October 19, 2011

Nine Best Practices for a More Effective Sales Pitch

By Matt Heinz

Whether you’re seeking investors for a new business, partners to help sell your services, or new prospects to fill your pipeline, an effective sales pitch is critical.

We should all have a pre-meditated understanding of what we want to say, what message we want to communicate, and what impression and/or next step we want to drive with our audience. Here are nine best practices that will help you craft a more effective, successful sales pitch.

1. Answer the right question.
The typical starting point for a sales pitch is the question, “What do you do?” Don’t answer that question–at least, not directly. Instead, assume you have been asked, “Tell me what you do for your customers?” That’s what they really want to know, and it’s the best way to show what you do, versus describing how you do it.

2. Clarify the problem you’re solving.
Don’t assume that your audience understands the nature or scope of the problem. Succinctly summarize what’s wrong with the current environment. Paint a picture of the current or future pain your target audience is heading toward if they don’t do something different. This can be a general problem, an expected future situation, or a result that’s clearly unacceptable.

3. Focus on benefits and outcomes–not solutions.
Focus on the ends, not the means. Describe what you’ll enable for your customers, not how you get them there. They don’t want to buy a drill; they want to buy holes. In other words, what people want is more sales. If you sell sales, then talk about that outcome and what it can mean for the customer’s business or life.

4. Make your “we do this by” statement short.
Of course, you do something to achieve that magical outcome. And it’s important to reference how you get there. Just do it quickly. This is an elevator pitch, not a full business summary. More details on how you do it can come later.

5. Give a proof-of-concept example with metrics.
Back up your benefit/outcome statements with proof that you’ve done it before and can do it again. Give a few short examples of current or past customers, and what you achieved for them in quantifiable terms. This will bring your value proposition to life quickly.

6. Make eye contact, smile, and be engaged.
Many people use the right words, but they lack energy: Head down, little to no clear passion, eyes wandering all over the place. Look people in the eye and give them undivided attention. Pull them into your story with words, gestures, and emotion.

7. Choreograph your body language and arm movements.
This might feel a little awkward at first, but it can make a huge difference. Think about how specific gestures, arm movements, and any relevant physical movement can accentuate the points you’re making. Work on different options for how these movements might work, run them by someone else who knows your story to make sure they work, and practice them until they feel natural.

8. Use visuals (like video) or props.
Props might be a little weird for off-the-cuff interactions, but is there something small but significant you could keep in a jacket pocket at all times to help explain what you do and enhance your sales pitch? A prepared video that you could show on your iPad or other mobile device is a great way to make you stand out and bring your story to life.

9. Invite next steps (but don’t go for the close).
The next step (or call to action) doesn’t have to be specifically for whomever you’re sharing your sales pitch with. Maybe you offer a free consultation with any new, prospective customer. Maybe there’s an audit tool you offer that helps quantify the specific opportunity and potential outcome. Figure out the specific offer (or “ask”) that doesn’t go for the hard close, but instead invites the listener or recipient to engage further and ask for more.