We all know the feeling of zoning out during a sales presentation, but you can probably recall a time when the pitch had you nodding your head in agreement. Every once in a while, the presentation seems like it was designed just for you. How can you replicate that feeling every time you deliver yours?
Here are seven pitch strategies that will make your prospects nod in agreement instead of nodding off.
1. Get to the point.
It’s tempting to kick things off by talking a bit about your background, your company, your customers, maybe a few high-level trends you’re seeing. These elements seem like you’re establishing credibility, but actually you’re distracting from your real mission.
Don’t let these intros drag on, or turn into an elaborate set-up of the “industry context.” This is a sure-fire way to sap all the energy out of the room. Introduce yourself quickly, then get right to the point.
2. Make the story about them (not you).
Many years ago, I worked at an agency that brought in a consultant to review our new business pitches. About halfway through a lengthy overview about our agency’s capabilities, he interrupted to ask, “That’s great. But when are you going to talk about me?”
People want to hear a story about them, not watch a dog-and-pony show about your company or product. Orient your narrative around what they need, and position your offering in the context of how it can solve their specific problems.
3. Understand their needs.
According to a 2014 study by Qvidian, salespeople often lose deals because they haven’t customized their content to their buyer’s needs. Do your homework ahead of time so you know what’s important to your buyer.
Ask , “What keeps you up at night?” This gets at their known business needs, but may also uncover deeper needs that don’t show up on the RFP.
If someone says, “We’re getting crushed in the media by our competitor… and our CEO is really breathing down my neck about it,” I know that I should orient my pitch around how we can help him build share of voice, but also how we can help him measure and report on results to his CEO.
4. Feel their pain.
People rarely make buying decisions based solely on the facts. Their emotions also play a part. Try to empathize with how someone in your prospect’s role might be feeling.
For example, a Wall Street analyst will care about how she can use your data to uncover new opportunities, but maybe she’s also eager to look smarter than the rest of the team. Talk to her about how your solution will give her an advantage or make her a hero.
Related: Becoming a Master of Persuasion
5. Show, don’t tell.
To deepen engagement, allow your prospects to experience something and come to a conclusion on their own, rather than having a point painfully laid out for them.
Instead of succumbing to the urge to recite a long list of features and benefits, show your product or service in action.
For example, instead of descriptive bullet points when I’m recommending a particular communications strategy, I’ll often show a few screenshots of media coverage that resulted from the strategy, then talk through how we got there. If you have some good examples, show how similar customers are taking advantage of your product’s relevant features, through screenshots, charts or pictures.
6. Write slide titles that tell the story.
Journalists learn early on not to “bury the lede.” The same rule can be applied to sales decks. Make it easy for your prospects to follow along. Whatever you do, don’t bury the most important points midway through a slide, or rely on your voice-over to convey the message.
To ensure each slide packs a punch, write slide titles that tell the story on their own. Instead of “Company Overview” as a title, you might try “20 Years of Impact” or “A Leader in the Community.” This will also help you weed out extraneous slides. If you can’t summarize the point of the slide in the headline, it probably doesn’t have one.
7. Make it portable.
Congratulations! You’ve wowed your prospect with your pitch, they’re excited to move forward... now they just need to get approval from their manager. Uh oh.
Even the most straightforward sales may have gate-keepers and people who influence the buying decision, but you might not have a chance to get in front of them. If your sales pitch tells a clear story about your prospect’s needs and shows how you can address them, it can actually create a lean-forward experience on its own. Write your deck so you're confident that it sells, with or without you.