We all love a good listicle, but we can boil all of these down into one piece of advice: stop pitching. That’s right; differentiate yourself from the pitch. Okay, cold callers, you still get your 30 second elevator pitch, but everyone else, take a deep breath because it’s time to change things up.
Before worrying about whether you’re being “too available,” or too eager or not building enough suspense, turn your worries away from yourself and take a look at what the word pitch meant in the past, and why it no longer works with today’s buyers.
The Traditional Sales Pitch
The traditional pitch is one where the rep lays out a rehearsed spiel to sell the prospect on his company or product. If you’re a sports fan, the image you get isn’t all that different: the pitcher and the hitter are on opposing teams, with completely different goals. If it’s a bad pitch, the hitter doesn’t throw the ball back for the pitcher to throw it again in a friendly game of catch. And if a salesperson has a bad pitch, the buyer has zero incentive to give him/her another shot. To use another baseball metaphor, if your pitch doesn’t connect with what your buyer has heard, you’re out.
The Customer-Centric Model
“Our buyers are very sophisticated and don’t care about a canned pitch,” says Mediafly Sales Director and author of Maximizing Productivity, John Burns. “They care about the value that you’re providing them, and that’s where listening comes in.”
That’s not to say that you should walk into a meeting unprepared; chances are your buyer has done their homework on your company and your competition, which means that you need to be more prepared, but at the same time, less rehearsed. As Forrester Analyst Peter O’Neill has discussed, sales reps need to become “content concierges.” The best salesmen, he said, will have a mix of these attributes:
- Having an understanding of their customers’ life cycles and where a particular customer is in that cycle
- Knowing how to use social selling tools
- Following the many available data insights about their customers
- Thinking about the buyer’s point of view instead of their own
- Nurturing and feeding leads from marketing so they can step in when those buyers are qualified
- Thoughtfully distributing your company’s content, and even that of other sources, to buyers
The long and the short of it is that the standard pitch and these attributes aren’t compatible. By looking at just one of these attributes and thinking about the buyer’s point of view, it all but eliminates the stereotypical one-way pitch. The truth is in the numbers. The number of salespeople who are classified as order-taker and explainers is on the decline by over a million B2B reps by 2020. On the rise? Sales reps who take a consultative approach.
So, how can salespeople become consultants and stay relevant for today’s B2B buyer? They can differentiate themselves by taking a page from Richard Branson and listening more. Instead of practicing their pitch beforehand, they need to be agile and pivot the conversation as needed with the right content at the right time. Instead of crafting a monologue, think about the best questions you can ask to pinpoint your buyer’s needs and concerns. You can show not just the value of your company or solution, but you can help that specific buyer. When you stop pitching, you’ll be able to start engaging buyers on a deeper level, and forge lasting relationships.
Learn more about how salespeople can empower themselves in the Age of the Customer in Peter O’Neill’s recent Forrester-Mediafly webinar, “An Empowered Sales Rep Becomes a Content Concierge.”
Photo: With a Megaphone By a Wall by Garry Knight | CC BY 2.0