Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shake Off Your Stale Sales Pitch

We all learn them: Long pitch, short pitch, elevator speech, card-passing catch phrase...  They are useful; they help us stay on track when we're nervous, and help us cover all the high points in the face of distractions.  And sadly, they can be total killers of a relationship with a current of potential client. 

Everyone wants to buy, and no one wants to be sold.  As sales professionals, we are the least likely to tolerate being "pitched" anything.  So why do we do it as often as we do?  The pitch is a last resort, a checklist, and definitely NOT the relationship builder we need in this competitive market.  So what works? 

Have the client sell themselves.  It's easier than it sounds.  Everyone wants to talk about themselves, their successes, their challenges, and the "obstacles" they have to overcome.  There are a series of questions most clients will find attractive enough to answer, even when they are pressed for time.  In general, they involve asking about current successes, future goals, and challenges to be overcome. When your client answers, they're giving you all the information you need to tailor your offerings to their current situation, and to where they want to be headed. 

Ask targeted probing questions.  We have all sat through dozens of seminars telling us to use probing questions, but no one seems to talk about targeting them.  Read recent press releases, and ask questions based on the image the company is trying to present.  "What made you decide to expand into the Syracuse market?"  Notice their differential advantage, and ask how that focus is working out.  "Your free delivery is the only one in the industry.  Have you seen a change in your customer retention?"  It doesn't matter whether these facts are related to your product or service - it matters that the client understand you are interested in the overall health and productivity of his business.  These questions make you an ally, not a salesman.  Now you're entering the "trusted advisor" stage of the relationship, and that's where you want to be.

Separate features from benefits.  When we deliver a feature and follow it up with a benefit, we can easily fall into a pitch.  When we start with a benefit, "Our customers hire us so they don't have to be experts in small business banking," it's easier to stay client focused.  "How much time do you want your people to spend managing your banking needs?"  Listen to the answer.  The client will tell you where he wants his staff focusing their attention.  Now incorporate those answers into a targeted outline of the features your product/service offers.  "Introducing a new product line in your company is what you excel at.  We would be happy to manage your payroll and credit card processing for you.  We'll save you time, money, and most important, take away that distraction from what you're in business to do."

Keep business and executive profile notes.  This is a must for prospective and new clients, as well as a great way to focus your meetings for existing ones.  If you have existing customers who aren't giving you enough of their business, it's time to make an appointment to "update their business profile."  What is the company's current focus?  What are they moving away from?  What do they see as their biggest strength?  Who are their primary and secondary competition?  Who are the key players, and what is their contact information?  Does their business run deadline-driven cycles?  What are those deadlines or cycles?  When is the most convenient time to contact the decision makers?  Point out that you want to be a resource to their company, and ask what else you should know to make that happen.  Don't sell in these conversations.  Let the customer come to you.  These questions encourage the most honest and creative statements on the part of the customer, and listening is what you need to do.  As you stand up to leave, offer to make a separate appointment to present solutions to their needs.  "I'd like to consider what you've told me and tailor some materials for you to address (this need)."  Your customer will ask you to stay if they have time, and make an appointment to learn more if they don't. 

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