A Few Pointers on the Worst Ways to Write A Pitch Deck
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Elevator Pitches, a new book containing insights from both sides of the board room to help you craft the perfect pitch. Buy it online from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound
My friend asked for advice on her pitch deck. She sent me two copies (always a worry). The first pitch deck looked pretty good because she’s clever.
I wondered why the second deck. I opened the file and there were 30 slides, all filled with text!
I saw red. Swear words were right on the tip of my tongue to describe this crime against humanity. I was fired up! On the phone call to give my feedback I did my best to practice a Zen state but within minutes demanded: who wrote that train wreck of a presentation?
The answer was…..the accountant!
This second pitch deck reminded me of the long junk messages I get in my LinkedIn inbox every day that tell me way too much information about something that isn't tailored to my needs.
When it comes to pitch decks, more than ten slides is a good indicator that you’re on the wrong track. You know you’ve got it wrong when it’s not simple. As Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
Related: The Death of the Pitch Deck
What is a pitch deck?
It’s a PowerPoint or slide presentation to persuade key decision makers to either buy from you or invest in your business. The basics of a good pitch deck include:
- Focus 90 percent of the deck on the problem your business solves, 10 percent on the solution.
- Mention your competitors if asked but don’t bother having a competitors slide. No one is going to trust your biased appraisal of the market.
- Use clear language and avoid acronyms and jargon.
- Make the pitch deck highly visual with the aid of a graphic designer.
Your pitch deck is not:
- A glossy magazine.
- A scope of works or implementation document.
- A 100-page brochure of every product your business has ever sold and will sell.
- An operations or instruction manual.
- A history of your industry since the beginning of time.
- The job history of every employee working for you.
The end game.
Never send a pitch deck you haven't first presented in person. Closing a sale very rarely happens via email. When someone says to you “Just email me the pitch deck and I’ll come back to you,” it’s the same as when you tell the car salesperson “Can you send the brochures out to me and I’ll get back to you?”
The goal in sales is always to get a face-to-face meeting and bring along your pitch deck. At the end of the meeting (and only at the end) you can then send a copy to the attendees to look over.
Presenting a pitch deck.
The most common pitch-deck mistake is too many slides and way too many words on each slide.
People buy from people. Your slides complement what you are saying, not be the focal point. Professionals do this is by showing a slide and then blacking out the screen once everyone has seen it. This way, people aren’t focused on anything but you.
Good slides have very few words and are highly visual. The detail should be coming from the words you are saying. Present your proposal using simple language. Some will know what you are talking about in depth but others won’t. Cater to the whole audience.
The goal of your pitch deck is to get the key decision makers excited and then back up that feeling with well researched, customer tested facts.
The million-dollar question is who does the selling?
Not the accountant. In the example above, there was one big problem: someone with no sales background wrote the pitch deck. This is common practice in startups including my past ventures. For a long time, many of the businesses I have been involved with never made any money. We hired relatively unskilled call center workers to do the selling. We paid them minimum wage and then became obsessed with hiring as many people as possible. This my friends is where the problem lies.
Then one day we got some good advice and decided to only hire quality sales people from then on. The first guy we hired was paid more than double what we had ever paid before. We gave him an incredibly generous bonus structure on top to ensure he knew that he was only required to do one thing well: sell as much as he could. Within a single day, he outsold everyone else in the sales team. I quickly realized that hiring people who are not trained salespeople is a disaster. Your business cannot make revenue unless you make sales and you need the best talent there is to do that.
The fastest way to lose money is to have money going out the back door through poor sales efforts. You need high-quality salespeople combined with a good pitch deck to win business. Sales is harder than it looks. Everyone thinks they know how to sell because they may have worked behind the counter at Macy’s twenty years ago but that’s customer service not selling. There’s a difference.
Don’t have the warehouse guy, Accountant, Financial Controller, IT person, Operations Manager or anyone other than a sales person do the selling.
Hire sales people who have got proven results and ask them to show you. Find people who can take complex problems and simplify them. Find people who can make problems inspiring, beautiful and a pleasure to solve when you do business with them.