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Learn how to develop slide decks for prospects based on their stage in your sales funnel, and how PowerPoints are much like shoes.

Graphic design is different than art. Its purpose is to persuade and communicate. The directions tile at the top of this post was one of many scattered across Chicago. Its purpose is to communicate. Yet, it is well-designed and pleasing to look at. The color, font, and overall style fit well in Chicago, a city where everything feels well-designed, from coffee cups to skyscrapers.

It’s very common for marketing teams and graphic designers to create corporate PowerPoint templates. These are then used by professionals in sales, operations, and other departments.

You’ve probably viewed a PowerPoint presentation where a company’s brand colors might be blue and red, but someone took the corporate template and modified it. He might have filled it with pale orange, green, and cartoon pictures found on a Google image search with the intent of getting more attention. It doesn’t really represent the brand as intended. Does it matter?

Here’s a better way to think of it. Does it matter if you showed up to lead a presentation in workout clothes, even though your delivery and content were spot on? Exactly. Of course it matters.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I took note of common things like signage, restaurant ceilings, and hotel carpet. These are functional items. Essentially, they do not need to be well-designed to work. Yet, well-designed items like these were everywhere I turned.

Stan’s Donuts, Chicago

These strips of fake donuts lining the ceiling are completely unnecessary to selling donuts. Yet, they help create an overall sweeter experience for the donut buyer. At least they did for me.

Over the years, we’ve created countless PowerPoint templates for B2B tech clients. These are designed to reinforce the company’s brand. They most often include the following types of slides:

  • Title slide, which includes company logo, colors and other branding, often leaving room for the prospect’s logo when necessary.
  • Slides for text-heavy content. Many have already written how too much text should be avoided in
  • PowerPoint presentations, but it still happens in some cases.
  • Slides for heavy graphics, graphs, or other images.
  • Slides for comparison (their service vs. our service).
  • Slides for detailed information, such as tech specs.
  • Slides for a simple quote or statement with a graphic, heavy or solid color background.
  • End slide, which includes contact info and next steps.

These PowerPoint templates restrict unnecessary variation or allow a power user to do whatever he or she wants. This is often determined by:

  • Size of the company
  • Technical skills of the PowerPoint creators
  • Technical skills of the final content creators
  • The company’s management style (tight or loose)

What matters to marketing teams and designers is that the integrity of the brand is not compromised. Rather, the brand should be effectively promoted. Good graphic designs for PowerPoint communicate the brand’s power, whether the company is serious, casual, relational or innovative. These things are communicated effectively, and very much silently, through good design.

When I was in college, I worked in a couple retail shoe stores. Over time, I could glance at a customer’s foot and know what size shoe they needed and get them from the back room. For better or worse, I got into the habit of observing people’s shoes and made some assumptions about them. Sometimes, I’d see a well-dressed man with scuffed up shoes. Sometimes the shoes were nice looking but way too casual for the outfit. It communicated that he didn’t really care about the details.

When it comes to PowerPoint, your audience will make some assumptions about you and your company. Of course, assumptions may be wrong, but at least consider the consequences before you alter your corporate PowerPoint. You do have a professionally designed PowerPoint template, don’t you?

Brand Colors & Style

If you alter the colors and they don’t fit with your brand at all, your audience can assume:
You disagree with your company on some level. You know a better way, and the company doesn’t listen to you, so you did your own thing.

You don’t know or understand your own company’s brand. You did your own thing because you’re clueless. Understanding your company doesn’t matter. What kind of service can I expect from you?

Number of Slides

I once worked with a tech client who, early on in our relationship, sent me a PowerPoint to review. This is not an exaggeration—it was 227 slides long. It was confusing, boring, and after viewing 50 slides, I still wondered, what’s the point here? I shared my frustration with the client and asked for the slide deck he used when pitching to clients. Unfortunately, that was the slide deck—all 227 slides. As the marketer trying to learn my client’s business, I was confused, frustrated, and not interested in the remaining slides. What were prospects feeling? Probably the same thing.

Needing dozens of slides to explain your solution tells me your solution is so complex, you can’t boil it down for the average person in just a few slides. Asking a prospect to view 227 slides felt a little like trying to sell a car, but first requiring the customer to understand how an engine works. I don’t care. Neither do you. Neither do your prospects.

Consider where you are in the sales process. Good sales professionals understand what to communicate based on where a prospect is in the sales funnel. However, PowerPoint presentations do not always match this.

Early presentations should answer two questions: What and Why. What is this solution? Why do I need it? It’s a mistake to explain how the solution works too deeply or to take more than one slide to do so. Consider how well luxury car companies produce commercials. They are much different than tech companies but the marketing principles are the same.

Here’s what they communicate.

  1. What is this? It’s a fast luxury car.
  2. Why do I need it? To drive fast in style.

It’s then up to the car salesperson, after the buyer has been persuaded they want the car, to explain safety features and even monthly payments. How would many tech companies create an ad if they had to sell luxury cars? Something like this:

  1. You need to get from point A to point B.
  2. There are many ways to get there.
  3. Trains are too slow. Flights are too expensive.
  4. Other cars don’t have the same power, style, or appeal as our car.
  5. The technical design of our engine makes it more powerful, because it was designed with an engineering team with 225 years of combined experience.
  6. Our facility where we designed and built this car has extremely high security, comparable to the security at Fort Knox. We can explain more about this if we go further, but at this point it’s highly confidential.
  7. Here are 7 subpoints on why our car is more powerful.
  8. Notice when the driver presses the gas pedal? The car immediately goes faster to get her where she wants to be—faster.
  9. Our car is available in 7 colors, including red. Choosing red is an additional cost because of our special paint process required to achieve candy apple red.

As much as that sounds ridiculous, who hasn’t seen a similar PowerPoint for a technology solution? I have lost track of how mnay times I have.

How many slides should a sales presentation have? Here’s a better question: how many slides can you cut and still answer the questions, What and Why? What information is valuable, but not critical, to an initial sales presentation? Can some information be included in a follow up, 2-page PDF instead of your PowerPoint? It can give you a reason to keep your audience informed enough to continue the conversation and intrigued enough to keep listening.

Design Matters

Design does matter. It doesn’t only matter to graphic designers. It matters to every person who has to endure, or enjoy, your PowerPoint presentation. Background images, color palette, font choices, and uncluttered design communicate something about your company and your tech solution. Good design communicates and reinforces your brand just like your polished shoes communicate something about you.

Design your PowerPoint presentations so they communicate you are easy to work with, not complicated, and your solution is enjoyable to use.