In the old days, a ‘sales pitch’ was the talk presented to customers to get them to buy training, but that’s not going to work today. Today’s pitch should be a two-way conversation backed up by the motivation to help the customer succeed. The sale will be a natural outcome of a well-crafted pitch and the right motivation.
First, it is imperative to capture the client’s attention. You’ll be competing for that attention with numerous other important people and projects, so it is essential to be organized. Since time is limited to grab attention, how you start is key. Some great starts include:
- A relevant and compelling question
- A captivating piece of information
- The response to a question the client posed
- The re-articulation of a problem they’ve said they had
To be on target, know who you are talking to. Know something about the business, something about common issues in that business, and something about their competitors. Tailor your message so that you sound like a colleague, not a stranger. This will also help you craft a concise message that gets right to the point–a method busy people appreciate.
Get to the right person. The best sales pitch in the world will fail if it is not directed at the right person. You want a decision maker. If you don’t get one, ask how the process will work and what you can do to prepare your contact to inform the decision maker.
Identify a time limit. Customers can be distracted if they think you’ll go on forever, so let them know how much time you will take and only expand it if it is clear they want you to. If they don’t, they will appreciate your consideration. If they do, they will appreciate the favor of more time. Either way, you win.
Know your stuff. You will be talking to subject matter experts. Don’t fake it if you are not one. Ask decent questions, but don’t pretend you know something you don’t. On your second call, take an SME (subject matter expert). You’re an expert in training not subject matter, so your clients won’t expect you to know their subject content, but they will know if you are faking expertise.
Make sure you’ve understood their challenge. They called you for a reason. What was it? Make sure you understood how the performance they have is not quite filling the bill. Or perhaps they have an opportunity and they want to maximize it. Be sure you understand the problem before you start thinking of solutions or before you decide if the solution the client is proposing will work or not. Try to find out how much it costs them to have this problem because eventually you will want to compare the cost of having the problem to the cost of buying the solution. This will be a key selling point. Articulating the solution more clearly than the client did will let them know you get it.
Be prepared to address objections. If they’re serious about buying, they’ll be serious about raising objections, so don’t duck. Come at objections in a friendly and direct way. The most common objections are Budget, Authority, Need, and Time (BANT), so be sure to consider the possibility that they’ll have an objection in one or more of these areas. Objections are easy to recognize: “We can’t afford it.” “I am not the one to decide.” “I am not sure this is what we need,” or “I am not sure we can get to this any time soon.” You won’t need to press if your solution meets their needs and addresses their objections.
If the competition is playing, address why you’re better. Answer the question, “Why should we use you and not…” Even if you’re not sure if the competition has their hat in the ring, you should clearly establish why you’re the right one for the job. Use testimonials, referrals, stories about similar jobs, and a client list to help you accomplish this.
Listen, listen, listen. Check in every few minutes and recap what you are hearing. You want the client to know you are listening, and you want to be sure you are getting it right. If you’re not, it’s fine, so just correct your understanding and check in again. This will save wasted time later and can be the difference between keeping and losing a client.
Don’t acquiesce to every bad idea the customer has. Remember this is a job. You have to think about the next decade, not the next contract. Customers will make many bad decisions if you let them. Don’t do it; it will hurt you both, and they will blame you.
Don’t bore them to death. Spend 80 percent of your time asking questions and listening. You are not nearly as interesting to your clients as they are to themselves. Your strongest support for a sale is to get them talking about their work, their challenges, their goals, and what they need. The natural outcome of such a focus is a sense that you will be great to work with.
Have a call to action. If clients are ready to close, do it, and be prepared. If not, tell clients what the next steps are. Don’t wait for them to decide what they should be. It is your responsibility to keep the ball moving. Clients might need a call-back, a meeting, a document like a proposal, or some more information such as price or names of instructors or times you can train. They might need to ask a decision maker. Whatever you do, keep clients moving in the direction of a sale and help however you can.
Spend time getting your sales pitch in order. It really should be quite different in each case. Familiarize yourself with these steps well enough that they are second nature in a sales call. Think in advance what you will say, how you will say it, and in what order it will come. Take a gentle lead on the conversation and be flexible if the client wants to take it in another direction, but always come back to cover each of these sales pitch basics. Remember, it’s a conversation, not a monologue. Last of all, be grateful for the time and the opportunity to get the work.