Enrich Your Pitch
There’s an art to the sales pitch—a conversation that flows seamlessly between a prospective buyer and a hopeful seller. And with competition heating up in the print and promo space, it’s even more crucial that you understand the proper techniques to fine-tune your pitch, so that you can close that big sale. Here, top sales experts give their hot tips.
1. Do your research
Before reaching out to a potential client, it’s important to do your homework. Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach, proprietor of www.promobizcoach.com, a Jenkintown, Pennsylvania-based business coaching and consulting practice for the promotional industry, stressed the value of research. “Research is imperative,” she said. “Without research, you don’t really know anything about your client[s] ahead of time, and the best salespeople know the most about their clients before they go in and call them.” She suggested going beyond the company website and checking out LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, so you have a firm understanding of what their products are and who their end-users are before the pitch.
For Mark Graham, president of Toronto-based Right Sleeve and co-founder of Toronto-based commonsku, your research efforts should be focused around the big picture, not a particular product. “If you approach it in the more traditional approach where you’re going to some search engine and pulling up a couple of product ideas thinking, ‘Hey, this will be great for [your client],’ then I think that’s only doing about half the work,” Graham said. “That doesn’t really position you as particularly unique because [there are] a lot of other people that can come up with ideas as well. I think the more it’s around problem-solving and understanding [the client’s] world, the more effective your conversation will be.”
2. Prepare for a background check
Researching your prospect is only half of the pre-sales pitch regimen. Marcus advised looking into your own company’s Web presence as well. “Selling has changed, and buyers control the process a lot more,” she said. “They research us, so make sure you have a good website that’s mobile-enhanced, and a good social media profile that showcases what you do best.”
3. Listen to the client
Once you know who your prospect is and what problem he or she is trying to solve, it’s time to take action. But first, make sure the pitch isn’t all about you. “You should be listening about 80 percent of the time, so that you have a better understanding [of the client],” Marcus said. “It’s like a doctor trying to diagnose you before he knows what the symptoms are. Always provide value to [the client], so [he or she] sees you’re more than just a peddler of products.”
Graham expanded on this point. “You may be pitching to a distracted sales manager [who’s] worried about the team meeting their sales number,” he said. “If you come in and you say ‘Here’s some notebooks and stress toys,’ that might be nice and what they’re looking for, but if you can connect it to that person’s problem and what they’re dealing with in their business, you can get their attention immediately and move up the food chain from someone who can sell a stress toy to someone who is a legitimate problem-solver in business.”
4. Tell a story
According to Graham, it’s important to master your storytelling skills. “The best salespeople in this industry are great storytellers,” he said. “They’re people who are leading with the benefits, not the features [of a product]. They’re putting themselves in the shoes of the customer to understand their worldview; they’re able to weave a story about why their company is the right partner for the client.”
5. Be ready for objections
Objections are a common part of the selling process. If you’re ready for them, you can use a prospect’s objections to your advantage and get your sale back on track. “As far as price objections, there’s always going to be someone lower than you,” Marcus said. “Unless you’re a huge online wholesaler, it’s going to be hard to compete on price, so you’ve got to compete on being a value-add.”
In order to prove his company has the value to negotiate a higher price, Graham likes to ask the prospective buyer questions. “I’ll go beyond the product and take it back to the problem,” he said. “If your customer is simply comparing price to price, [is he or she] guaranteed that the product will get there on time? Will it be a successful promotion? “In many cases, that can instill doubt in the customer’s mind, and at the end of the day, if you’ve got a customer that’s ordering a big number of products for a trade show, we guarantee that it’s going to get there on time, and we’re going to make this person look good in front of [his or her] boss,” Graham continued.
6. Follow up
Always follow up with a prospect after your sales pitch. “I think it’s important to ask for the business at the end,” Graham said. “If you’re finishing up with your presentation, it’s really important to say, ‘What are the next steps we need to take in order to complete this?’
“Understand when [his or her] event date is—that’s a great way to say, ‘Alright, we’ve looked at some of these ideas, and I’ve noted your event date is in 30 days. In order for us to meet that timeline, we would need to proceed within the next five days. Is that something that would make you comfortable?’” he continued. “That way it doesn’t look like you’re being a pushy salesperson.”
Marcus agreed that it’s helpful to ask prospects how they want to proceed and their preferred ways to follow up. If you’ve got a hesitant buyer, make use of your company’s resources to keep the conversation going. “Tell [buyers] you’ve got a really great marketing-tips email newsletter that would be helpful to [their] company,” she suggested. “Or, ask if you can send them a whitepaper that would be helpful to them, or some virtual samples with their logo.” That way, you’re still on their radars.