A sales pitch is no longer a ‘pitch’, in that you simply throw information at your customer. These days, an effective sales pitch is a two-way street — a conversation where you listen to the buyer, ask real questions, and offer a solution to a challenge they’re experiencing.

A good sales pitch starts with a great first impression. Sure, laser-focused one-liners help, but it’s important to hold your audience’s attention long after you’ve delivered that opening zinger. And the longer you're able to keep that attention, the higher your chances of winning them over.

The key is audience participation. Actively include them in the discussion. Be prepared with all the info the buyer could need. Make a conscious effort to stray from the script.

Crafting a good sales presentation is no easy feat, but these invaluable tips will get you on your way.

1: Know your customer


Unless you're pitching a timeshare at the fountain of youth, your product isn't going to sell itself. As mentioned, it's not just about hurling information at the buyer. The perfect pitch requires due diligence.

Research is key. To boost your chances of sealing the deal, you need to do your research to understand your customer. Well before your presentation, find out everything there is to know about your customer’s company, industry and competitors. Then come pitch time, you want to be able to demonstrate with ease a deep understanding of the customer and the landscape they’re operating within.

An important part of demonstrating that you understand their business is delivering a lean sales message, simply highlighting the features that are most relevant to the particular customer or industry. It’s a surefire way to keep the buyer engaged.

2: Talk to the right person


All of the research in the world won’t help you if you aren’t in touch with the decision maker, the person who can actually approve the purchase. If you can’t figure out who the big kahuna is through your own research, respectfully ask your current contact at the company. They don’t want their time wasted either.

3: Solve their problem


You've done your homework on the industry, you’ve asked the right questions of the right people, now share your answers to a problem the customer’s struggling with. A successful sales pitch will always acknowledge that problem. Even if your company only offers one product, tailor your pitch so it speaks to the unique challenges of that particular business. Focus on specific product features that will truly benefit your audience and meet their needs.

More than 80 percent of salespeople are not in sync with the needs of their buyer. Rather than espouse why you like the product or even why other unrelated customers like the product, zero-in on the value it will offer the particular buyer you are pitching to. So, your sales pitch should be different each time you deliver it. This can’t be emphasised enough.

4: Prepare for objections


Next, review your sales message. Does the pitch address potential objections that may pop up?

The most common sales objections: Budget, Authority, Need, and Time (also known as BANT). You may not need detailed responses to all four, but be prepared to discuss each kind of objection. Serve up a reply that shows value to your buyer.

Does your customer currently use a competitor’s product that is similar? If so, highlight the features that differentiate your product. Do they not have budget this quarter? Focus on telling them how much money your product will save them.

You’ll sharpen your responses over time, based on the feedback you receive. In the meantime, use your knowledge of your customer and product to handle objections like a boss.

5: Let your buyer do the talking


If you’re using a script, put it down. Go into the pitch with an open mind, and don’t be overzealous or overconfident. Really listen to your buyer.

Check in with the buyer during your presentation, pay attention, and respond with thoughtful follow-up questions. This critical step will help you understand their business needs and ultimately close the deal. By tuning in and asking the right questions, you can tweak your sales message so it sounds really attractive to that particular buyer.

If your pitch goes well and your ears are open, it should feel less like a business preso and more like a healthy conversation.

6: End with a call to action


Yes, listening to your buyer is critical. But don’t just pack up after your pitch, shrug your shoulders and wait for the customer to make the next move.

As a salesperson, this is your sole responsibility. Every sales pitch should end with a call to action that makes sense. Even if your customer isn’t ready to complete the sale yet, be sure to keep them on the journey and move forward with a follow-up meeting or trial period.

7: Get a referral


OK, this isn’t really a step, but more of a ‘head start’ on your next pitches.

Ask customers that you have a healthy relationship with for referrals to other prospects. If they’re happy with your work, they’ll be happy to spread the word. Research shows that 84 percent of prospects usually respond to a sales rep when recommended by someone inside their company. Referrals are more likely to lead to a sale than any other method.

But a referral without an introduction is ice cold. Be sure to ask for a quick email introduction rather than leaving the meeting with just a name and phone number.

Game on


Congratulations, you’re at the point of bringing a buyer into the same room to hear your pitch. Don’t go in under-prepared, or waste a potential customer’s time (and yours) with a long-winded, boring sales pitch that says little to nothing at all.

Keep the pitch on-message and clear, and you’ll keep your buyer’s attention. Review it repeatedly and trim the excess until it’s as concise as possible without losing the intent. Remove unnecessary buzzwords, like ‘synergy’ and ‘best practice’, which you won’t need if you’ve done your research.

You’re ready. Feeling nervous is okay, but be confident because you've put real thought and effort into your sales pitch. You know your product, you know your buyer, you're ready to listen, you're solving a real problem, and you're prepared for any objection.

For more insights into what separates high-performing sales teams from underperformers, download our new State of Sales report.