If your salespeople aren't effective presenters, they'll never achieve their full potential, even if they're already good at selling. Which is why it's critical that you understand and monitor this vital skill.

Here's how to measure and evaluate sales presentation skills, whether you're trying to motivate an underperforming rep, increase already decent close rates, or evaluate potential sales candidates before hiring.

What Makes for an Effective Sales Presentation?

Before you can evaluate presentation skills, you need to understand what makes for a good presentation.

You may have an intuitive feel for what works and what doesn't, but if you're going to measure performance quantitatively, you need a method for scoring presentations numerically. Keep the following "7Cs" in mind:

  1. Congeniality: Is the salesperson creating a friendly, positive environment?
  2. Clarity: Are ideas presented clearly? Is there unnecessary filler content?
  3. Customization: How well is the presentation tailored to the prospect's needs?
  4. Comprehension: Is the presentation given in easily understandable language?
  5. Compellingness: Are the arguments being made persuasive? Are appropriate emotional appeals being used?
  6. Confidence: People want to work with those they perceive as being self-assured. How effectively is the salesperson at conveying this impression?
  7. Collaboration: When the conversation becomes a two-way discussion rather than a one-way presentation, according to Peak Selling, message retention doubles to 40%.

Each of those factors can be scored on a scale of 1 to 5, allowing you to identify specific areas of opportunity and track improvement over time.

How to Measure Sales Presentation Skills

You have several options for assessing your sales reps' presentation skills. For instance, you could do the following:

  • Ask reps to evaluate themselves.
  • Follow up with customers to ask for their feedback on the quality of the presentation after closed-won sales.
  • Conduct mock presentations.
  • Participate in live sales presentations.
  • Record live sales presentations for later review.

Each option has its pros and cons. Asking reps to evaluate themselves, for example, isn't likely to produce truly effective data. Or following up with customers may not be appropriate in all circumstances, depending on the relationship that's been created.

As much as possible, evaluate live sales presentations. Doing so will give you a more accurate understanding of each sales rep's performance, though you'll need to take into account the likelihood that attending a sales call in real-time may put undue pressure on the salesperson in a way that produces negative outcomes.

If you have to evaluate mock presentations, mimic live circumstances as closely as you can. For example, if your salespeople give a lot of remote presentations, have them record their pitch with video conferencing software so that you can see exactly what your prospective customers are seeing.

Once you've chosen an evaluation approach and set a review schedule, incorporate the scoring system you established into a spreadsheet such as the following:

Here, the evaluator has noted the specific presentation being evaluated (in this case, a live sales call), giving scores for each of the 7Cs and producing an average score that can be used to measure this salesperson both over time and against others on the team.

Don't overthink the scores you give. Go with your gut. What's most important is monitoring trends over time, not going back and forth over whether the sales rep's clarity really warranted a score of 4 instead of 3.

If you're concerned at all about bias, consider incorporating scores from multiple reviewers. That can also be advantageous for developing team clarity around what really constitutes a successful presentation.

How to Improve Underperforming Presenters

By using a grading system, you should be able to quickly identify areas of opportunity for each sales rep. In the example above, Evan's presentation succeeded in being clear, confident, and collaborative, but he struggled with congeniality and creating a compelling argument.

From that data, you can work with sales reps to create measurable goals and action steps for improvement based on their weakest areas. For instance, based on Evan's data, you might set a goal of improving average score by 10% over the next quarter: from 4.14 to 4.55.

That might mean connecting Evan with sales training resources that improve his weaker areas. But it might also involve helping him further strengthen his strongest areas. Assigning Evan to sales calls with prospects who don't appear to require a high level of congeniality may also create an optimal environment for him to succeed.

That said, be cautious about making decisions off of one data set. Everybody has "off days" or prospects with whom they struggle to connect. For instance, if you had tracked several of Evan's calls (see image) you may instead conclude that his Nestle sales call was an anomaly, rather than a cause for concern:

That's why it's important that you repeat your evaluations periodically. Doing so will result in a better understanding of each sales rep's strengths and weaknesses—and help you ensure changes are being made and prevent new issues from occurring.

Remember: even successful sales reps can become less effective over time if they aren't continually held to the highest standards of presentation quality.

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Sales Presentation Skills: How to Measure and Evaluate Your Salespeople

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image of Jamie Davidson

Jamie Davidson is the marketing communications manager at Vast Conference, a leading provider of HD audio and video conferencing services.

LinkedIn: Jamie Davidson