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Raj Nathan on Sales Presentations That Don't Suck

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
4 min read

About This Talk

This talk is by Rajiv “Raj Nation” Nathan and was recorded on October 28, 2020. You can learn more about Raj by:


00:00 Intro
02:00 Raj’s Sales Presentation Fail
08:07 Creating a Sales Presentation That Doesn’t Suck
15:40 Why Do You Need a Sales Presentation?
20:00 When to Use a Sales Presentation
26:25 The Entertainer’s Effect
29:25 Your Killer Sales Deck

Raj’s Sales Presentation Fail

Early in his career, Raj was working on the biggest deal of his life. His employer told him they even needed to change his compensation plan if he got the deal because they might go out of business otherwise.

(Side note: your comp plan is poorly constructed if you have to change it when an employee does exactly what you asked them to do, not to mention what it does for their morale when you say “just kidding, we can’t actually pay you that.” Now back to the program)

Raj prepared for the presentation and felt totally ready for it. He felt he was covering everything the client needed to know and would blow the client away with his perfect sales pitch. But that’s not at all what happened.

The presentation failed. The client picked his sales presentation apart, point by point, and Raj told himself he’d never make that mistake again. The presentation was too focused on inputs, not focused enough on client results.

The solution? Create sales presentations that are more like the Hamilton musical. More on that in a second.

Why Sales Presentations Are So Important

According to Raj, there are 3 types of customers:

  1. “I already get it” – these people just want to buy and don’t need more information or a sales presentation from you
  2. “Guide me” – they’re confused, they have questions, and they need someone to guide them through the process; this is the group that can really benefit from a sales presentation
  3. “I’ve been burned” – they come to you with a bad taste in their mouth, but they’re ready to buy now; you’ll need to take more time building trust with them

To win the “Guide Me” group, you need to tell a story about how you can lead them to transformation, and one way to do that is with a sales presentation.

For an alternative point of view, check out Blair Enns talk on Pricing Creativity where he recommends you not use a sales presentation, but you must have a strong differentiator and considerable market leverage to employ his approach.

When to Use a Sales Presentation

The purpose of a sales presentation is to gauge the buyer’s interest in what you’re selling. Raj recommends you use a slightly different sales deck for each step of the way:

  • Discovery: a quick call to determine a high-level fit between and the buyer
  • Demo/strategy: a longer meeting designed to show how you provide results
  • Proposal: your specific offer to the client that includes the details they’ll need to make a decision

Entertainer’s Effect

Here’s the thing: even though you need a great sales presentation, it’s not a matter of simply checking a box. Your presentation has to be interesting. That’s me talking.

Raj thinks your presentation needs to be entertaining – so think like an entertainer!

Enter the Entertainer’s Effect.

Stop thinking like a business person. What would you say or do to get a live audience to cheer? That kind of mindset can help you design a sales presentation that captures and keeps attention from start to finish.

Go Ham

Go Ham as in Hamilton, not as in hard as a motherf***er. The play Hamilton has a story arc with three main components:

  1. What’s going to happen: the story starts by revealing a synopsis of the entire play, including the ending; in the case of Hamilton, we already know that he dies, so there’s no spoiler there!
  2. A humble beginning: the story begins with Hamilton humble and unknown, and takes you on a journey of Hamilton’s life
  3. An  ending that feels inevitable: the ending feels inevitable because the story is told in a way that leads us to a single conclusion

Elements of Your Killer Sales Deck

Now the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here’s Raj’s overview of the slides and/or sections you should have in your sales deck:

  • What their world looks like: a statement about the client’s current state and the environment they operate in; every story needs a place
  • What their problem is: the big obstacle preventing your client from achieving what they want, or becoming who they want to become
  • The crossroads the problem represents: this is where you begin to raise the stakes by contrasting where they are now and where they’re headed, versus where they want to be
  • Why is change necessary: why a change will set your client on a better path, and lead them exactly where they want to be
  • What happens if they do nothing: this is the counterfactual of their situation, demonstrating where they’ll end up if they do nothing
  • What’s the impact of change?: the results and value your client will get if they make a change
  • What’s your plan of attack?: what you plan to do to deliver the value you’re promising your prospective client
  • What destination does that lead them to?: where your client will be after you work together, and how their experience will be improved
  • What makes you credible?: a statement showing proof that you know what you’re doing and your client can trust what you say