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Why it’s time to modernize the traditional sales pitch

BDRs, SDRs and AEs often get a bad reputation, with surveys finding that only 32% of buyers rate the profession as trustworthy in general.1 In most cases, buyers often regard sales reps as focused on making the sale irrespective of whether a product or solution resolves their pain points. This perception, in turn, arises because sales reps are seen as aggressively pitching products, focused only on features and prices. As a response, we get articles that advise sales reps to stop pitching,2 and studies that suggest top performers do a lot less pitching (only 7% report pitching) as against non-top performers (19% report pitching).3

So, does this mean the sales pitch is dead and should be dispensed with? Not in the least! When such articles and studies speak of sales pitches, they have in mind the traditional seller-centric pitches that repeatedly emphasize product features and technical specifications without actually focusing on what the customer wants or needs. Instead, what’s needed is a transformed understanding of what a modern sales pitch is and how it is to be crafted. The sales pitch has to be seen for what it is - a means to build the sales conversation as a dialogue.

What a modern sales pitch should be

While sales has traditionally been associated with the gift of the gab, the growth of digital content and channels has wholly transformed how buyers move toward a purchase decision. Most buyers today don’t require sales reps to pitch them about product features for the most part since they can find most of this information through independent research. Instead, surveys show that the top four characteristics expected from sales reps include:

  • 1. Understanding buyers' business, situation, and needs (55%)
  • 2. Demonstrating ROI or value (40%)
  • 3. Actively listening to buyers (39%)
  • 4. Providing expertise and perspective (39%)

On the other hand, the top four characteristics that negatively impact purchase decisions include:

  • 1. Not understanding the buyer or their business (50%)
  • 2. Talking too much and not listening (38%)
  • 3. Not being supportive post-sale (38%)
  • 4. Not relating the solution to the buyers' needs (31%)4

How to craft effective sales pitches

An effective sales pitch must generate interest in a buyer, prompt them to initiate or continue a conversation regarding the resolution of a business problem, and build interest in how your solution can help. To make pitches meaningful, sales reps and organizations must rethink and deconstruct the key components of a sales pitch, starting from the discovery to the “why”, and covering agenda setting, cold call opening, objection handling, product demo, and next steps. So, let’s dig in!

  • Understand the customer and customize the pitch:

  • A successful sales pitch should not sell a product but should provide a customized solution to the customer's problem. This requires developing an in-depth understanding of the customer's buying behavior, business goals, and specific pain points - the discovery part of the sales pitch. For instance, most B2B enterprise purchases involve large committees of multiple stakeholders. Hence, the pitch must speak to the needs, motivations, and behaviors of different stakeholders involved in the buying journey. On the other hand, with SMB customers, the buying process is usually shorter and less complicated with fewer decision-makers involved, often just one or two. This means, while enterprises rely a lot on references and case studies to be convinced of their purchase, SMBs tend to work more on individual trust and are likely to take bigger risks. However, unlike enterprise customers, SMBs often have difficulty defining precisely what they need and may require to be educated more extensively on how your solution can solve their problem. All of this needs a combination of prior research on the company, an understanding of the user and buyer personas, and a flexible approach that can adapt pitches to a variety of scenarios and buyer types.

  • Include active listening as a vital aspect of pitching:

  • While prior research can provide an overall view of the customer, getting a granular view of individual stakeholders' day-to-day challenges and goals requires active listening. Active listening involves leaving behind one's agenda and focusing entirely on understanding the unique perspective of the buyer. To do this, sales reps need to be taught active listening pitch skills that include paraphrasing and reflecting on what customers say, asking relevant questions and withholding judgment and advice prematurely. According to research, the talk-to-listen ratio of top reps is around 46:54, with listening taking up 54% of the time.5 Active listening can be integrated into sales pitches by discarding a rigid sales deck approach and building more tactical conversations, asking questions, and crafting responses around key talk points of customer responses.

  • Craft an engaging narrative:

  • Research shows that B2B buyers seek to experience feelings such as confident optimism, understanding, assurance, and accomplishment during the purchase journey.6 This implies that the sales pitch must help build an emotional connection with the buyer. This is easier said than done, especially given the new normal of sales reps having to pitch on video calls - clearly not the same as an in-person sales pitch! This requires a strong story that combines compelling statistics and clear social proof in the form of case studies of similar customers, which helps customers realize the value of moving away from the status quo. Further, sales reps must learn how to visualize such narratives and make them immersive using rich media formats, such as video and 3D animation, to reach buyers through the screen.

  • Prepare for objections:

  • Gartner's research tells us that customers who feel confident in their decisions buy more.7 One of the essential steps to building this confidence is handling objections to build trust in the buyer. Thus, building a library of sales objections and strategizing responses to them is a crucial aspect of crafting perfect sales pitches. Sales teams must ask themselves the toughest questions regarding the solutions they are offering and have clear and convincing answers for all of them. This means you must know your competition and be able to differentiate and articulate why your product is a better solution than your nearest competitor. Objection handling is one component of the pitch that requires constant practice to ensure sales reps have the confidence to deliver the right message when this arises.

  • Practice and perfect the sales pitch:

  • Most sales onboarding for reps currently takes the form of passive content consumption involving an LMS, with rote learning and memorization of content that is meant to be delivered verbatim to buyers. However, if sales reps are to be able to agilely personalize pitches to each client and conversation and deliver customized pitches fluently, such passive learning cannot succeed. Rather, such mastery requires that the reps, after they go through the LMS training, put into practice what they have learned beyond rote knowledge. This can be done through deliberate practice, which is more than merely rehearsing prepared pitches. Instead, it is an approach that involves breaking down the sales pitch into specific tasks and subroutines (cold call opening and objection handling, for instance) and working on them iteratively so that each micro-skill can be deployed as and when required. Additionally, reps must receive clear, specific, and unbiased feedback so that they have objective guidelines on how best to continually improve their pitches. The best way to enable deliberate practice is through the use of pitch intelligence platforms that use AI-enabled algorithmic processes to record and objectively assess pitch performance on a range of factors, such as delivery tone and speed, keyword usage, and topic coverage, and provide concrete, quantifiable information on skill gaps and areas for improvement that reps can act on immediately. It is only with such deliberate practice accompanied by actionable feedback that sales reps learn how to apply their skills and knowledge in the field.

Modernize your sales pitch today

An effective sales pitch requires bringing together an authentic interest in the customer’s wants, needs, and problems and clear communication of the value a solution can bring in. Therefore, sales reps must begin with the customer and not the product, developing a clear understanding of the customer’s needs through research and active listening. When this research is combined with a strong narrative and clear social proof, customers can feel confident of their purchase decisions. Most importantly, building such customer-centric pitches depends on sales reps being able to fluently and confidently speak to the specific motivations of each buyer and deliver a value proposition specific to each customer’s pain points rather than a generic list of product features. This requires them to repeatedly practice and hone their pitch delivery to flexibly but masterfully fit every sales conversation. When all these ingredients are brought together, pitching need not be a taboo word in the current age of consultative selling.

A pitch intelligence platform like Nytro can provide reps with easy ways to record and share their practice pitches and demos and get unbiased and immediate feedback on skill gaps and areas for improvement that reps can act on immediately. To know more about how Nytro can help you modernize your sales pitch, schedule a demo.

Reference:

  1. https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/state-of-sales-global-hub-2020#form
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/help-your-salespeople-stop-pitching-start-solving-customer-scott-roy/
  3. https://salesinsightslab.com/sales-research/
  4. https://salesmastery.com/research-release-2021-state-of-buyer-and-seller-alignment/
  5. https://www.gong.io/blog/elements-of-effective-sales-conversations/
  6. https://www.b2bnn.com/2018/05/gyro-b2b-research-confident-optimism/
  7. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-09-19-gartner-says-customers-who-are-confident-in-their-dechttps://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-09-19-gartner-says-customers-who-are-confident-in-their-dec

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