Using color in your sales presentations

Sales presentations often fall into one of two extremes.

1. Sales presentations with too many colors

Without a doubt, the bulk of PowerPoint sales presentations inflict some of the worst horrors imaginable on us because of poor color combinations.

Sales presentation and colors

Color wheel and sales presentations

Color Wheel

This is because of a lack of awareness of the color wheel, although this tool is built in to PowerPoint and Keynotes, with coordinated palettes that allow you to combine colors.
99% of sales people don’t know how palettes work, and have no technique for combining colors.

2. Sales Presentations with too little color

Then again, people sometimes forget that the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, and do the opposite, albeit much less often:

Sometimes, to avoid colors that clash, people are tempted to combine colors on the basis of their similarity, believing that colors must be similar to go together.
Without realizing it, they limit themselves to a single, monochromatic palette.

Monochromatic palette
Monochromatic and sales presentations

 Sumi-e and sales presentations

Sumi-e is based on monochromatic palettes

-> In Japan, one of the Zen arts is based on this type of monochromatic palette.
Sumi-e oriental painting is the highest simplification of color, in contrast to Western painting, which employs the full color palette to convey light and shadows. The extreme demands of sumi-e make it a unique art form. Constraint taken to its limits to produce art – this is the philosophy behind the Zen arts.

This cannot really be applied to sales presentations, because the level of constraint is such that it truly requires a high degree of mastery of this art, and a colossal time investment. In my opinion, it also limits the use of contrast, which is necessary to reinforce the message.

The Problem with sales presentations

In fact, the problem is that most people feel that colors are for decorating. In educational products and sales presentations, however, decoration is counter to design.

  • The purpose of design is to reinforce the message, regardless of whether the goal is learning or sales.
  • Design is based on some ten key principles, contrast being one of the most important.

The use of too much or too little color does not allow for the use of contrast to reinforce the message.

  • Too much color is pointless,
  • and while the monochromatic palette is great for soothing decor, it does not make for effective sales presentations!

The solution for effective presentations: the color wheel palette

People tend to go to one extreme or the other because they don’t know about color wheel palettes: The palettes

Palettes and sales presentations

If you want to learn more about the color wheel and palettes, click one this slideshare presentaiton:

I generally prefer the triadic palette, made up of three equidistant colors on the color wheel, to provide maximum contrast: Maximum contrast is used to REINFORCE the message

Red-white-black is a popular combination (for basic text on a white background)  Black and red in sames presentations
 Orange and white in sales presentations So is its orange-white-black variant: it’s the same idea, but for basic white text on a black background –red doesn’t stand out on black, so orange is used instead, as in this example.

You will hear people say “I don’t like it”, which is typical of a decoration rather than a design approach.
The issue is not whether or not you like it, but whether or not it reinforces the message.

In terms of the presentation of ideas, here is one of my favorite Garr Reynolds slides based on a triadic palette. It is a model slide in terms of the use of contrasts, because here he plays with contrast of both color and size. Garr Reynolds slide

For me, the masterful use of contrasts is one of the three main reasons why Garr Reynolds is the best PowerPoint and Keynote presentation specialist around today.  One of these days I will do an article on the other two.
Garr Reynolds uses triadic palettes regularly. Here are two well-known examples, taken from my Effective Sales Presentations training course:
Garr Reynolds slide

Using triadic palettes in your sales presentations

The key to the triadic palette is the three equidistant colors:

  • One for the background
  • One for the image or basic text
  • One for the message you wish to highlight

Three useful sites:
For identifying colors on the color wheel:
For finding ready-made palettes:

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