Editor's note: This article is among our most popular, so we’ve updated it recently to keep things fresh.
Crafting a good sales pitch is not easy — but it might be one of the most important things a sales rep can do to improve conversion rates and quota attainment.
That's because it’s no longer a “pitch” in the sense that you throw information at your customer like a baseball pitcher at a batter and hope for the best, but rather a well crafted, personalized presentation.
Your buyers today are more informed than they’ve ever been. Research shows that 92% of customers say that better access to information (such as product information or reviews) has changed their expectations of companies. Another report revealed that buyers spend 67% of their journey online, where they can do their own research and seek advice from others. Those two findings highlight the fact that showing up to pitch to clients information they already know shows apathy on the part of a seller.
Just because customers are showing up more informed doesn’t mean spending time to educate the clients via the pitch and your role are no longer vital — they are essential. Your sales pitch is crucial because it’s likely to be a prospect’s first in-person interaction with your company. It’s a perfect opportunity to expand their understanding of your company beyond what they might already know. As such, your pitch is the perfect opportunity to create an in-person value exchange with the customer.
To win in this tougher environment, however, an effective sales pitch should be a two way street — adding value for both parties. It’s an opportunity for sellers to learn more about the customers pain points, requirements, and expectations, and of course an opportunity for prospects to get the answers they couldn’t find from an online search.
The common mistake that new sales people often make is this: Trying to prove how smart they are, or how their company is the best, and launching straight into their sales pitch without asking any questions. Cookie-cutter pitches are the death of a sales person.
“Salespeople are under the impression that pitching their product is what makes deals,” said speaker and author Jill Konrath. “Anybody who is a victim of the pitch has their defense mechanisms up in full steam whenever they're talking to somebody. They don't trust them because they feel that they're going to be pounced on.”
But a good sales pitch is more about understanding than pouncing — and it starts long before you set foot in the door. Effective sales pitches require upfront work, so that you’re familiar enough with your prospect’s business that you can personalize your presentation instead of trying to stick to a canned script.
Knowing that, here are eight tips to put you on a path toward delivering a great sales pitch.
Share this image on your site
First things first, ask yourself if you’re spending energy on the right accounts. How are you prioritizing the deals you’re chasing? A recent study shows that top-performing sales teams are 1.6x more likely to prioritize leads based on data analysis — and half as likely to prioritize based on intuition. Where it used to be enough to pursue the deals you “had a good feeling” about, you can use real data insights to help make sure your focus is in the right place.
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 tossing information at the buyer anymore, but crafting the pitch that will be the most successful. Making the perfect pitch requires you to understand your customer, so if you're not researching them prior to your first interactions, you’re severely decreasing your chances of making that deal.
“78% of business buyers seek trusted advisors — not just salespeople — that add value to their business.”
Your sales pitch should be different each time you deliver it — in other words, customize it to the company and role you are pitching. This can’t be emphasized enough. If you come in with the story from only your angle, is it any wonder that it doesn’t resonate with your audience?
Prior to presenting your pitch to the buyer, you should conduct thorough research on their company, their industry, and competitors. During your initial contact, be sure to ask the right questions so you can tailor your message to address that business’ specific needs and ease the deal to the next step.
Great research will also eliminate unnecessary noise and will keep the buyer(s) engaged. Show them that you care enough to understand their business with a lean message that highlights your product’s features that matter to them the most.
All the research and customer information in the world won’t help you if you aren’t in touch with the actual decision makers who can approve the purchase.
Before the actual sales pitch, ensure that you are talking to the person who not only truly understands the business, but is also a decision-maker. This is easier said than done. Oftentimes, getting access to the actual decision-maker in a deal is a primary hurdle that salespeople face, and requires building trust and a more value-based relationship over time. This point poses a growing challenge, as research from CEB shows that the number of people involved in B2B purchase decisions has grown from 5.4 to 6.8 in a two-year span.
Being a storyteller is a skill not often discussed on sales teams, but it can be the secret that sets a good sales pitch apart from the best sales pitch. Tell the story of where their business is now, and the vision of what could be. Inspiring change and getting them to think differently is a way to differentiate against another seller who sells products and not value.
“Tell the story of where their business is now, and this vision of what could be.”
To borrow advice from author and storytelling expert Nancy Duarte, “The audience does not need to tune themselves to you — you need to tune your message to them. Skilled presenting requires you to understand their hearts and minds and create a message to resonate with what’s already there.”
You've done your homework and listened to what the buyer has to say — now share your solution to their problem. Make sure you’re adding real value at each touchpoint. Give them more than they can find on their own online or otherwise — for example, share insights from the experience you’ve seen from another customer that might help them.
As author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki said, “Enchantment is the purest form of sales. Enchantment is all about changing people’s hearts, minds and actions because you provide them a vision or a way to do things better. The difference between enchantment and simple sales is that with enchantment you have the other person’s best interests at heart, too."
It’s no secret that customers respond most to products that solve a current problem. A good sales pitch will acknowledge that problem (via research) and provide a solution. Even if your company only offers one product, each pitch should speak to the unique challenges of the business you’re pitching.
Your message should be honed on a specific product feature or features that the audience will benefit most from.
As you’re reviewing your sales message, be sure your pitch not only includes thorough research and solves a customer problem, but that it also addresses potential sales objections that may come up ahead of time if possible.
The most common sales objections fall into four buckets: budget, authority, need, and time (also known as BANT). You may not need to have a detailed response to all four, but be prepared to discuss each. The key here is to show you understand their concern, and offer possible ways to overcome those hurdles.
Does the target audience currently have a competing product that is similar? If so, highlight the features that differentiate your product. Do they not have budget this quarter? Talk to how much money your product can save them.
Over time, you’ll hone your objection-response based on the feedback you receive in face-to-face sales meetings. In the meantime, leverage customer and product research and use that knowledge in handling objections.
Your sales pitch’s job is to kickstart a meaningful conversation, centered on how you can help solve a problem your buyer is struggling with — or even help them uncover a problem they don’t even know they have yet. So, start by asking questions, and be an active listener in response.
According to Salesforce research, 78% of salespeople say that soft skills like listening are essential to converting prospects. If you can’t narrow down your buyer’s pain points, you won’t be able to figure out the best way to help them. Listen to how the volume, speed and tone of people’s voices can give clues about how they’re feeling. Use “tell me about …” questions to prompt them to share their experiences.
If you’re on a script, it’s time to put it down and don't be overzealous or overconfident — go into the pitch with an open mind and aim to let the buyer do most of the talking.
Keep checking in with the buyer during your pitch — take the time to hear their views and respond with deep, thoughtful follow-up questions. This is a critical step to really understanding their business needs and ultimately closing the deal. If you’re responding by asking the right questions, you can adjust your sales message to one that sounds really attractive to the buyer.
If your pitch goes well and you have your ears open, it should feel less like a business presentation and more like a healthy conversation about their business needs. Having this kind of conversation also increases your chance of actually getting to the decision maker, if you aren’t there already.
Even though listening to your buyer is critical — don’t just pack up after your pitch, shrug your shoulders and wait for the customer to define the next steps.
Every sales pitch should end with a call to action that makes sense. Even if the customer isn’t ready to complete the sale yet, be sure to keep the prospect on the journey and move forward with a follow-up meeting or a trial period.
Never wait for the customer to make the call to action. This is solely the salesperson’s responsibility, and failing to be proactive could result in the meeting or relationship ending before you have met your purpose for coming.
Are you pitching the CMO, service VP, CIO, or the head of legal? Knowing the role of your buyer (or buyers, more likely) will help focus your research and shape how you personalize your pitch. Understanding common pain points of your buyer’s role is a great place to start. For example, research shows that marketing leaders say their biggest challenge is engaging with customers in real time. Meanwhile, for customer service leaders, the main challenge is keeping up with changing customer expectations.
Looking for a head start on your next sales pitch? Ask current customers that you have a healthy relationship with for referrals to other potential prospects. Referrals are more likely to complete a sale than any other method, and generally a customer who is happy with your service will be happy to spread the word.
But remember, a referral without an introduction is ice cold, so be sure to ask for a quick email introduction rather than just leaving with a name and phone number.
You’ve got to the point of bringing a prospective buyer into the same room to hear your pitch, so don’t go into the presentation underprepared. It’s no easy feat to get in front of a potential customer, so don’t waste their time and yours with a long-winded, boring sales pitch that isn't relevant and says little to nothing at all.
Keep the pitch on-message, keep it clear and you'll keep your buyer's attention. Review it repeatedly until it’s as concise as possible without losing the intent. Remove unnecessary buzzwords, like “synergy” and “best practice" — you won't need these if you know your customer's needs.
Now you're ready. 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 ready for any objection. What's not to like?
Get more tips like these delivered straight to your inbox when you subscribe to the Salesforce Blog.