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The PowerPoint Dozen Dare

Oct 9, 2007
I dare you to reduce your PowerPoint sales presentation to 12 slides or less. You will make your presentation (and you) more persuasive than ever.

I contend that I could sell anything with 12 slides or less. Computer software, a downtown development project, or a plan to put a man on Mars. The more complex, the better. You can sell anything with only 12 slides too, with just a few simple fixes to your presentation.

Confuse 'Em and Lose 'Em

Prospects aren't just bored by tedious PowerPoint sales presentations, they're also confused by them and, oftentimes, too confused to buy. We end up turning off our buyers when our sales presentations should be turning them on. The penalties for exceeding 12 slides are wasted leads, poor closing ratio, and lack of referrals. Showing too many slides will shortchange your business.

Slides That Sabotage Sales

The problem with PowerPoint is that it's too easy to use. PowerPoint has enabled anyone to visually enhance all their talking points. And that's what salespeople do; they include ALL their points because they don't know what they will need when they get in front of a customer. The more proficient we get with PowerPoint, the easier it becomes to focus on "eye candy" and to jam content into individual slides instead of looking at the overall slide plan. As a result, we're almost guaranteed that tomorrow's presentation will be longer than today's. If we could only bring ourselves to delete a slide with the same ease that we would add one!

PowerPoint does have one trait that fosters the incessant expansion of presentation length: its linearity. Slides appear in an orderly succession, one right after another. While a linear format might be useful for delivering a lecture in an auditorium, linear is not helpful in a dynamic one-on-one sales dialogue. If we want to use PowerPoint in our sales presentations, a few adjustments in our strategy will allow PowerPoint to support us instead of sabotage us.

The Concept is Simple

You can sell any concept in 12 slides or less. Once the prospect sees the big picture through your 12 slides and understands the merits of your proposal, they may want to see supporting documentation and additional reference material to validate your points. Twelve slides sells the concept, then additional information justifies it. You're additional information may be thicker than your hometown phone book, but it's still just supporting information.

To get your sales presentation down to 12 slides or less, you really don't have to throw anything away; you just have to move most of it into your collection of supporting information. If you dare to take my challenge of presenting with 12 slides or less, here's how to go about it.

Do Your Own Dozen

First, create a Main Thing slide. Determine the one thing you want your prospect to remember about your sales presentation and put it on the first PowerPoint slide. This should be related to what your prospect wants, what they care about, and what will command their attention.

Next follow with 4 to 7 slides for Key Points. Each of these slides should be able to stand alone and make a single Key Point that supports the Main Thing. By presenting your 4 to 7 Key Points, your prospect should better understand the Main Thing.

Don't make the mistake of making more than seven key slides, because your prospect can't remember them anyway. "The Psychological Review" published a research paper by George A. Miller in 1956 titled "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information," which revealed that our minds can't really retain more than seven pieces of new information. That's why telephone numbers are 7 digits long. When you try to make more than seven points, you simply confuse your prospect, and confused minds don't buy.

Now we're up to eight slides. You might use another slide or two to build credibility; perhaps a description of the people or company behind the offering, and perhaps a list of clients or testimonials from other satisfied participants. Throw in a summary for slide #11, and you still have room for a compelling graphic or chart, or a Call to Action slide. That makes a dozen.

Keep Selling Simple

During your sales presentation, you'll review your dozen slides with your prospect. Either they will want to know more or they won't. If they "buy" your concept, you may be asked for details that you can extract from your reference material, leading to a continuation of the sales dialog. If they don't want to know more, your offer isn't valid for this prospect. In other words, you're done, and you will have all saved a lot of time and confusion.

Time-starved executives are especially grateful when salespeople use this approach. Executives want the "net". When you can deliver your key ideas clearly and concisely, the time-starved are more likely to take action, often in your favor. Plus, you make it easy for them to remember the Main Thing and your Key Points so that they can champion the business case to others in their organization.

Dare to Discard

Don't be surprised if reducing your slide count to the PowerPoint dozen seems impossible at first. You have so much good information to give! But it can be done. In fact, it must be done if you want to get buyers excited and engaged instead of bored and confused. If you need help reducing your slide count to 12 or less, give me a call.

I double-dog-dare you to take my challenge to reduce your PowerPoint slides to a dozen or less. Though you may not want to put a man on Mars, you will see sales results from your presentations take off like a rocket.

PowerPoint is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.

Copyright 2007 Paul Johnson
About the Author
Paul Johnson works with selling organizations to convert sales trouble into double and triple digit performance breakthroughs. Visit http://ConsultativeSelling.com for a simple definition of Consultative Selling and more sales insights.
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