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(This post was jointly created by Lisa Magnuson and Julie Hansen – big thanks to both for the submission) 

When you really think about the term ‘presentation’ or ‘demonstration’ what associations come to mind?

If you’re the presenter, you think about:

  • preparing your presentation for your ‘audience’
  • the content that you want to share
  • your delivery
  • what you want to achieve

If you’re the prospect, your thoughts include:

  • are, probably another boring presentation (or demonstration)
  • my only role is to try to stay awake and listen
  • how can I possibly pull out of all these slides what I really care about?
  • I hope this doesn’t ‘go long’ and they get to my priority areas before I plan to leave

There have been cracks in the structure of sales presentations for quite a while but now a seismic shift has occurred.  Why?  Prospects expect value from salespeople during every interaction.  They only want meaningful dialog that helps them with their priorities.  They will not tolerate a live or live virtual presentation that’s one sided any longer.  As professional salespeople, we must do better.  A mind shift is required.  Let’s start with replacing the term ‘presentation’ in our sales vocabulary with more positive and descriptive terms such as discussion or dialog.

Julie Hansen, Trainer, Speaker, Author of Sales Presentations for Dummies and Act Like A Sales Pro. Expert Opinion: “Presentations have been stuck in the 80’s for forty years now and yet sellers have been slow to change.  The negative aspects of presentations have been magnified as a virtual audience is much more distracted and intolerant.”

Seismic Shifts

Move From… Move To…
Presentations Meaningful prospect discussions
Prospect as the ‘audience’ Their team working with your team collaboratively in an exchange of ideas and solutions
Sales speaking 80% + of the time 50/50 conversations (prospect/you) with sincere listening
Information sharing (what you want to say) Discussion points/

dialog or what your prospect wants to talk about

Your priorities Their priorities
The ‘About your company’ slides About how you can impact their priorities
Little planning for providing prospect value Deliver prospect value by design i.e., the right value at the right time


Julie Hansen, Expert Opinion: “Research shows that when salespeople talk less and prospects talk more, they win more deals.”

 An analogy can be found in the professional sales and sales leader training approach.  Long gone are the days of instruction via PowerPoint.  Today, the concept of the ‘flipped classroom’ works so much better where training participants receive the content in advance so they can read, reflect and even respond prior to the training session.  The session time can then be spent on meaningful work such as problem solving, strategic issue resolution, discussion and debate, peer sharing, in other words, full engagement by all participants.

Seismic Shift Framework

Foundational Elements:

  • Start your preparation with pinpointing the purpose of the meeting, desired outcomes and your overall strategy, all centered around the prospect’s perspective.
  • Go through all the elements of rigorous pre-call planning. (see pre-call plan guide at
  • Clarity on Win Themes™ which begins with a deep understanding of your prospect’s priorities and why each is important.
  • Build prospect value into each interaction.
  • Make sure you have asked about the options the prospect has to solve their problem. i.e., competitive solution, stay with status quo, partner, develop in house, etc.
  • Familiarity with all the participants and what they hope to achieve and how best to engage them during the discussion.

Julie Hansen, Expert Opinion: “Ditch the company overview, cut to the chase by focusing on what’s most important to your prospect.  Frontload the most important discussion points.”

 Design the Structure:

  • Clear and simple ‘shared’ agenda.
  • Agreed up discussion points.
  • Allocate enough time for dialog. Less is more.
    • 90-minute meeting = three core discussion points
  • Design open ended, thoughtful questions intended to drive discussion and interaction.
  • Establish the prospect value you plan to deliver during discussion points. i.e., insights, data, helpful samples, thought provoking questions
  • Interesting examples, stories, video, other artifacts to support conversation points.
  • Strong beginning and end of meeting.

Julie Hansen, Expert Opinion: “Studies show that starting with the ‘end result’ is more successful than starting with details or background. Bottom line, prospects do not care about your background.  Resist the ‘About your Company’ slides.  There are much more effective ways for them to learn about your company.

Break your discussion points into consumable chunks that align with your prospect’s attention span.  i.e., five-minute chunks. In other words there’s never more than five minutes between interaction.”

 Engineer your Delivery:

  • Format of materials should amplify meeting objectives vs. defaulting to your standard format. i.e., PPT, Word artifacts, dynamic PDF, handouts, etc. Choose the best format for your prospect and the best format to encourage interaction and ensure a productive meeting for all.
  • Add some unexpected elements for interest and engagement.
  • (stand and stretch, bio break, fun, ‘cleanse the palette’ between topics)
  • Assign effective meeting roles: facilitator, time tracker, notes and/or action items person.
  • Expert level comfort with video platform for live virtual meetings.
  • Back up plans for materials, technology, meeting roles.
  • Practice – first dry run to refine strategy and materials, two additional dry runs for content and to practice engagement.

Julie Hansen, Expert Opinion: “Prospects, especially virtually, can be very passive.  It’s not their job to be engaging, it’s the salesperson’s job to make it easy for them to engage. Compelling conversation points, relevant value in the form of examples, stories, thought provoking questions will encourage interaction. It’s not just about the content, it’s about the connection.  For example, finding moments to connect without the use of slides is vital.”

Lisa D. Magnuson, Mastermind Sales Strategist of 7-Figure Deals is founder of Top Line Sales.

Julie Hansen is the creator of Selling on Video Masterclass and founder of Performance Sales and Training.

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