Customers are unpredictable, so we need the skills to adapt to whatever situations they present to us. We need to ditch the pitch.As I’ve described in a series of articles, the six Ditch the Pitch Habits will give you an approach to enable you to improvise fresh, spontaneous, persuasive conversations with customers.

If you master the Ditch the Pitch Habits, you will be able to create conversations that matter to your customers, in just about any situation. So how can you master the Ditch the Pitch Habits?

Progress is like a dimmer switch

As with any habit, mastery takes practice. The more we practice, the better we become, and we improve progressively, over time. Habit development is not like flipping an on/off switch; we don’t suddenly develop good habits. It is much more like a dimmer switch: we improve gradually. As you practice the Ditch the Pitch Habits, focus on progress, not perfection, and you will see rapid improvements in your ability persuade.

Ditching the pitch in every customer conversation

Here’s some good news: You don’t have to stop what you are doing to practice ditching the pitch. You don’t have to rearrange your priorities or dedicate significant non-work time to learning. You can practice the Ditch the Pitch Habits in every interaction you have with a customer.

Every customer conversation is an opportunity to practiceditching the pitch. Each conversation will present different challenges, and you can use these challenges as opportunities to practice and improve. You can expect to get a little bit better at ditching the pitch every time you talk with a customer.

Ditching the pitch one habit at a time

Although I present the Ditch the Pitch Habits in a logical order, the habits are all interdependent and mutually reinforcing. While you eventually want to master them all, you can feel to work on the habits in whatever order works for you.

In a customer conversation, determine which habit or habits you want to focus on based on the situations you find yourself in with customers, and based on your personal strengths and needs for improvement.

As a first step, rate yourself on the six Ditch the Pitch Habits.On the following chart, rank your skills on each of the Ditch the Pitch Habits, from 1 through 6, with 1 representing your best habit and 6 representing the habit for which you have the most room for improvement.

The Ditch the Pitch Habits

My Rankings (Number 1-6, with 1 representing your best skills)

Habit #1:
Think input before output

Habit #2:
Size up the scene

Habit #3:
Create a series of “yeses”

Habit #4:
Explore and Heighten

Habit #5:
Focus the conversation on your customer

Habit #6:
Don’t rush the story

Yes, you want to work on the habits for which you rated yourself a 4, 5 or a 6, but it’s also a good idea to work on the habits for which you rated yourself a 1, 2 or 3. Let’s face it, no matter how good we are, we can always get better. (Just watch great hitters taking batting practice before a baseball game, or top-rated golfers at the driving range just before their tee times.)  The key is to recognize where you can improve, and be sure to focus on the various practices in different customer situations.

For example, let’s say that you meet with a customer, and he brings his new boss to the meeting. This is a perfect opportunity to practice Ditch the Pitch Habit #2, “Size Up the Scene.” The first practice associated with this habit is called “Know who you are with,” based on a simple idea: “Who before what.” Before you start getting deep into subject matter and content with the new boss, try to learn things about her.

Or, imagine that you meet with a customer who begins to tell you about an issue that is very important to her. This is a great opportunity to practice the habit Explore and Heighten.

Don’t focus on being perfect, focus on practice, and turn up the dimmer switch of improvement a little at a time. Think of every customer interaction as a laboratory in which you can improve your abilities to ditch the pitch. You will see continuous improvement in your abilities to persuade, and you will be well on your way to mastering the Ditch the Pitch Habits.


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