How to Lose a Bad Sales Pitch in 6 Ways
Okay, maybe you don’t have a bad sales pitch. Perhaps it could use just a bit of refining. Or maybe it really does suck.
Well, whether you pitch in an actual elevator—or, like me, you’ve pitched hundreds of times on trade show floors around the world, there are some tried-and-true best practices, tactics, and “tricks” that have I learned. These have worked for me and they just might work for you too!
First, Let’s Be Clear: A Great Pitch Is like a Great Movie Logline
What’s a movie logline? According to Google, a logline is “a one (or occasionally two) sentence description that boils the script down to its essential dramatic narrative in as succinct a manner as possible.”
Have you boiled down your pitch? What’s your narrative? Are you telling a story with your sales deck or just bragging?
Read on and incorporate what works for you and leave out the rest. Below are the 6 tactics I deploy and practice that have been highly effective.
1) Stay clear of jargon.
2) Clearly state the “What’s in it for me?”
3) Streamline your messaging.
4) Encourage a conversation NOT a lecture.
5) Rehearse a LOT.
6) Be flexible, be light.
1) Leave Your Jargon and Acronyms at the Office
We’ve all heard it—corporate speak. The useless business jargon that proliferates meetings, documents, white papers, and presentations.
This doesn’t mean you abandon your vocabulary and revert to 4th-grade banter. It does mean that your pitch should be clear, concise and, as Seth Godin says, “so compelling that the person wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.”
Or, in the case of selling on the trade show floor, the thirty seconds you have their attention before they get distracted by a trade show booth game or a free beer.
2) Define This: What’s in It for Me (Them)?
Your prospects care about one thing: what’s in it for them?
Make sure that you are offering up specifically what the benefits are of your product or service and HOW it will impact them. A great way to do this is by adding storytelling into your elevator pitch. For example, if I did this for SummitSync, an elevator pitch for us might sound like:
“We’re helping companies like [a competitor or similar niche] get up to 300% more meetings at every trade show and conference they attend.”
While you’re referencing another company, you’re actually highlighting how they could also get up to 300% more meetings if only they had your solution.
3) Focus—Streamline Your Messaging
Narrowing down your pitch is essential. As someone once said, “Separate the chaff from the wheat”.
Easy to say. Not so easy to do.
Ask friends, colleagues and whoever will listen what they think your offering is. Then rewrite. And rewrite again. And then rewrite again. Then test it. Try out your words with anyone who will listen.
Does the pitch make sense? Do they get it? Is the pitch one sentence?
Is the pitch compelling enough to make you want to hear more?
Don’t forget to ask your marketing team if it aligns with the rest of your marketing messaging to ensure you’re aligned.
4) Dialogue, NOT Monologue
Remember, you’re having a sales conversation—not lecture. And though we all know you can dazzle your audience with all of your in-depth knowledge about your vertical, don’t do it. You become a talking head and not a human being connecting to another human being. And while we’re on the subject, if possible be funny.
Start off with a joke, quip or something amusing that is tangentially related to your pitch. For example, “What brought you to [this event]?” Here are some other great conversation starters to capture your prospect’s attention on the trade show floor.
5) Rehearse, It’s What the Pros Do
Put another way, practice. I definitely re-learned the necessity of practicing your pitch as a founder—something I should have done more of back in the day.
Some people say that if you practice too much, you’ll sound robotic or mechanical.
Actually, when you feel 100% confident having honed your pitch and iterated until finally, it’s a super-pitch, THEN you’re ready to roll. It’s like a great jazz piano improviser. They play hours of scales, repeating, making mistakes until they can riff off of the scale. The scale still lives in the musical improv but now the musician can be free to play.
6) Be like the Willow Tree. Bend
As Marc Benioff says,
“You must always be able to predict what’s next and then have the flexibility to evolve.”
The reason to stay flexible is that you never know what your prospect will say or do. Being present, listening, and connecting with your prospect is everything. For instance, what if you quickly find out the person you’re speaking with is an avid salsa dancer. Would you begin your pitch talking about your product? Of course not. Why not bring up the time you made a total fool of yourself at your cousin’s wedding trying to do the samba! The point here is—be ready for anything and engage your prospect in a real human and flexible way building rapport in the moment.
Keep Iterating (And Be Funny)
So there you have it. My top 6 best practices. As with all best practices sometimes they change or I change but I’m always learning, honing, and growing.
Got a tactic or strategy that you use when you pitch? I’d love to hear it. Put it in the comments below or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, when all else fails: be funny.
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