8 design shortcuts for visually impressive sales presentations
We all want to deliver the best possible customer experience and create a sales presentation that’s memorable and impactful. A proposal is more than just a pretty document— it has to reflect your brand, communicate your message, and lead the buyer to the desired conclusion: you’re the right solution for them. In this post, we offer practical suggestions to help you be more successful.
Designing great presentations is an important part of the sales process but it can be challenging, especially if you’re not a designer. After all, the goal of a sales presentation is to capture buyer attention— that’s a lot of pressure considering the other vendors who are trying to do the same thing! So when you get to the point in your sales process when it’s time to send your proposal, how can one design one with a message that is clear, impactful, and creates a positive customer experience?
Sometimes it’s a matter of editing and reducing copy so your points are clearer. Other times, it’s more about adding graphics to visually explain the concepts you’re presenting. We provide a lot of tips, pointers, and examples plus the reasoning behind each in our 2022 Proposal Look Book. In this post, we’ll cover a few basics related to your sales presentation layout and style.
Layout and Style
A huge amount of what makes a sales presentation feel professionally designed comes down to a handful of simple formatting rules, impacting both your layout and style. Layout is about how you organize and structure your information—is it scannable for your reader? Are your main and most important points clear?
Style determines how well your documents will engage your reader and capture their attention. While your content might speak to the heart of how good your business is, your visual style supports your written message and helps you convey professionalism and competence throughout your sales presentation.
Both layout and style are essential for a positive customer experience. No buyer wants to weed through heaps of copy in a bland-looking document. The following eight design shortcuts will help to spruce up the look and impact of your sales presentation and best of all, no design skills, sales tools, or set-up are required.
Tip 1: Break up sections to reduce visual work
When you’ve got long paragraphs of content in a multi-page document, it’s visually overwhelming to the reader. Think through the logic of your sales presentation— what is the best order to present your material? Then, break up these sections to help your reader navigate through the information easier.
Using a simple, narrative structure helps to reduce the visual work associated with your document. You can try a few basics like adding a line break, dedicating specific colors to headers, or if you’re using Qwilr, adding a new block with a different color. Use your design layout to also help organize your sales presentation content.
Tip 2: Use a clear hierarchy to make it easy to scan sections
Once you’ve decided how you want to break up the sections of your sales presentation, use a clear hierarchy to give your reader a way to scan sections. Studies show that people rarely read word for word online. Rather, we’re scanners. We scan a page to get a sense of whether we’re interested, before committing to reading it.
Using a variation of H1, H2, and paragraph text will give sections more visual importance than others, creating interest and highlighting what’s most important. Conversely, using the same font size and weight creates an equal hierarchy within your content, but also makes your document more monotonous to read.
Another option is to use blank (or “white”) space to create hierarchy. When there’s extra space given to a header or button, they tend to stand out more. White space also increases reader comprehension— by as much as 20%, in fact!
Tip 3: Reduce the width of paragraphs to make them easier to read
It’s easy to fall into the trap of creating wider paragraphs to fit in more text, but it’s a best practice to have narrower paragraphs for text-heavy sections. Why? Again, it comes back to white space, reader comprehension, and creating a positive customer experience.
As further evidence, take a look at the content you read online— articles tend to be broken down into multiple paragraphs in a narrow column. This format makes copy easier to scan and digest. In general, the larger the line spacing (or space between each line of text) the better the reading experience will be.
Tip 4: Use center align sparingly, and never on multiple paragraphs of text
When you’re structuring large bodies of text, opt for the standard of left alignment for easier readability. When you center your text, the starting place of each line changes and you’re forcing your reader to work harder to find the correct line as they’re scanning. Using a left alignment creates a straight line edge down your paragraph, providing a consistent flow your reader’s eye can follow. Additionally, the left alignment of your text gives your sales presentation a cleaner, more ordered look. Large amounts of centered text can give your proposal a cluttered and disorganized appearance— certainly not the message you want to communicate!
Tip 5: Use imagery to make your message persuasive
Just like the written content, the goal of each of your images is to sell and engage your reader. Image selection is hard and should work hand-in-hand with your content, supporting your written words. Try to think cohesively across your entire sales presentation message vs. image by image. A few more image pointers:
Image size and placement
When you have a full-bleed image within a block nestled between text, make the image the full width of the column. That way, the eye doesn’t jump around as much while reading. Of course, this rule doesn’t always work, particularly when the image isn’t such a strict rectangle or square shape, say when the image is in a circle like a profile avatar. In this instance, it’s more natural for the eye to float the image within the content.
Avoid images with really light background colors, background colors, or excessive “noise” that conflicts with the foreground text, and images with a really prominent feature that will compete with the overlaid copy. All lessen the impact of the text and weaken the clarity of your message. When using images for testimonials, this is especially important for the reader to have a clear takeaway. Even if you really love a particular image, clarity of message should be your primary goal.
Tip 6: Use color to create consistency in imagery and graphics
The art of branding is being able to make a collection of touchpoints feel like they’re created from the same voice. A strong sales presentation will have the same, consistent look as your website and other collateral. Without consistent branding, it communicates disorganization to your buyer and suggests that your company lacks a unified front. Lack of consistency could also be a customer experience red flag, as prospects are using the buying process to evaluate what it might be like working with you after they sign on the dotted line.
On the other hand, good branding also communicates the professionalism of your brand. As such, choose a brand palette for your sales presentation and stick to it as you select colors for headers, background colors, tints, buttons, and images.
Tip 7: Visualize key points for clear takeaways
After reading your sales presentation, there should be a few key things that if nothing else, you want your buyer to remember. Especially if it’s earlier in the engagement process, you don’t want your pitch failing to communicate your key points. As such, don’t bury important takeaways in dense paragraphs or surround them with complicated visuals. Instead, pull them out so they are impossible to miss even for the briefest of scanners, and use strategic visuals to attract attention to your callouts.
As an example, if you want to highlight a testimonial from a previous client, add a photo of the person next to their quote on a bold background. If it’s a data point you want buyers to remember, use an icon to draw readers into the metric and make the text significantly larger than the surrounding copy. These simple design tricks provide even the laziest of viewers with a visual shortcut to your most compelling points.
Tip 8: Think cohesively across your sales presentation
If you want to add momentum to your sales presentation, aim to visually build up to a final point. If each section looks different from the last, the document as a whole will feel meandering. Your goal is for a cohesive read and consistent visual look throughout your entire sales presentation. Additionally, this helps to create a positive customer experience, too.
There are common types of content that are recurring in most sales presentations: outlining sections (opening, who you are, what you do), deep dives (the main “meat” of your message— how you solve your customer’s problem, the ROI of your solution, etc), and closing summaries. Clearly signaling which section is which visually provides readers with an expectation of what they’re reading, and guides them through your document.
The easiest way to build signaling into your proposal is by block background, text color, and sizes. For example, outlining sections are on white background with brand text color, but summaries are on a slate color.
Creating the best customer experience in your sales presentation
Of course, we all want to deliver the best possible customer experience and create a sales presentation that’s memorable and impactful. A proposal is more than just a pretty document— it has to reflect your brand, communicate your message, and lead the buyer to the desired conclusion: you’re the right solution for them. As you evaluate your sales collateral, read with a critical eye— is your message clear? Does your design support or detract from your message? Is the design consistent throughout your document? And most importantly, what’s the impression your sales presentation is creating with your target buyer? Remember, you only have one chance to create a first impression.
We offer many more design strategies and tips in our free 2022 Proposal Look Book. Additionally, if you’d like to discuss how Qwilr proposal software can help improve the look and impact of your sales presentations, we invite you to book a demo now.
This article was originally written on May 31, 2019, and was updated on December 1, 2021, for relevancy and accuracy.
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