you ever get stuck, you can also upload your deck and get our expert feedback on it to make sure you’re on the right track to landing that dream client! Good luck!
Try Storydoc for free for 14 days or talk to us and see how we can help!