The success of the sales pitch is determined by the pre-pitch preparation. As they say fortune, favours the prepared.
It is a popular fallacy that if rival suppliers are pitching to one client, the supplier with the most competitive prices will win the client.
However even sellers with the lower prices can show no sensitivity to the client or understand the buyer’s special requirements and lose out on the business.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of offering a low price and not doing your homework. I have often heard customers complain ‘They were so over-confident about their prices that they had made no effort to do any background study on our Company, and the type of people we employ,’
It is very easy to do some research and pre-planning to ensure you can meet the needs of the customer. Remember that even slight mistakes in preparing your pitch can lead to losing a sale.
A Personal Connection
T. V. Higgins a veteran marketing professional working with Royal Dutch Shell in many senior positions like County Head and Marketing Head once gave me a great piece of advice. At the end of the day pitch decisions boil down to the fact that ‘people will always buy people.’ These words have stuck in my head because over the years that view has been validated over and over again. The personal connection that sellers invest in building prior to the pitch is an important part of their success at the sales pitch.
This connection can be developed and strengthened by some creative legwork. Following are the 5 pre-pitch steps that we can take to ensure a triumph at the pitch itself:
1. Shut up and listen
According to Stephen Covey the author of 7 Habits of highly effective people, ‘Seek first to understand than be understood.’ Most people do not listen to understand; they are either speaking or preparing to speak. Like the example above where Susan’s self-absorbed sellers lost a pitch because they seemed devoid of listening, understanding or researching.
When we listen to people we give them importance, and in the process glean important information from them as well. Knowledge is power; if someone is giving you that power, don’t refuse it.
To encourage prospects to express their real concerns we can ask them exploring, open-ended questions. This would allow you to diagnose before you prescribe. Experts recommend using matching body language to help people relax around you and this would also prove to them that you support their stance.
2. Why do you like people?
Your answer will be open people who are interesting and interested. They put you at ease, use humour in their dealings and always seems to have an exciting topic of discussions. These same traits will make you likable as well.
People also like others who they share something with, like an interest or ideology. Often we see football fans drawn to each other in an animated discussion.
If you are looking to make a successful sale than you need to get under the skin of the buying company and not just scratch the surface. You can do this by studying the interest, hobbies, and backgrounds of the buyer’s team, or where do they come from. This will help you find an area of mutual interest that can act as a bridge on which you can build your conversation and later your sale.
As an example if your prospect is into paragliding, you might want to experience the sports. Or if not, then read up on the subject extensively so that you may have an informed discussion on this topic.
3. Build Trust
When you are looking for a plumber you will generally seek a reliable or a ‘safe’ pair of hands that you can trust. Your trust will be reinforced by the recommendation of your friends or colleagues. Trust is nothing but a belief and belief is easier to establish when you have hard evidence.
Similarly for your business endorsements from your current and past clients is a good source to establish yourself as a professional. With solid recommendations clients will be confident that you can offer them a fast, good quality product at a fantastic price.
Some sales people write the endorsement themselves and get their favourite client to sign on it. This will ensure that they have covered all the ground.
Shaun Varga in his book ‘Brilliant Pitch’ suggests thinking from your client’s perspective and digging up your success stories that might interest them. What have you done in the recent history that would help you project your strengths? Weaving these stories or examples of instances where you have shone would allow you to become a reliable professional others can trust.
4. Find out the person behind the title
Play the CSI NY by finding everything you can about the person you will be making a sales pitch to. Internet is a good source: sites like Linked In or the alumni sites are a gold mine of information.
Calling up the office to find out about the person in question is certainly a tool available to us. I have in the passed successfully phoned a prospective clients office to seek ‘advise’ about buying them a present. It’s interesting what their colleagues tell you about your prospect! Take this as the fun part of the sales process and proceed to the next level of learning.
Someone once said to me if you want to sell to a company you ought to have three levels of connections in it. These could be the senior manager or a director, a manger and an administrator or the eyes and ears of the boss. One person may make the decision but it’s most likely that she will take her team on board. Therefore don’t just focus on the big boss but also on the other supporter that you will need if your bid is to be successful.
5. Take a Winning Team
Steering ahead is a good idea for a car with aligned wheels. Similarly for a sales team each member should be there for a purpose that is clear to all. Each member should add to the team constructively through knowledge, ideas, passion and personality.
Remember the A-Team, the 80’s era popular TV serial where each member was so different but brought important skills to the team overall objective. They had commitment, clarity and achievement-motivation that led to the success of their missions.
Fielding the right people with a good mix of personalities will give you an edge over the competition and help your team member bond with the buyer. Formulating a winning team with great synergy takes time and effort, but this is time worth spending.
A brilliant sales pitch is not a self-contained occurrence but a process that starts well before the actual event. It consists of research and preparation and on-going communication that eventually lead to success.
About the Author: Lubna Safdar Ahmed has an MBA in Marketing and holds a Diploma in Market Research from The Market Research Society, London.
She has over twelve years of work experience within the energy sector. Lubna has worked across borders as a global manager excelling within the area of learning and development, brand marketing and business efficiency.
At present she is running her training organisation called Experon from West London. The aim of Experon is to help organisations enhance their productivity by offering a superior customer experience.
To find out more please log on to the website: www.experon.co.uk
You can reach Lubna at: firstname.lastname@example.org