The first step to making a sale is to actually arrive. With today’s technology and communication tools it is very easy to hide behind a variety of impersonal, pre-designed, automated responses and offerings in the hope of landing a customer.
The first tip to a salesperson is show up if you want to close more deals - and be present with the client. Listen with the intention of understanding so you can fully grasp the problem before offering a solution.
A quick once off sale may be the result of the customer’s pure need for product, but in most cases and definitely in larger sales strategies where repeat business is required, it is the rapport and the business relationship created that closes the deal.
Possible reasons why salespeople don’t follow through and pitch up
A sales pitch is usually a planned presentation or strategy designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service. When we are given leads we are expected to follow a structured or formal sales pitch in order to make a sale, and it is this very pitch that may be preventing us from pitching up.
It’s difficult talking to strangers. Opening badly can put people on the defensive and then it is difficult to gain rapport. Ego or reputation are at stake; if I lose a good lead what will the team think of me? Sometimes we focus too much on the fact that we may lose the sale and our focus is on winning rather than on relationship building. We may need to remember that there will be no sale without further communication so there is nothing to lose. The analogy here is if we focus on the pothole in the road, then that is what we are aiming for and it is a sure thing that that is what you will hit. The point of the analogy is about focus. We need to find ways to focus on building client relationships. Do not pitch for a sale rather pitch up for it.
I’ve found the following three focus areas to be very useful in improving my mindset about pitching up for the sale:
1. Confidence in the lead
If you have no confidence in the leads being generated by marketing this may also hinder you in pitching up for the sale. The time you spend on a poor lead is precious; you have to meet targets. The key to having confidence in your leads is to make sure you understand your company’s lead generating process and that there is clear communication between sales and marketing regarding what makes up a quality lead.
My advice here is to make sure you can answer the following questions:
- Are our leads generated as a joint effort between sales and marketing?
- Do I understand the buyer persona created for my product (ideal customer profile)?
- What are the criteria that marketing have used to define the Market Qualified Lead?
- Have marketing passed on all the information gained about the lead?
- Should the lead have been accepted as a Sales Qualified Lead i.e. does it meet the criteria that the sales team expect?
The blog post “Can your sales and marketing teams identify and generate a quality lead?” discusses these questions and helps to unpack the lead generating process.
2. Confidence in the product or service
The point of a sales conversation is to persuade a customer to purchase your product or service and to influence their decision making in favour of your offering.
- It is extremely difficult to do this if your belief in your product or service is not there. If there are any doubts in your mind about the quality or usefulness of your offering then it makes it harder to feel confident about pitching up for the sale. The only advice I can offer here is to research, research, research.
- Find out what makes your product unique.
- Overcome your own objections to your product. If you feel it’s expensive then find ways to justify it (create value in your own mind first, otherwise you will never feel comfortable trying to create value in a customer’s mind).
- If you feel it’s not as good as other products in the market research the flaws in those other products, compare features and benefits.
- Build up an impenetrable wall of value to surround your offering.
- Find out what your product/service’s unique selling point means to you. You are not creating a “pitch” you are creating information that you can share with your customers when having a conversation with them.
3. Confidence in yourself
If you are not confident with your own sales skills and abilities then pitching up for a sales conversation is extremely difficult. The first sales conversation with a new lead is tough. After all, prospects tend to distrust sales people, they're guarded with their information, and they're extremely busy. A point to remember is that power is in the head; if you think you are powerful then you will feel powerful and if you feel powerful then you are powerful.
So how can you feel more powerful? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to ensure you have powerful, confident sales interactions:
- Do have something to talk about: Make sure you have all the marketing resources you need i.e. traditional printed material and online and mobile tools. Ensure you have confidence in the unique selling points and benefits of your product/service.
- Do know what to talk about: Make sure these resources get used properly once a conversation with a customer begins. If marketing have communicated the touch points initiated with this lead, you will know what their interest points are.
- Don’t rush it: Make sure you follow the pace set by your customer. Pushing customers with too much information or suggesting actions too quickly can result in push back from customers or even a retreat.
- Do talk to customer specifics: Your lead generation process should inform you of the interaction your business has had already with a prospective customer. Ensure you follow their interest points (touch points), find out more about their current situation and their pain points. Ensure that you can relate your product or services to the specific customer requirements.
- Don’t tell: Ask more than you tell. Gaining information is another way to gain power and build confidence. So find out as much about the customer as you can (specifically information that will give you access to value creation). Most people enjoy talking about themselves but ensure you keep your questions conversational and relevant to the situation.
- Do know how to open: Most sales people find the opening of the conversation to be the most daunting aspect and can be the one most critical factor that prevents salespeople from pitching up for the sale. Yet, this should be a continuation of the relationship already begun. Knowing how the lead was generated is vital as it will help you begin your conversation. Knowing what to let the customer know about how much you know of their movements is also key. You don’t want to come across as a stalker but you do want to let them know that you have an idea of their interests or needs.
- Do practice your opening but don’t script it: It is so important to come across as conversational and interested in your customer. Gather all the information you have about your lead into concise easy to read notes. Prepare your opening line to include mention of one of these touch points and a request (a question) to either offer further information or to ask a few more questions to see if you can be of assistance. Practice this opening using a variation of different touch points and questions and test it on colleagues to see which opening feels the most natural for your style.
One last tip regarding pitching up for the sale is to remember that first impressions count. Be prepared, be professional, look professional and sound professional. Create a connection.