This week’s special guest is Lisa Magnuson, the Founder and Corporate Sales Strategist of Top Line Sales. Lisa is a sales mastermind with a proven track record of helping her clients land big deals regularly. She loves sales and sales leadership and is the author of four books and over 250 articles on a variety of sales topics. Her roll-up-your-sleeves style helps clients land seven-figure deals. Lisa shares with us the secrets not just to improving sales but to going after, and winning, 5x sales opportunities.

Whether it’s working with a temporary account team or an established sales team, coming on board at the planning, proposal, or presentation stage for a 6, 9, or 18-month timeframe, Lisa brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation. She shares:

  • How to score and then prioritize sales opportunities
  • Signs that a deal will move forward or stall out
  • The importance of using a relationship map and the SWOT process
  • The necessity of rigorous pre-call planning
  • And much more

5x deals, deals that are five times the size of an average deal, need to be approached differently – they need their own strategy for success. Lisa has the proven approach for winning these types of deals AND a free offer for listeners. Get ready to learn!

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to The Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hi, it’s Nancy Calabrese, and this is Conversational Selling. The podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today, and it always starts with the human conversation. Today we are speaking with the fabulous Lisa Magnuson. She is the founder and corporate sales strategist of Top Line Sales. She’s a mastermind sales strategist with a proven track record of helping her clients land seven-figure deals. Lisa has a roll up your sleeves approach that has helped her clients win contracts, totaling over 350 million in new revenue. She is the author of four books on sales, including The Top Sales Leader Playbook, How to Win 5x Deals Repeatedly. She’s published more than 250 articles on sales topics ranging from pre call planning to landing 5x accounts. She is frequently featured on radio shows webinars, and social media and our podcast today. So this is gonna be a great sales discussion, folks, especially about winning 5x deals. Let’s get started. Lisa, welcome to the show.

Lisa Magnuson: Thank you, Nancy. Happy to be here.

Nancy: Yeah, you know, in doing my homework about you. The one word that kept coming to my mind is, I’m guessing you love sales. Lisa, is that a correct guess?

Lisa: I do love sales. That’s very funny. I love sales. And I love sales leadership, too.

Nancy: Yeah. So, you know, for all of us listening, were coming out of COVID. Thank goodness, and there’s hope in the air. You know, what are your predictions for sales in 21? I mean, our 5x deals out there?

Lisa: They are. Absolutely. And just to kind of clarify. So a 5x deal is a deal about five times your average deal size. So you know, if your listeners have an average deal size of about $100,000 on a 5x deal is a $500,000 deal. So everybody knows that you have to do different things when you are going after those kinds of opportunities. But back to your question. Yeah, last year, we saw prospects really stay with the status quo, they really did not have an appetite for change. I think it had to do with, you know, with risk, nobody wanted to take any risk. We didn’t see big proposals, as many big proposals, we certainly see as many RFPs not that really any sales organization wants to see an RFP. Right. But, but yeah, that is definitely changing. And I’m seeing all kinds of activities around larger deals with my clients this year. 

Nancy: Wow, you know, I’ve read the you believe having a rigorous prospect strategy and sticking to it is critical, you know, define rigorous for us and what has to be done?

Lisa: Yeah, I absolutely believe that by having kind of a strategy or sort of a way that you go after large deals over time, increases your likelihood of winning exponentially. You know, when I’m working with account teams, you know, temporary teams that come together around an opportunity, and we sort of map out our our time together. So maybe that’s six months, nine months, 18 months, whatever we think it’s going to take to go after these these big deals. I tell them, it’s like every time we meet and talk about the accounting, the strategy and agree on actions and advances, and people take action, you just increase your likelihood of winning that deal by whatever, 10% more and you just marched down that path. And pretty soon, you won. And now you’re thinking about your win celebration. So yeah, I believe absolutely believe in a very deliberate, purposeful and systematic approach to going after very, very large deals.

Nancy: Yeah. And so what would be like step one.

Lisa: Step one, you know when I work with account teams and I do this work, every week for the last 16 years and and and I try to meet the team where they are. So sometimes I come in a little later than I would like to to help them. You know, maybe they’re at the proposal stage, or the presentation stage. And and so you know, we kind of come in and make that incredibly valuable and as productive as possible. But if you really are thinking about where do you start, if you’re starting from the beginning, you really want to start with choosing the right opportunities. 

And and I have a scoring tool that works really well, that looks at more than just the size of the contract, or the opportunity, or the deal that looks at seven or eight factors. And you can actually think about those things, you can score those, and many my many of my clients, you know, maybe we’ll score five or six possible opportunities, and then we’ll pick the best two or three to concentrate on based on on the scoring results. So you’re going to spend a lot of time on these deals, and it’s really important that you pick your best opportunities.

Nancy: Yeah. You know, I’m in listening to what you say. So you have this plan, you’re working on it. What are the signs that it’s going to move forward? Or what what are the signs where this deal may not happen?

Lisa: Well, the signs that it’s going to move forward are that your prospect is with you, you are in lockstep. So, you know and and prospect by prospect, I don’t mean singular. Whenever you’re going after a big opportunity, it’s usually there’s usually you have your own account team, maybe that’s the account executive and the sales manager and the VP of sales, and maybe somebody from professional services or, or marketing or the account manager, there’s any number of people that form that account team. 

And then on the prospect side, we know that their buying teams are increasing every year, they add more people, to those those buying teams. So you know, you are making progress when you are advancing in lockstep with your prospect. And, and so and that’s got to sort of, you know, play out over time new people come in and out. And to answer the second part of your question, you know, you have stalled or stopped dreaded terms, for sales people. 

Nancy: We don’t like those words, but.

Lisa: We don’t like reality. We don’t like it when it happens. We don’t like it. Sometimes we’re like way in and it happens. But yeah, when when when you’re not in lockstep when you’re not moving forward, you have stalled or stopped. And that’s kind of the death nail for for advancing.

Nancy: Yeah, you know, I love stories. We chatted before this, you love stories, so share a story with the audience that they would really find interesting and fascinating.

Lisa: Absolutely. So one of my favorite stories, so many stories, but one of my favorite stories was a was one of my clients that had the opportunity for really big deals. And we, we did all the things we put together the account team, and we scored the opportunity that we and we chose someone we started working with that with those opportunities and developing them. And they identified an opportunity for basically a 40 million what ended up being a $40 million deal. So even though their type of business lent itself to big deals in general, this was big, even on their scale. The problem was that, that the prospect didn’t really, they preferred somebody else, they already had a partner that they that they liked. 

And then in addition to that, there were some some kind of hurdles that seemed a little bit insurmountable, some geographical hurdles, that that was that were a big thing. So even though this big opportunity was out there, it didn’t start from a position of strength and it wasn’t an existing customer. You always increase your chances if you’re trying to expand an existing customer, but this was a brand new customer never did business. They prefer or prospects they preferred somebody else. Plus there are some big challenges. And that’s so that’s typical that happens. It’s like you’re at the beginning and you’re just looking at this wall. And we just persevered. We just kept meeting and we did all kinds of strategy work. 

We we did a relationship map who do we know who do we need to know how do we really grow the relationships we did a SWOT thinking about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, both from an internal perspective and external. What did they think were the strengths versus what the prospect might have viewed as the strengths. And then we we use that landscape to develop our our strategy, our overall strategy, and our short, medium and long term goals for for this opportunity. And we just kept meeting we probably met, you know, when when things were really happening, we’d meet like every couple of weeks to do strategy work, we never met less than once a month. And, you know, all that work, every single meeting that they had with that prospect, tons of pre call planning it all it all paid off. Nine months later they close that contract $40 million. 

Nancy: Wow.  

Lisa: New customer for them. And this is a coup de gras, Nancy, you’re going to love this. Within 90 days after they started implementing their solution, that brand new customer gave them a referral to somebody else with a similar up similar opportunity that they never would have probably known about. If they didn’t get that referral, just like, crazy.

Nancy: Wow. Holy cow. You know, you are all about planning. And I know you are insistent on pre call planning. And I can only imagine how many of these plans are put into place, especially when you go in after large business. I mean, why is it so important to have this stuff put down in writing on in the computer? Why is it so critical?

Lisa: Well, there’s all the strategy work. And to me, that’s account planning. And that’s critical, because here’s what I have found over the 30 years that I’ve been doing this. 16 years as as a consultant. Is that people get together. And if you don’t capture the the thinking and expertise of the team and the strategic, you know, insights, and the action items, if you don’t capture those things, then the next time they get to get together. And I’ve seen this play out so many times they couldn’t even count. They just talked about the exact same stuff. They get together again, and they just have the same conversation, but yet nothing happens. So so that’s probably the most important reason to capture the account plans. 

But you said pre call planning. And to me, those are two different things. You’ve got account planning. But then you have pre call planning. So pre call planning is planning for a very specific prospect meeting. And if I had a client one time in the Bay Area in California, and they said, Lisa, what is you know, if there was just one thing, what would it be? And I said it. Pre call planning. Because if you commit to rigorous pre call planning for all your prospect meetings, then your system, you’re improving your likelihood of of that meeting leading to another meeting, you’re avoiding the stalls and stops. And so basically, it’s where the rubber meets the road, why wouldn’t you want to plan for the interaction with the prospect, especially now, when it’s so hard to get those meetings? Right? 

So my thing lately, Nancy is pre compliant is no longer optional, is not optional anymore. If you want to, if you want to hit your quota, if you want to blow it out of the, you know, blow it out of the water, you got to commit to pre call planning. You have to do that you have to make sure every prospect conversation is productive.

Nancy: Yeah, you know, to me, sales is all about activities, doing the right activities to keep the conversations going forward. And I agree with you, it’s a huge component to at least you know, this way, you’re not guessing you’ve done your homework, you have some idea where you’d like to take this conversation along. So let’s segue into you, and what you would like me to spotlight.

Lisa: I think that that, or one of the things that if you go with the notion of pre call planning is no longer optional. One of the things that I think would be incredibly valuable for your listeners and your audience is my pre call planning guide. And, and that is what I would like you to spotlight. It’s it’s a two page fillable pdf, I use it myself, it’s rock solid in terms of kind of a thought process, it’s really just very simply walks you through the thought process. And your listeners can get that for free on my website, they can download it, and they can start using it today and they can start using it to improve their effects effectiveness. 

There’s lots of statistics around pre call planning and, you know, at a minimum, the statistics that are out there would say that they can bump their productivity by 20%. Meaning their cut their prospect news can be 20% more effective, just by committing to pre call planning. And it is a discipline. I mean you it’s it’s, you know, it tells people kind of like to wing it?

Nancy: I’m not a big fan of winging it. I mean, I learned a long time ago winging it is too exhausting. It’s exhausting, right. And by having a plan in place, takes the pressure off of what has to happen, right? You know what, so we’re gonna get to, at the end of our talk today, I want to make sure my listeners know how to find you. But, you know, one last, yeah, one last question. Last year, we touched on it right? It was a different year of selling, we all learned lessons. How can sellers apply what we learned from last year, I think you have a couple of ideas.

Lisa: I do have a couple of ideas on that, because I think we do need to kind of really dig deep as to what has changed. And you can see it in the statistics and the trends. And we all know it from just personal experience. Basically, we have to keep it simple distraction is our biggest enemy right now. Our prospects are distracted, we’re distracted, we’re all distracted, we have to keep it simple. Conversations have to be simple. Proposals have to be simple. Presentations or demonstrations have to be simple. Next steps have to be simple. Everything has to be simple. So that is one of the things. The other thing is it’s got to be about your prospects 100% of the time. 

And what I mean by that is, you cannot go into any meeting and be thinking about what you want to tell them, you have to be thinking about where they are and what they want to hear. And how can you add value to them based on where they are. And if you don’t keep that perspective, if you if you literally can put yourself in their shoes and kind of go, well, right now they’re collecting information they’re deciding on, they’re identifying any risks. They’re, you know, they’re sort of assessing the magnitude of their problem. We’re cackler, you add value to that, if that’s where they are, how can you add value to them. And if you if you keep that mindset of keeping things simple, you know, talking about risk, what perceived risk do they have. Getting it out on the table. 

Figuring out how to add value, then you’re going to you’re going to advance with them, they’re going to view you as that resource and that trusted partner and, and trusted resource, and they’re going to want to keep talking to you. And and you know not to keep coming back to pre call planning. But that’s a lot to accomplish in a in a prospect conversation, if you didn’t do your pre call planning. So pre call planning is where you sort of have that conversation be successful by design. It’s like, what are those discussion points? What questions do you want to ask? What value do you want to offer? All of that has to be thought about in advance during your pre call planning.

Nancy: Yeah. How long should a pre call planning take?

Lisa: Is that as you know, I get that question all the time. And here’s, here’s, here’s how I answer it. So if you are experienced, you know, it pre call planning has become a habit like, let’s just take my two page fillable PDF. Pre call planning form, you know, it has kind of a whole series that you want to think through and whatever to do your to get to your agenda and your your plan for the meeting. You know, if you’re experienced with that, and it’s just a call between you and you know, one person on the prospect side, you can do it in 15 minutes. You can quickly think through those things very quickly. 

It can be a 15 minute pre call plan. You know, there’s maybe a couple people either on the prospect side, your side’s a little more complex, maybe it’s 30 minutes. And if it’s a really important call, you’re planning for first time prospect, but it’s a big accountant. It’s a 5x opportunity, it’s going to take an hour. You’re going to have your account team, and you’re going to spend an hour. And if it’s an executive call, you know, a true C suite executive, you are going to take whatever time is required. And I’ve been on pre call planning, you know, meetings with my clients where we spend a couple hours planning for an incredibly important executive call. Because we know if we don’t we won’t get a second call. And that you know, once and done isn’t really gonna do anything for us.

Nancy: Yeah, by the way, I downloaded it. It’s awesome. So we’re gonna say, right, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I love the fact that you could just edit it online. You don’t have to print it, write it out. It’s all in the computer. So I think my takeaway right now as we’re wrapping up the program is sales is a sport, right? And activities become habits, right? Creating the habits that that will allow the conversations to move forward. Is that correct? And pre call planning

Lisa: 100 percent. 

Nancy: Is that habit. Key habit. 

Lisa: Yep, and if you just pick one thing, pick that, pick that and that will serve you well. Yes, if you want to go after really, really big opportunities, there’s more you have to do more than that. But pick pre call planning as the first thing as as, as that fundamental thing. I call it the multiplier effect, you know, you pick one thing, it’s going to have a multiplier effect. And that’s what pre call planning will do for your, your listeners. 

Nancy: Great stuff. So, how can my audience reach you?

Lisa: Yeah, well, they definitely going to want to go to my website, which is There’s all kinds of resources there. I’ve been on brighttalk for five, four years, and I’ve got webinars all that free content, really bright talk sales experts channel is a really great resource for sales people. But that pre call plan I believe it’s on the resource page at the bottom. And so they’re gonna want to get that. And also they can click through they can buy my book, they can click through and connect with me on LinkedIn. So that’s kind of the hub.

Nancy: That is is. Well,  thank you all for listening in and a special thank you Lisa for joining the program. Sharing your wisdom, your sales wisdom, with all of us and you know, remember to reach out to Lisa folks when you’re ready for 5x and you want to get things right. Make it a great sales day everyone and Lisa, I do hope you’re gonna come back.

Lisa: Thank you, Nancy. I would love to come back.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at