Professional sellers often wonder why they never hear back from a prospect after they’ve delivered a fantastic sales pitch. Their polished pitches, they feel certain, should entitle them to a call back and earn them a sale.
The reason they don’t hear back is simple. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The first impression they’re banking on is all rolled up into that pitch. The glossy brochure. The spellbinding PowerPoint presentation. The too-good-to-be-true, once-in-a-lifetime offer. The smooth delivery. Ah, yes, the pitch.
To a seller, the perfected pitch represents the keys to the kingdom. Perfecting the pitch may have involved painstaking role plays, hours with marketing to massage the numbers and cull out the nugget that could-would-should be the knockout punch, and intensive reworking to include the right mix of products at the right prices.
To a buyer, though, the perfect pitch may not be appreciated for all the time and effort that goes into it. In fact, the perfect pitch may feel like it’s completely out of the strike zone. And since the buyer gets to make that call, the pitch doesn’t connect and the game may be over.
The problem isn’t that the buyer is a poor hitter or an incompetent ump. It’s in the pitch. Think about the very meaning of the word “pitch” – to throw, fling, hurl or toss. Maybe the buyer isn’t hitting because they don’t want to be pitched.
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. When you’re buying, maybe you feel the same way. A pitch, no matter how good, is still one-sided and coming at you fast. Chances are that you aren’t ready to hit or catch that pitch. When a pitch takes you by surprise, you’re more likely to duck or dodge than to play along.
What’s missing is the warm up. In selling, as in baseball, the warm up ensures readiness and improves the players’ effectiveness. After a warm up, a batter is behind the plate and ready to swing. His full attention is on the pitcher.
For a seller to warm up the buyer, there needs to be early engagement. Before the pitch, there should be rapport-building and a needs assessment. By understanding the buyer’s needs and then crafting a solution that directly and clearly addresses those needs, the seller will be able to deliver a compelling proposal. With these preliminary steps, the buyer will be eager to hear what the seller has to offer as a solution.
This process is very different from pitching. With these preliminary steps, the seller is no longer throwing, flinging, hurling or tossing. Instead, there is a two-way exchange. The buyer is the one who is tossing out needs that could be addressed. The seller is better positioned, then, as the one who is waiting for the right pitch and looking for an opportunity to hit it out of the park.
What if you ditched the pitch and replaced it with customized proposals that were individually constructed to meet the needs of each unique buyer? You would probably find that you’re making fewer pitches and scoring more home runs. That’s a winning formula in baseball and in selling.
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