Presenting to the C Suite resized 600An acquaintance recently asked me to review a presentation he’d created for his CRO.  This guy is an SVP of Sales, and a sales process expert.  He needed to make a business case for a new department in his company.  If successful, this department would turbocharge revenue growth.  He needed approval to spend money.  Some of it would be CapEx, but labor costs would rise too.  The stakes were high, personally and for his organization.


The deck was 237 slides long. 


In this article, I’ll suggest a framework for a C-Level sales presentation.  Even though it’s intended for the top sales leader, anyone can use it.  It is short, simple, and powerful.  It works for sales professionals also.  If you are selling into the C Suite, give it a try.  Let me know what you find.  Even if you’re restricted by a required format, the framework can still add value.


Click Here to download the C Suite Presentation Template.


Why do so many executives equate a great presentation with complexity?  We have all sat through these mind-bending presentations.  How many times have you seen the CEO give the “wrap it up” sign?  Usually, the unfortunate presenter still has 15 slides left.  He lost his audience.  He ran out of time.  The great concept he had was unrecognized because the audience needed a break.    


A caveat: this deck isn’t intended for a simple project update or QBR.  It is for executives who need to advance an idea or seek approval. Here is the framework:


Slide 1:  Project Name

Slide 2:  Statement of what you are solving for, in persona language.

  • Don’t be offended, but no one cares how your proposal benefits your department.  Present everything through the lens of your audience.  If you have done persona development work, you are familiar with this concept.

Slide 3:  The Solution – get right to the point!

  • Don’t bury the lead.  No warming up.  No jargon.  Lay out the recommendation.  This is what you are “selling.”  Again, this is presented in persona language.  How will your solution help your audience with a problem they have?

Slide 4:  Business Case

  • Estimated impact on revenue and costs in Year One, Two, Three

Slide 5:  Million Dollar Slide

  • This is the slide explaining why your idea is magic.  The one thing that makes this THE silver bullet the organization must deploy.  Spend time on this one, especially.  Graphic representation is required.  Get the input of others who are more creative than you are.  Download the tool for more tips on how to think about this slide.

Slide 6:  The Competitive Lens

  • Get someone to mystery shop your organization’s top three competitors.  Show the C Suite one of two things:
    • Our competition is asleep at the wheel.  We can gain first-mover advantage
    • Our competition is way ahead and we better play catch up now

Slide 7:  The Project Team

  • Who do you want on the project team to pull this off?

Slide 8:  KPIs

  • 3-5 leading indicators you will use to chart and measure your progress

Slide 9:  Timeline

  • Dates, Milestones, or Deliverables of the project

Slide 10:  Executive Summary


The Secret Sauce

The secret sauce is your talk track.  In 90% of the presentations you’ve seen, the presenter lets the deck lead them.  Click to slide, paraphrase what’s on slide, click to next slide, repeat.  This is death.  For the audience, as well as for your idea or your sales process.  With only 10 slides, you are requiring yourself to create a compelling story.  Your words take the lead.  The deck supports you, not the other way around.  If they give you an hour to present, you take 45 minutes.  No more.  If you do this correctly, it will have tremendous impact.


This format also works for the top sales leader at the annual SKO meeting.  When you address your team, there are always skeptics to take into consideration.  They will especially appreciate the Competitive Lens slide.


The Power of the Appendix

People love to believe their ideas are so complicated they can’t be expressed succinctly.  No problem – everything else goes into your Appendix.  It’s a separate deck. Your boss loves your idea but wants to see more details or specifics?  He asks you to show him your math?  No problem.  Go to your Appendix.  Use your presentation tool to build links in it.  Use a Venn or fishbone diagram to lay everything out.  You can go straight to the section you need to support your case.


Leaders fail to get great ideas adopted all the time.  Careers rise and fall in part because of this.  Don’t let your presentation drag you into the weeds.  The executives you present to will remember you positively for it.