Sales professionals have to nail their sales pitch all the time: over the phone, in person, with prospects, with established customers; a sales pitch can take place in any phase of the sales process.
But when a sales pitch involves large, complex sales, often with long selling cycles, or finals presentation as part of RFP processes, it pays to get them right. This is the time to demonstrate how thoroughly you’ve done your homework, how closely you’ve listened to the customer, what thought leadership and knowledge you possess in the customer’s industry, and how well your solution accomplishes its goals.
It is easily said, but it can be hard to convey when standing in front of the customer. What is needed is a plan that sets the stage for an effective sales dialogue at this important point in the selling process.
Making the Right Sales Pitch
(1) Tell their story: The pitch should be a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It should help your customer visualize the current situation and the desired end state. Think about an appropriate visual to capture your customer’s interest and make the scenario relevant for him/her.
(2) Summarize your understanding: Review what you know about the customer: what he/she is looking to accomplish, the priorities of his/her stakeholders, challenges facing the industry, and whether or not he/she is differentiated in the market. Then, check to validate your understanding. Also be sure to ask, “Has anything changed since we last spoke?” This kind of upfront summary lays the foundation for building trust and confidence in your ability to help the customer succeed.
(3) Use their words: Play back to them the wording, phrasing, and concepts they use themselves. “As John said when we first met …” or “Mary mentioned long selling cycles as a challenge …” A common language and usage of vocabulary can reinforce a shared understanding of the situation.
(4) Make it truly interactive: Don’t just ask, “How does that sound to you?” or, “What are your thoughts?” Ask some really good questions, including ones to which you don’t have the answers. It’s a matter of being specific with your questions. “To what extent do you think this would resonate with the X or Y segments of your client base?” The point is to get feedback along the way — not being overly solicitous, but looking to clarify key points.
(5) Ask more questions: At the end of the presentation, ask for feedback. “I know we’ve covered a lot, and your feedback on what we’ve covered is important. What resonated for you?” or “You’ve seen presentations from others — at this point, we would like to hear your thoughts on how we compare.” Let the customer speak, and don’t interrupt. Prompt for further explanation, if necessary, but don’t get defensive.
(6) Focus on Next steps: In the best of circumstances, this is when you would ask for the business. More realistically, in a finals presentation, you need to ask about next steps. “Who would be the best person to follow up with after the meeting?” or “Is there any additional information we can provide?” or “When would be a good time for us to reconvene?” The important thing here is to keep the conversation going and find out when and how a buying decision will be made.
In any pitch, it’s important to weave in what you’ve learned from the client and then bring some of your own insights and thought leadership to the table. This not only builds credibility for your solution, but helps to reinforce the value in doing business with you and your company.