Why Sales Pitches Don’t Work

A friend of mine, who is on the board of a local charity, once gave this reason for turning down a lunch invitation from me: “I have an appointment with a potential big donor, and I’m going to meet with him and deliver my shpiel.” I thought this was a sorry excuse for missing lunch with me. A “shpiel, ” is just a sales pitch, and sales pitches don’t work. 

Your donors don’t want to hear sales pitches. More importantly, they are usually not 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.

Every one of your donors is unique, and every one of them has a unique reason for giving. More importantly, every donor believes that he is unique, and that his reasons for giving are unique. If an individual donor is on the receiving end of a pre-scripted sales pitch, he will feel as if the pitch was written for someone else, not for him. 

If you want to connect with a donor, and walk away with a check, you need to identify her reasons for giving. Your sales pitch summarizes your reasons that she should give. As Aristotle said, “the fool tells me his reasons. The wise man persuades me with my own.”

Ditch the Pitch

If you want to improve your fundraising effectiveness, ditch the pitch. Tear up your sales pitch, and replace it with something much more effective: an improvised conversation.

Real conversations are unscripted, unfolding in the moment. What each person says, at any point in time, is informed by what was said before. When you ditch the pitch and improvise a conversation, you are able to create an experience for the donor that is informed by what you learn from him during that conversation. This makes the experience much more interesting and relevant for him.

How to Ditch the Pitch

My book, Ditch the Pitch, outlines six habits that can help you develop the fluency to abandon your sales pitches and instead create fresh, spontaneous persuasive conversations.

Habit 1: Think Input Before Output

In a conversation with a donor, let everything you say or do be informed by what you hear and observe.

Habit 2: Size Up the Scene

As you listen and observe, take stock of your potential donor’s character and situation to understand what this particular donor’s reasons for giving may be.

Habit 3: Create a Series of “Yeses”

A conversation only moves forward if both parties continually agree to let it move forward. Always find something to say “yes” to as you speak with your donor, avoiding the words “no” and “but.”

Habit 4: Explore and Heighten

As you engage your potential donor, look for ways to take the conversation to a higher level. Explore to find what your donor really cares about and then heighten by discussing why these things are important.

Habit 5: Focus the Conversation on Your Customer

Resist the temptation to talk about your organization. Instead, have a conversation that is mostly about the donor.

Habit 6: Don’t Rush the Story

Your donor won’t be ready to hear your ideas as fast as you come up with them. Let the story emerge through your conversation, at a pace your donor can accept.

If you practice these habits, you will improve your ability to persuade by ditching the pitch and, most importantly, your organization will thrive and be more capable of doing its good work in the world.

Originally published in Giving Tomorrow’s September 2019 issue.

About Steve Yastrow

Steve is a non-stop idea generator, advisor and sales author who guides businesses to drive results by developing the dedicated commitment of their customers and employees.

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