Sales conversations are simply more engaging than presentations

Conversations vs. Presentations

In a prior blog, we shared five techniques for delivering more effective sales presentations.  Recently we came across a blog post in IdeaMensch that introduced an additional idea that we did not discuss – so we’re amending our post and adding a sixth point – conversations are more engaging than presentations – talking with is more effective than talking at.

As shared in the blog, the culprit is inherent in the root of the word presentation. Information is being presented to us. We sit quietly while someone “shows” us something and “tells” us why we need to know it.  Often using phrases like “it’s critical …” or “the research clearly shows” in order that the listener is aware of the importance of what is being presented.  With presentations, it becomes easy to tune out. We don’t really take in all the information coming at us.  And quite frankly we don’t even want to because we are being kept at arm’s length. We are being talked at … so we wait with increasing impatience for it to stop.

Conversations are simply much more engaging than presentations. There may be information that must be revealed, but it’s couched in a conversational narrative that conveys a desire for mutual understanding and comprehension. We are invited to hear what is being imparted and take it in on a personal level. It feels authentic … and real to us.

While most successful sales people are relatively good at interacting with single individuals as soon as they have a meeting with multiple people the train often jumps the track.  ‘Talking to” goes way up … and “talking with” goes way down. But should it? Short answer: No.

Just because it’s a meeting with multiple people doesn’t mean you have to launch into presentation mode and start talking more. In reality, when talking with a group, each person in the audience is listening as an individual so remembering that point will automatically result in a better connection with your audience.

Now are there times in sales when you have to do a formal type presentation – with PowerPoints and perhaps, a podium.  Yes, of course.  But the moral of this story is too often we jump into that mode where it is not required.  In many meetings and even in some formal presentations the better way is to remember: conversations trump presentations.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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4 Responses to Sales conversations are simply more engaging than presentations

  1. Richard and Janet,
    I LOVE this post. Love it. As soon as I saw the title I bounced over to read it.
    Could not agree more with this point. What amazes me is how few salespeople intuitively understand or practice “speaking with” as opposed to “at” their audiences. I hate the word “presentation” and am continually surprised how commonplace presentations have become.

    Thanks for the great thoughts and tackling this topic-

    • Janet and Richard says:


      Thanks for the note. Over the years we have found this to be a big deal – it not that most reps disagree with the idea – they just don’t execute – it is like falling into the same trap again and again.

      I suspect part of the answer lies in immediate coaching after someone does the presentation thing – go over what they did and then go over how in could have been done via a conversation. The key is immediately showing someone the alternative and getting them to try it immediately to see the difference in customer reaction and to prove to someone that they can do it.

      Janet and Richard

  2. John says:

    Great post, Janet and Richard! I just shared it on our Facebook page.
    Establishing a relationship with your clients is extremely important, especially now, in the age when social media gives everyone a voice. I think combining effective presentation with a personable approach shows that you are not only interested in selling, but also in providing a client with the best possible option. Building that relationship is definitely time-consuming, but I’ve learned that it pays off!

    • Janet and Richard says:

      Thanks for posting the post on your Facebook page, John. I couldn’t agree more how important it is to develop those relationships – and engaging the customer in conversation vs. just sharing your solutions is a critical step!


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