Stop “pitching” when you sell. It’s so one-way.
Instead of the sales pitch, think about the sales conversation.
Most successful selling isn’t about convincing. It’s about diagnosing. If you are pitching, it is only a coincidence if the pitch you toss at your customer lands in the right place. Unlike a sales pitch, a good sales conversation helps you diagnose your customer’s interests, needs and opportunities. And, it helps you identify the “spices” that make this customer unique.
Another danger of the sales pitch: People don’t like to listen to monologues. If you pitch, they will only hear some of what you say. If you manage to create true, genuine dialogue, they will be engaged in every word.
When you prepare for an interaction in which you have to sell something, stop thinking about what you want to say and start thinking about the kind of conversation you want to have. You can’t script a sales conversation, of course, or it really wouldn’t be a conversation. But you can think about how you will create a fluid dialogue, about how you will get the customer talking and revealing, and about how you will be 100% engaged for every moment of this conversation. You can have your toolbox of ideas and comments ready, at your side, but prepare yourself to have the patience to pull these ideas and comments out only at the appropriate time, bringing them into the conversation when the conversation arrives at the right place.
Sales conversations are much different than sales pitches. They are also more effective. Can you add to this list of differences between a sales pitch and a sales conversation?
|The Sales Pitch||The Sales Conversation|
|You deliver it||You and your customer engage in it|
|You script it||You and your customer create it|
|It is prescriptive||It is diagnostic|
|It is one-way||It is two-way|
|You sell to your customer||You help your customer buy|
|You guess about what you should say||Your customer shows you what to say|
|You receive feedback after you talk||You receive feedback throughout|
|You sell||You build a relationship|
|You talk about what you are selling||You talk about your customer|
|It’s a coincidence if you say what your customer wants to hear||You are very likely to say what your customer wants to hear|
|You plan what you want to say ahead of time||You determine what to say as the conversation unfolds|
|You are reading sheet music||You and your customer are playing jazz together|
To illustrate the effectiveness of sales conversations, following are two scenarios contrasting the sales pitch with the sales conversation:
The Scene: A wedding planner meets with a bride and her mother. The bride is getting married next year and is thinking about hiring a wedding planner.
Scenario #1: The Sales Pitch
The wedding planner sits down with the bride and mother and launches into a description of her services, gushing about how a wedding is, “a girl’s special day,” and that she can help make the bride’s wedding a dream come true. She shows them glossy brochures with pictures of weddings she has planned, emphasizing how each of her brides feel so special on her wedding day.
The bride interrupts, saying, “Actually, my fiancé is very excited about our wedding and wants to be involved in the planning. He couldn’t make today’s meeting because he is getting a root canal.”
“Well, that’s great! It’s good to let the boys think they are in charge.” replies the planner with a wink. Then, she asks, “What venue have you chosen?” (The planner knows this is an easy way to assess the budget of a wedding because brides always choose the venue first.)
The bride hasn’t thought of the venue yet, and the planner doesn’t quite know where to go from there. The bride is left with the distinct impression this planner does not share the couple’s vision for the wedding.
Scenario #2: The Sales Conversation
The wedding planner sits down with the bride and her mother and requests, “Please, tell me about your wedding.”
The bride launches into a description of colors, design (she mentions her fiancé is a fashion designer) and cakes; emphasizes needing to accommodate out of town family and also admits to confusion about where to have the wedding. “We just don’t know how to get started choosing a venue. It’s so overwhelming.” she sighs. Her mother chimes in that her elderly mother will need special assistance and that they don’t want anything outdoors.
From the onslaught of information, the planner identifies the venue selection as the most important source of stress for the bride. She assures them she will limit the selections based on their preferences and budget and can handle the negotiation with the venue management. She also starts a conversation about the groom and learns he will be designing the wedding party’s attire.
The bride and her mother leave this meeting feeling reassured the wedding planner understands them and are confident the wedding will be stress-free if they hire her.
An effective sales conversation is a relationship-building encounter.(For more on encounters, see the sidebar) Your customer moves closer to a purchase not because you have convinced him of your superior features and benefits, but because you have helped him think “We” when he thinks of you.
We all have things to sell. Ideas, projects, products, services, solutions, ourselves… the ability to sell influences the career of each person reading this newsletter, no matter what title is written on your business card. If you ditch the pitch, and substitute it with dialogue, your ability to persuade people will increase — immediately.
The next few times you are in a situation where someone is selling you something, notice whether they are pitching or conversing. How do you react to each of these types of selling? Are you more likely to buy from a sales pitch or a sales conversation?
How do you compare?
What about you? Are you a sales pitcher or a sales dialoguer? Do you deliver messages to your customers, or engage in conversations with your customers?
Ditch the pitch!
Over the next week, as you prepare for selling interactions (you all will have opportunities to sell something in the next week), prepare yourself to have a sales conversation and to avoid creating a sales pitch.
In preparation, focus not on what you will say to your customer, but what kind of conversation you will have with your customer. Once the interaction starts, focus not on delivering your message, but on creating a genuine conversation. In your mind refer to “The Conversationometer,” a mental tool I use to monitor how well a conversation is going:
Download the full-size Conversationometer (Adobe PDF)
Are you creating true dialogue, or is one of you monologuing too much? Are you both listening to the other, and responding appropriately? How fluid is the conversation.
If you see things going astray, steer back on course.
Remember, the key to selling isn’t “selling.” It’s conversation.