Seven years ago, my brother Phil was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (Good news: He’s still in great shape, running, biking, and water skiing.) I remember those traumatic weeks after the initial diagnosis, which were filled with fear, uncertainty, and unanswerable questions. Choosing a course of treatment was one of the toughest things Phil faced in those first days. He was inundated with information from doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and experts. At one point he called me and said, “I’ve realized that all information about this disease falls into one of two categories: It either is or isn’t a sales pitch.” The easiest way for Phil to filter information was to discount all the sales pitches by focusing on information that was presented without a self-serving bias.
There is nothing more obvious than an overt sales pitch. And there is nothing more likely to awaken a customer’s defenses.
What happens to you when you detect a pitch? Imagine these scenarios:
- You and your financial planner are discussing your long-term financial health, and you suddenly realize he is trying to sell you life insurance.
- You are chatting with someone at a party and you begin to think that he hopes to install the latest home security products in your house.
- A website that provides information about your disease is sponsored by a company that makes a medication your doctor didn’t recommend.
- Your teenager comes to cuddle on the couch with you, telling you what a great parent you are, and then, as soon as you are lulled into a stupor of family happiness, asks you for money to buy a new computer.
Doesn’t your perception change as soon as you detect the pitch?
Now, let’s flip this around. Do you ever set off “pitch detectors” in other people’s minds when you are trying to persuade them?
Before my new book, Ditch the Pitch, is published in October 2013, I will be giving readers of this newsletter an advance look. We will explore the concepts and habits taught in the book, giving you a “head start” in improving your ability to ditch the pitch as you persuade others.
Ditching the pitch is not only a lesson for salespeople; no matter what your job, it will help you become much more effective at getting people to agree with you. To get us started, let’s focus for now on how to avoid setting off these pitch detectors.
The first step to ditching the pitch is to develop awareness of when you are pitching. Watch out for situations like these:
- You are trying to persuade someone, and you are doing most of the talking.
- A customer asks you a question, and you respond with whole phrases or sentences that you have previously used to answer similar questions.
- In conversations with customers you find yourself saying, “as I always say …”
- You often hear customers respond to you with statements such as, “no, I’m not sure that’s right,” or “well, I’m not sure that’s what I’m looking for,” which could signify that you’ve been “forcing” your ideas on to them through pitches.
- Your conversations focus more on what you are offering and less on how the other person will benefit from what you are offering.
Ditching the Pitch is all about jettisoning your existing ideas of how to persuade someone, throwing out your scripted presentation, and improvising a fresh, spontaneous persuasive conversation. This means creating a conversation that is custom-made for the person you are persuading, in their particular situation at the very moment you are persuading. If you are doing most of the talking or using pre-written chunks of verbal material, it’s very likely that the other person will perceive your persuasion as a sales pitch. If you move the conversation along a path that the other person doesn’t want to take, or if you talk more about what you are offering than about the specific ways your offer benefits the other person, not only will the other person detect a sales pitch, they will also likely disengage from the conversation.
For the next few weeks, set your pitch detector on high alert. Be extremely aware of times when others are pitching you, and be even more aware of times when you fall into a sales pitch. As you develop a more heightened awareness of when a sales pitch is happening, you will be that much more prepared to improve your ability to ditch the pitch.
Stay tuned for upcoming issues newsletters where we will explore the Ditch the Pitch Habits, all of which will help you become a much more effective persuader.