How long should you make your sales presentation?

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”  Yogi Berra

I once brought a colleague with me on a sales call and since he was the real expert on the service we were offering I let him handle the presentation. We were given 30 minutes with the prospect and his presentation lasted for about 27 of those minutes.

I was not happy. But shame on me for not clarifying with him in advance how long his presentation would be. Here’s why – there are techniques that make a sales presentation persuasive but research shows (Moreno 2006) that the most persuasive form of communication is not presentation but conversation.

How long should you make your sales presentation?

Don’t let all the talking get in the way of the conversation

What this means to a sales professional is that you most likely will not close a deal based solely on your sales presentation (funny thing to hear from a presentation coach). But if your presentation is effective and persuasive then you have positioned yourself perfectly to close the deal during the conversation that follows the presentation. 

So always leave time for conversation. I suggest only using, at most, one third of your available time for the presentation. If the prospect gives you 60 minutes for a meeting your presentation should be no more than 20 minutes. If they give you 30 minutes your presentation should be no more than 10 minutes. That way you leave plenty of time for Q& A and discussion.

My personal preference is a presentation that takes up somewhere between six to eight minutes of meeting time. I find that’s enough time to outline a persuasive case but short enough that you never lose the attention of the audience. And, of course, it leaves plenty of time for interaction.   

As Yogi might say – don’t let all the talking get in the way of the conversation.

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