The winning sales pitch

Success in a sales meeting often needs a subtle touch. Here three entrepreneurs give us their top tips on how to close the deal.

In the debate on nature vs. nurture, Colin Gallick, CEO of document software company Invu, knows which sides he’s on

Salesmen aren’t born, they are developed. The key to any good sales pitch is planning. It’s important to understand the customer, so run a background check and talk to companies operating in the market to see how they are using the products. Make sure you know the customer’s requirements and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions.

If you’re a senior manager, you know a company is serious if it is well prepared. That includes small things, like spelling a name correctly. Every time I get a letter with my name spelt incorrectly, I just throw it away. You might offer a great solution, ahead of schedule and on budget, but if you’ve not
got the basics right, you can forget it.

I would also say that companies need to invest in sales training. Skills need to be refreshed every few years. In fact, salesmen who are in their 50s and 60s are often more likely to be in refresher courses than their younger counterparts, because they know how important it is.

Joëlle Frijters, CEO and cofounder of online advertising company Improve Digital, thinks rapport is essential

There are lots of tricks that people use, but really, no two pitches are the same. We soon learnt that it’s about building a relationship rather than selling. When you know someone, it’s much easier because they trust you.

We once had a pitch with a major UK publisher. We knew our technology was better than anyone else’s, so we talked it up. When the pitch was unsuccessful, we received feedback suggesting that the winning team seemed so much easier to work with. We were selling the technology, when we should have been selling a solution.

Don’t try and sell everything. People aren’tgoing to remember more than ten things in a meeting, so it’s up to you to make sure they remember the five most important things I think listening is absolutely essential. The ideal split is 70 per cent listening and 30 per cent talking. That can be difficult, especially when you’re enthusiastic about your product. Sometimes giving people time and space can make them more likely to share their thoughts with you, so don’t be afraid of having a quiet period in a pitch.

For Sandra Patterson, cofounder of courier website boxby, a winning sales pitch is all about backing up your claims

In a lot of instances, advertisers come to us. We can be quite straight to the point with our pitch as our average visiting time to the site is very long and we have a large base of regular users.

It helps that we are in the fortunate position where there are not any other websites offering a service for couriers. They tend to be a traditionally tricky audience to target for the obvious reason that they are a profession always on the move.

I don’t have a sales spiel as such. To be honest, I think a lot of people are jaded by hearing a pre-scripted pitch. Because we are talking to other businesses rather than consumers, they are perhaps more aware of when you’re being ‘salesy’.

Once we have presented the figures, I ask them what sort of thing they are after and who their target audience is. You can’t meet the customer’s needs if you don’t know what they are.

Related: The pitching errors small agencies should take care to avoid – sales expert Andy Preston explains the real-life mistakes agencies make when pitching, that often cost them valuable business

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