Pitch Perfect: How to Fine Tune Your Sales Pitches

A decrease in interpersonal time at work among employees may be having an equal effect on the personal skills of those making the pitch. With more people working remotely and with turnover greater in the work place, your presentation may land flat, even if its components would have made it sing.

A new Harvard Business Review article noted one terrible point about sales pitches to institutional clients: you’ll nearly never get feedback about what didn’t work.  As they noted “This not only leaves good ideas homeless, but it doesn’t improve anyone’s lot: those hearing pitches continue to hear bad pitches, and those making bad pitches continue to fumble.” And, increasingly, sales people are mentorless, meaning they don’t even have opportunities to process a bad pitch. A recent Forbes article noted that sales leaders spend only 20% of their time helping their employees close deals.  

How can you go from fumble to goal post? Aside from management and mentoring, a few solid ideas on the state of sales pitches might be helpful here. First, Harvard Business Review author Michael Quinn notes that the decrease in interpersonal time at work among employees may be having a equal effect on the personal skills, or emotional intelligence, of those making the pitch. With more people working remotely and with turnover greater in the work place, the opportunities to develop the chemistry of a team may be lacking. That unidentifiable quantity may pour over into sales pitches and have your presentation landing flat, even if its components otherwise make a strong case. And the reverse may also be true. Those receiving the pitch may have decreased emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills from their own work environment.

How can you spot a lack of emotional intelligence on the part of your potential business partner? You might look for the following characteristics in those receiving the pitch, including an inability to describe how they are feeling about either themselves or a situation. If most of sales focus is on solving a problem,  then your buyer needs to know how they feel about the problem. Frustrated? Anxious? Ready to tackle it? If they can’t articulate their response to the problem, they may lack emotional intelligence. Similarly, when discussing the proposal, those potential clients may express a lot of assumptions or forgone conclusions. Folks who do so tend to lack depth of understanding. And lack of emotional intelligence doesn’t just mean exhibiting toxic behavior, it can also mean false positivity or constantly being chipper. Recognizing signs of a lack of emotional intelligence or even a lack of interpersonal development opportunities on the part of your lead can help you see when your pitch was destined to flop. If the old adage is that “you can’t get blood from a stone” it may be helpful to know when you are sitting in front of a stone.

Teams with good chemistry pitch as a team. While they may defer to the person with the most experience, they each have a role to play and play it – verbally or non-verbally. They can also not only answer questions with more depth, but will research the potential client differently and will ask the potential client different and better questions so that their pitches are more nuanced and fit the potential client’s niche better. Those teams may present more focused presentations. The result is that the client feels less exhausted by the sales pitch and more focused on the solution the team will bring.  Working on building the chemistry of your team may be as simple as creating a workspace dedicated to that pitch. You might find a place where your team can post ideas and do the creative legwork that builds chemistry whether online or in person.

But a solid pitch does more than show your potential client what you can do. A solid pitch allows the client to take your team for a test drive. It should be an interaction that shows your team’s active listening skills as well as your mastery of the topic. It should help those clients feel that you are highly qualified at producing success and also equally qualified at spotting potential disasters before they arise. How can you tune up the test drive without feedback? You might start with fine-tuning your pitch with the clients that you currently have. Inviting clients to provide feedback on new or expending services can be one way to get that feedback that is so elusive.

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