Sales Pitch Points to Consider
If you’re on a sales call and find yourself talking for more than two minutes at a time, then shut up.
A friend and sales neophyte we will call David asked if I would do the favor of introducing him to a potential business prospect who was also a friend of mine. I obliged. He then asked me if I would accompany him on the call, first to make the introduction and second to offer my thoughts on his sales approach.
The call started fine. My contact had invited several associates, and we waded through the obligatory introductions and small talk before getting down to business. David took the floor saying he liked to explain his product using analogies and proceeded to offer several. One about coaching his son’s baseball team, one about a car he and his father restored in high school and one about his favorite vacation spot. Analogies that I’m sure seemed pertinent to him, but I could tell from their expressions that the meeting attendees shared my confusion about how any of them related to the subject at hand.
By now close to 20 minutes had expired, and the people at the table weren’t even sure what the meeting was about.
Then he fired up his computer and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation. For another 10 minutes he droned on, reading technical bullet points from his presentation. Some eyelids began drooping, a couple attendees snuck glances at their smart phones, and my contact looked quizzically at me and then down to his wristwatch.
Finally, David looked up at the group and said, “Well, our time’s about up. What are the next steps?” The response was a slightly kinder version of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Back in the parking lot, David said, “That went well, don’t you think?”
I asked him if he wanted my honest answer. He accepted the offer. I asked him how many questions he had asked of the customer. He thought back and admitted that he couldn’t think of one. I asked him to explain how his analogies and stories related to his product.
“Wasn’t it obvious?” he asked. I responded that if it was obvious I wouldn’t be asking.
I asked if he picked up on the visual cues that he was losing his audience. He realized that he had gotten so wrapped up in his own presentation that he hadn’t paid much attention. At that point, he started to get the message.
I said he should be able to summarize his product and how it could help a potential customer by talking no longer than two minutes.
I told him he should devise a list of five to 10 questions he could ask a potential client. Had they ever experienced the problem his product could solve? If they had experienced the problem, how did it impact their business? Had they taken steps to solve the problem before? What were the results? If the solution they tried wasn’t successful, why hadn’t it been? Would they be open to trying another solution with better odds of being effective?
Not only would asking great questions engage the people around the table, but he would be completely armed with a litany of information to which he could respond throughout the rest of the meeting.
I suggested he devise three specific and brief stories about how he had worked with clients in the past, how his product had addressed it and how doing so had improved the clients’ businesses.
Finally, I told him to skip the recitation of PowerPoint bullets in favor of a brief product demonstration that included frequent references to the answers the group had provided to his previous questions and offered the audience an abundance of opportunity to interject with questions and comments along the way.
I suggested that, following his demonstration, he ask the audience to share how his solution might help them. “If they think you can add value, they will ask you back. If they don’t, you’ll be able to move on to the next prospect without wasting a lot of time on someone who isn’t going to buy anyway. Sound good?”
“Yes, but that seems like a lot to remember, how would you summarize it?”
“Try this,” I responded. “If you’re on a sales call and find yourself talking for more than two minutes at any one time, then shut up.”