People do not want to be assaulted by one-way communications. They want to be invited into two-way conversations where they can be heard and understood.

But a “pitch” is inherently a one-way process. You pitch something over the side of a boat into the sea. A pitcher pours water in one direction – out. To throw a baseball is to pitch. What happens when a pitcher throws a ball directly at a batter? The batter usually ducks or jumps out of the way. Here are the top five reasons people are so averse to sales pitches.

Why sales pitches don’t work, #1: Your customer doesn’t care about your story

I’m sorry to be the one to deliver the bad news, but here’s the unadorned truth: Your customer really doesn’t care what you have to say about yourself, your company and your products. Your story is not that interesting to him. He cares much more about his own story. This is at the heart of why sales pitches don’t work.

Your customer spends 1% of 1% of 1% of his time thinking about products like yours, but he spends each waking minute thinking about himself. He only cares about your story to the extent that your story can enrich his story.

The greatest myth of marketing and sales is that customers want to hear our stories. They care about their own stories, and a sales pitch is, inherently, your story. What do you think is more likely to catch the attention of your customer, a story about you or a story about him?

As Aristotle said, “The fool tells me his reasons. The wise man persuades me with my own.”

Why sales pitches don’t work, #2:
If you are pitching, your customer will stop listening

Because your customer cares so much more about his own story than he cares about your story, it is really difficult to hold his attention as you deliver your sales pitch. If you give a sales pitch, it’s highly likely that your customer will be distracted by thoughts of other things, everything from his next meeting to making sure he gets to his son’s little league game tonight.

Your customer has many important things to do today. If you focus too much on your story, those more immediate concerns will draw his attention away from you.

Why sales pitches don’t work #3:
Your customer wants to talk

Your customer wants to talk. Specifically, your customer wants to talk about himself.

It is not enough to ask questions during your pitch, or to leave moments in your pitch for your customer to talk. This won’t feel like talking, it will feel like answering. It is the difference between a conversation and an interview.

Most people love to talk. And, they are much more engaged in the moment when they are talking than when they are listening.

Why sales pitches don’t work #4:
It’s a one in a million chance that your canned pitch is what this particular customer wants or needs

If you throw a canned sales pitch at someone, the odds of that pre-scripted message being the right message for that customer, at that particular time, are very slim.

Every customer has slightly different needs, nuances and interests. A sales pitch is relatively inflexible and will not be able to adapt to what you will learn during a customer interaction.

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 details that make this customer unique.

Why sales pitches don’t work #5:
You make the customer do the work of attaching your features to his needs

Your product may be exactly what your customer needs. But your customer needs to see the connection between what you offer and what he needs. This isn’t so easy.

If you are telling your customer how wonderful you are, and how your product benefits people like him, you are requiring him to make the specific connection between his needs and your offering. That’s a lot of work, and he’s not inclined to do it. Your approach to sales should help your customer see this connection.

We’ve seen the top five reasons sales pitches don’t work. So what are we supposed to do? Stop selling? Of course not. We just need to stop making sales pitches.

Instead, we need to create sales conversations. We need to Ditch the Pitch.

1 Comment

  • Don Drews
    Nov 20, 2010 - 12:41 pm

    Your 5 reasons sales pitches don’t work is dead on, Steve. Selling is changing (along with Marketing) and the “We interaction” approach–a unique conversation about their world–is what customers have really always wanted. The good news: it’s still early enough in the shift that sellers who ditch the pitch will stand out. Keep it coming!

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