Ditch the Pitch! has certainly been my theme lately. Since I’m deep into writing a book by that name, this writing experience has me super-tuned in to the problems with pitches.

So if you want to avoid sales pitches, what do you substitute them with?

Sales conversations.

Nobody wants to hear your pitch, but they may want to be in a conversation with you. So if you ditch the pitch, and instead focus on creating an engaging dialogue with your customer, you will have a much better chance of success, no matter what it is you are selling.

A sales conversation gives you the opportunity to adapt to your customer’s situation. It gives you a chance to let your customer talk. It gives you a chance to avoid saying things your customer doesn’t care about.

Let’s look at the contrast between sales pitches and sales conversations:

The Sales Pitch The Sales Conversation
You deliver it You and your customer engage in it
It’s about you It’s about the customer
You script it, planning what to say ahead of time You and your customer create it, determining what to say as the conversation unfolds
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 wait for feedback You receive feedback throughout
You sell to a customer You build a relationship
You talk about what you are selling You talk about your customer
It is boring to your customer, and it gets more boring as it proceeds It is interesting to your customer, and it gets more interesting as it proceeds
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
One in a million chance it is appropriate to your customer’s situation. Highly likely it is appropriate to your customer’s situation.

Any time you are giving a sales pitch, you will be better off with a sales conversation. Anytime. No exceptions. Even if you are presenting to a committee of 13 stuffed-shirt, sour-pussed, RFP-issuing, procurement-driven buyers, you will improve your chances of success if you can create a conversation. And it’s even more true if you are in a real-life, one-on-one sales situation.

Go for relevance. Go for interest. Converse.

Avoid seeming self-centered. Avoid boring your customer.
Ditch the Pitch.


  • John Ladd
    Nov 30, 2010 - 10:48 am

    Excellent post.
    I’m a fundraiser for a Quaker Pre-K through 12th grade school and in that capacity read and learn from you often.
    Many in the development profession balk at recognizing the parallels between our profession and selling. The way you present selling is fully in line, though, with what we do.
    I enjoy the job of helping people discover if Carolina Friends School is a cause worth supporting and ways to support it that are meaningful to them and our school.
    Thanks for the sage advice.

    Nov 30, 2010 - 12:46 pm

    Superb Post!

    Thanks fir sharing the knowledge Steve.


  • Steve Yastrow
    Dec 03, 2010 - 15:32 pm

    John’s point that not-for-profits need to “ditch the pitch” in order to engage donors, volunteers … and even recipients of their work … is incredibly important.

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