As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I have a hard time just sitting through any sort of sales presentation and listening to the pitch. I find myself constantly taking notes about the presentation itself, rather than focusing on the product or service at hand. Today was no different. I was fortunate enough today to witness two different sales pitches, each for completely different services.
Without going into details on exactly what I was pitched on today, I saw this as a great chance to put forth some of my thoughts on building a solid pitch.
1. Be prepared. It should go without saying, but it’s all too common for a presentation to fall flat… not because the presenter didn’t know their product, but because they didn’t take the time to prepare to present it to their target audience. An unprepared, templated pitch is not unlike an annoying cold call. When it’s done, you know who called and you know what they were selling. You’re just not sure what any of it has to do with you.
2. Customize the pitch. To some of us, customizing is as much a no-brainer as putting on our shoes. For others, it seems to be well beyond their understanding. These are no longer the days of “cookie-cutter presenting,” where my service is a one-size-fits-all variety. Every customer who I pitch is unique. They have unique needs, unique conceptual understandings, and unique budgetary requirements.
Late this afternoon, I was talking with a colleague who was telling me how frustrated she was with a certain architect — an architect who told her that when they moved to their new offices, all projectors would be mounted on the ceiling in a specific way. After asking some questions, it was apparent that the architect was telling her that the format was how “all the other buildings are,” and nobody would use it any other way anyhow.
Why? Because ‘customization’ would be much harder than doing what the client wanted. And she told me that she planned to bring in a different architect. What a shocker.
3. Have examples. Not one-size-fits-all examples, but real examples that resonate with the client. This, of course, goes back to being prepared. Ask questions, do research *before* you step into that room to do your pitch. Make your presentation match their needs and you’ll see an immediate impact.
4. Ask questions and take notes. Ask more questions of your audience than they ask of you. Write down what happens while you pitch. If you can’t write while you’re talking, you better kick your memory into overdrive when you’re done. This really didn’t happen in either of the pitches that I was exposed to today. Both were bland, and in neither did my suitors ask me questions about what I need.
I’ve always followed a simple rule with questions — Ask two questions for every one they ask you. Now that takes effort!
5. Follow up. I can’t stress this one enough. The actual time spent in your presentation pales to your prep work and your followup. Fail to followup, and you can pretty much plan to fail.
BOTTOM LINE: Delivering a sales pitch is about a lot more than just showing up and spewing everything you know about your product or service. Preparing, customizing, showing examples, asking questions, and following up are the five critical links to success. Miss one of them, and you’ll be chasing the game forever.