An Interview is a Pitch
When I started selling, one of the first things I learned was to ask customers questions. I prepared for one of my first sales calls by writing down a number of questions I could ask my customer and, as the meeting started, I began asking question after question after question. At one point the customer, who was quite a bit older than me, grinned and asked, “So kid, what’s with the interview?”
I was mortified. I immediately realized what my questioning must have felt like to him. But I didn’t know what to do instead. Aren’t we supposed to ask customers questions?
Now I understand why this approach was ineffective: My questioning certainly felt scripted and inauthentic to my customer, as if I were taking him through a survey. It was as synthetic and artificial as a sales pitch. Now I know what to do instead: Ditch the Pitch.
Sales pitches don’t work because they are generic, one-way and get in the way of genuine dialogue. Firing off questions at your customers can have the same effect. Because it doesn’t feel natural to your customer, the customer can feel like you are trying to pry information out of them for your own benefit. Customers love to be asked questions, but they don’t like to be grilled.
One of the key Ditch the Pitch principles I teach is “turn every presentation into a conversation that matters.” The same could be said for questioning a customer: turn every interview into a conversation that matters.
When, in the course of normal, healthy conversation, we ask our friends questions, we do it in the context of natural, human dialogue. We engage, we listen, we play off of one another, we co-create. We don’t interview our friends. We just talk, and by doing this we learn things about each other and refine our thinking.
This is how you want to ask your customer thoughtful questions. You want to create a natural, authentic conversation, in which your questions are elegantly woven into a collaborative dialogue. This will help your customers feel comfortable. They will not only share important information with you, they will also be more inclined to hear what you have to say in return.
We all know that sales pitches don’t work and that we have to replace them with conversations that matter to our customers. Don’t assume that asking questions creates a conversation; an interview is really just another kind of pitch. Instead of interviewing your customers, Ditch the Pitch.
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Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch. More importantly, they’re not usually persuaded by sales pitches. If you deliver a sales pitch and walk away with a check, you have succeeded in spite of your pitch, not because of it. Tear up your sales pitch, improvise and engage your customers in conversations they care about.
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Ditch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion.
Embrace the Ditch the Pitch Habits to effortlessly enable spontaneous conversations that persuade customers to say “yes.” When you develop the skills and confidence to improvise persuasive conversations, you will capture your customers’ interest without a pitch.