Small Business

Dreaming Up the Perfect Sales Pitch


Have you ever visualized the perfect sales presentation? If not, how will you know what to aim for? This column is the opposite of my last column (see BW Online, 4/21/06, "Lose Customers the Easy Way"), which described how easy it is to lose a key customer. All sales pros know that successful selling starts long before you actually meet with a prospective customer. But regardless of what motivates you -- landing the Golden Egg account or losing a client to the competition from Heck, my ideal sales-presentation scenario could help. Here goes:

LOOK SHARP, LOOK AHEAD. A few days before the sales call, you consider your physical appearance. Do you need a haircut? A manicure? New glasses, jewelry, or a briefcase? Decide on the tone you want to set and plan how to put yourself together accordingly, from your hair to your shoes.

Sure, you know that first impressions count. You also know that when you look sharp, you feel more confident, and that comes across in the way you walk, talk, and even think. You invest in at least one new, top-of-the-line item to give you an extra push of confidence.

The day before the call, you print out the map and review it so you know exactly how to get to the customer's office. Develop some alternate routes in case you get stuck in traffic or are delayed by unexpected construction.

The next morning you're excited. You get up early enough to read over the headlines of the day. If a big story broke the night before, you want to know. After a quick, nutritious breakfast, you're out the door in time to arrive at least 10 minutes before your appointment. You've dropped some magazines in the car, in case you get there too early.

PREPARE TO SELL. You have all the sales literature you might need neatly stacked in a logical order. You also have a clean, current order form at the bottom of the stack to remind you to ask for the order. Your brochures and pricing sheets are up to date.

The phone numbers of your key contacts are on hand, so you can answer almost any question the customer might have on the spot. You already have good relationships with everyone back at the office and at headquarters. You know if you need a favor, someone's got your back.

If you work from a laptop computer, it is as clean as a whistle, without sticky keys or a smudgy screen. Your screen saver is appropriate, not a photo of some babe or stud muffin at the beach. The laptop's battery is freshly charged, and you also have a spare.

Your car is also clean, inside and out. You even have motivational or training tapes to get you in the right frame of mind on the way.

PLAN, CONNECT, CONQUER. Once you're at the customer's building, you spend a few minutes in the parking lot reviewing the plan you made for the sales call. You also review your notes on the names, titles, and background information of all the players with whom you are likely to interact.

You are friendly and professional to the receptionist, the secretary, and everyone else you meet. You treat all gatekeepers with respect, and you remember that they are aware they can influence your success in dealing with your customer. All day long you watch your language, avoiding words that would offend your beloved grandmother.

Before you launch into your well-rehearsed sales presentation, you take a few minutes to build a personal connection with your customer. From your research, you have discovered several common areas of interest. If there are several people in the meeting, you are ready and able to connect with each person.

BRING THEM ON BOARD. You don't dawdle with small talk, but you are keenly aware the first few minutes are a critical time. Clients are not really listening to exactly what you say. Rather, they're taking your measure, seeing how they feel about possibly doing business with you. They're wondering if they can trust you, and if you're going to fit in with them.

Your presentation is primarily a structured list of questions you've carefully designed to get the customers to sell to themselves. You've applied the old adage, "If I say it, you'll doubt it; if you say it, it's true," to your pitch. Your customer is amazed when they tell you how dire their problem is, how big their need for your product is, and how the last three solutions they tried simply didn't work.

While your customers are talking, you are continually qualifying them. Do they have the three essential ingredients to be a "hot prospect" -- a genuine need, the money to pay for your solution, and a sense of urgency?

CLOSE THE DEAL. Once you are convinced they have all three, you confidently lean in and close the sale, even if that "sale" is a subsequent meeting with upper management, a demonstration, or a trial. Since you know a dozen good closing lines (see BW Online, 5/3/05, "Tips for Closing a Sale"), you use the one that best fits the conversation. If the customer balks, you handle the objection with a steady, patient manner and close again.

Eventually, you leave with an agreement to move forward -- or perhaps you are holding a signed purchase order in your hand. You feel energized and have a repeat performance with your next customer.

Do you feel like I followed you around on your last sales call? If so, great! If not, it's time for a tune-up. After that, I can see the perfect call in your future. Happy selling!


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