Why Not Pitching is Your Best Sales Strategy
This article originally appeared on Smashing Quota.
Many salespeople mistake pitching with selling. Here’s what happens: the prospect answers the phone. The rep introduces herself, asks about the weather, and then starts talking about what she‘s selling — she pitches. If it’s a cold call, the prospect finds a way off the phone as quickly as possible (the blow off) or starts putting up objections. If it’s a discovery call, she fails to get an opportunity.
The fundamental problem is the mindset. Salespeople think, “I’m in sales, therefore, I need to pitch.” And yes, of course, salespeople do need to pitch at some point but not before other things happen.
The pitch mindset works against selling — especially for junior reps because in addition to it not helping sell, it intimidates them. They think, “how am I going to sell to these people?” and they default to, “I guess I’ll tell them all the great pitch points I’ve been given.” This often scares them away from wanting to talk to people so they default to email and calling only when they must.
Here’s the basic problem:
How can you pitch if you don’t know enough about the buyer’s needs to determine if they should buy what you’re selling? You make it all about you and not about them.
The best way to remedy this is simply to plan on not pitching.
It’s a simple mind-shift — or change in strategy, that will:
Make sales a whole lot more fun and interesting.
Help you actually sell more.
Approach the customer this way:
How can I learn as much about their needs as possible?
When I think I’ve learned as much as I can, will I and what I’m selling, help them with the needs they’ve identified?
When you’ve satisfied these two questions then present your solution in the context of what you’ve learned.
Why does this work? It is because you make the goal to help your customer. Helping results in selling.
To help them we need to relate. To relate we need to understand their needs, empathize with them, and see if we can help them with our solution.
For new reps, I’ve seen this mind-shift do wonders. They think the pressure is off. In training, they’re told, “forget about pitching. Simply get on the phone and ask a lot of questions and listen. Do this until they ask you about our service. Then share how our service would meet those needs you heard about.”
That’s pretty fun to witness. Having this mindset makes reps more excited to get on the phones, to talk to people, to relate, to learn, and to have good conversations. What they also discover is that this strategy works. By asking questions and letting the other person talk, they build empathy and credibility. And they sell more.
It’s amazing how smart you look when you ask good questions.
Good questions show subject matter expertise. There’s intrinsic value in the question itself that the customer recognizes. However, to ask these questions does require subject matter expertise. This is where product and buyer persona training come in. Learn as much as you can about your products as well as your buyers’ needs. Apply that knowledge, not to a premature pitch but rather to inform the questions you ask. The answers to those questions will eventually lead you to the pitch but it will be a pitch that is at the appropriate time and you can apply it directly to what your buyer expressed as a problem.
Does this approach sound too easy? Well, it is easy but it’s not too common. Sales reps and their leaders are very often looking for tricks, tips, and tech to game the selling process when all they need is a simple mind-shift to see immediate results. It makes a sales job a whole lot more fun, too.
Just remember, pitching is a part of sales, but it will do you more harm than good unless you set it up for success. This means working to understand the needs of the buyer first, and then pitching to those needs that your product solves.