Many people find delivering a sales pitch the most daunting part of becoming an entrepreneur but to generate business you need to effectively sell your products or services. Delivering a great sales pitch can be the difference between securing a contract and failing to do so, or persuading a business to fund you rather than going it alone.
You’ll have to learn your client’s needs, learn what their problems are, and find a solution that fulfils all of their requirements. Only then can you present the pitch to close the deal. In this article, we discuss how to deliver an effective sales pitch.
Ensure that you're pitching to the people that approve purchases; those that make the decisions about buying products or using services. Find out who the decision-makers are in the company and request to pitch to them because it's a waste of everybody's time if you're speaking to the wrong people.
The fundamentals of forming an effective sales pitch is understanding your prospect, their company and their industry. Without this you cannot tailor messages to target unique concerns. You need to research your prospect and find out:
Also research the prospect's industry to find common problems and think about how your product or service can help. Consider asking contacts, that work in this industry, about the problems as this allows you to hear your target audience describe their industry's problems in their own words which is incredibly valuable.
Remember that you're trying to find out what this client's specific business needs are and how this links with what you're selling, so ask yourself what will they gain by working with you?
Clients will immediately see through a pitch that has been reworked from an old one. To grab their attention you need to show them that you care about their business and have done the research to tailor your pitch to them. There are four simple ways to do this:
Also look up their profiles on LinkedIn and study the company's website and social media sites.
Before you begin writing a pitch you should find out what the client weaknesses and needs are. No client will begrudge you doing your homework before the pitch and it will add a huge amount of value to it.
Every company has their own jargon and set of ‘sayings’ or ‘mottos’. Integrating these into your pitch will resonate with the client and show that you have tailored the pitch to them.
Relating to the problems of the client and showing empathy with them will clearly put you on ‘their side’. This will help you to position yourself as a solution and will increase your chance of pitching successfully.
A common point wherein sales pitches fall down is when the solution is challenged. The client may see a problem or want to know more about an aspect of the proposal and you need to be ready to answer these questions quickly and effectively. Failing to do so will make you seem underprepared and unreliable.
Whilst you do want to focus on the highlights of the pitch, you also need to pick it apart and challenge it so that you can identify the weaknesses. Identify at least ten of the most likely reasons why someone might say they don't need or want your product/service and prepare clear and succinct answers to these.
The most common sales objections are: Budget, Authority, Need and Time (BANT).
Rehearse these answers so you don't have to think of how to articulate them during the pitch. Instead you can focus on answering in a reassuring way whilst maintaining eye contact and using body language to communicate trust and honesty. You'll be able to sharpen your responses even more based on the feedback received at pitches.
An effective pitch has a structure that makes it easy to follow. A common structure follows this format:
Whatever structure you decide on ensure that it's simple as you're less likely to lose the client this way.
Remember that you haven't been invited to pitch for the purpose of being ridiculed - the clients wants to hear how you can help their company. Plan for managing your nerves by:
First impressions have a huge impact on your sales pitch so shuffling in and looking nervously around as you set up will ensure you lose the client’s attention. Instead, practice maintaining eye contact with each audience member for a few seconds and keep your shoulders open so that you seem friendly and approachable.
Open with enthusiasm and ensure that you speak clearly from the outset – if you’re nervous you may automatically speed up your pitch so if you notice you're doing this pause, take a few breaths and then continue at a slower rate.
Use your posture to show that you feel confident and comfortable. Stand tall and straight without slouching, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and evenly distribute your weight on both feet. This shows you feel confident in your product/services, it also discourages nervous movements and opens up your diaphragm to help you speak loudly and clearly.
Don't start the pitch with a long monologue about yourself and the company's history. This information can be found online and it's likely that the client has already viewed it. You can provide a brief summary but move on quickly as you have limited time to get to the content the client actually care about.
People engage much more with information displayed visually as opposed to just text. It’s therefore vital that you show either clear images, diagrams and other visual material, keeping text to a minimum. A vibrant and appealing cover slide will capture their attention right away.
A study has shown that "only 13% of executive buyers believe that a salesperson can clearly show they understand their business issues and articulate a way to solve them."
The key element in every sales pitch is offering a solution to the client's needs - this is where you should focus most of your attention. You need to outline the problems and present the solution as a saleable and actionable product.
You might think that your product is great so you want to talk about all of its features but your client isn't interested in your product - they're only interested in what it will do for them. How can you make their life easier, how can you help run their business more effectively and help them be more successful? Translate the features into your client's benefits.
It's easy to practice the content of your pitch but you need to work on how you deliver the message. Don't be doubtful in a pitch, for example, avoid saying "I'm hoping that... I'm aiming for..." Absolutes are better, such as, "It will" - you need to reflect certainty as this shows that you believe in the product so everyone else should as well.
Your body language and voice need to project enthusiasm and confidence. Imagine that somebody who doesn't understand your language is watching your pitch - they should still get the impression that you have confidence in what you're saying, know what you're talking about and enjoy talking about it.
Tips for confident body language:
For more details read our 8 Elements of Confident Body Language
MIT's 100K finale presentation:
MIT's 100K finale presentation in 2015. The winner was Raptor Maps, a drone-based approach to monitoring crop health and yields. Watch team members Nikhil Vadhavkar and Forrest Meyen deliver the winning sales pitch!
Notice the following:
Your aim is to be clear and easy to understand. Don't use jargon unless it's standard in their industry. Remove unnecessary buzzwords, such as "synergy".
Clients should not feel bullied or forced into a choice and being pushy will guarantee a bad relationship. Go into your pitch focusing on how you can help your prospect because you're already approaching the pitch in a way of putting their needs first.
The most effective sales pitches facilitate a two-way exchange between the seller and client - it's more of a conversation. This dialogue helps build better relationships. So try to deliver the pitch in a way that prompts them to share information with you. The following tips can help with this:
When your client speaks really listen to them and don't just wait for them to stop speaking so you can move on to your next talking point. No amount of preparation can replace thoughtful listening. Only then can you suitably address any apprehensions and decide whether your goods are the right match for them.
Also respond with thoughtful follow-up questions as this is crucial to understanding their needs and closing the deal. If you're listening and asking the right questions you can adjust your message to attract the buyer.
Clients love to hear a story about how you have helped another client and the more detailed you can be with this the better. Don’t give them an overly detailed account of how you helped, but be sure to provide some concrete numbers. Telling them that a similar company invested X and got Y in return will show them that what you are saying really works and has a proven track record.
Providing actual numbers to highlight improvement sounds significantly more impressive, such as this client saw their userbase grow by 3x, or this client increased their revenue by 10% due to our implementation.
You should describe how your product or service is different from competitors. It can be useful to ask the client about their experiences with similar products because this has the benefit of leading into why your product/service is unique and it also helps initiate a conversation.
Every client wants to see the value they will get form their investment. Make it clear how what you are offering will benefit the company. Diagrams, headers and testimonials will help you here. Give them impressive figures that they can jot down, remember and come back to when considering the pitch.
If your product can be demonstrated then show this in your pitch.
Slides can be useful to structure the presentation and show certain aspects of a product's benefits. But they can also be a distraction as you or your audience may start reading which can reduce the authenticity of your pitch. Also, static visuals can't match your voice's enthusiasm. Top salespeople deliver pitches without slides as this leads into conversation faster.
If you feel that you need slides then display a title that conveys the key points of each slide, include a visual element and include no more than three pieces of information on each slide.
Read our article on using visual aids during a pitch.
It can be tempting to offer clients a large range of solutions at varying price points to ensure a sale, but this can actually be detrimental to the pitch. Keeping the list of options down to a minimum shows that they are well thought through and makes them stand out as the key solutions. If you have a wide range of solutions this may confuse the client.
Supporting your claims with the words of other clients can go a long way. Statistics show that 5 reviews is the magic number for increasing online sales and the same principle applies in a sales pitch. Telling the client about a happy customer is one thing, but showing them how happy a customer is in their own words is another thing entirely.
Integrate your most complimentary testimonials into the pitch and you’ll be more likely to convert. Clients will believe the words of others and trust you more when they see how others have praised you in the industry.
One key thing to avoid in your pitch is the pressure sell. Using tactics like offering a discount if they sign up now will only put prospective clients off and drive your pitch into the ground. It is important that the client sees the purchase as their own decision based on well thought out business principles.
The best you can do is to lay the arguments for a purchase in front of them clearly and allow them to decide that this is the right step to take. As long as your call to action is strong enough then they will make the right decision in the time frame you have outlined for them.
Read more about this in our article: Powerful Sales Techniques and Tips
Sometimes a sales pitch fails because the client was not clear on some key features of your goods. Avoid this by providing them with a chance to ask questions and ask if they need more information on something.
This can also help: prompt a conversation between you and the client which can build better relationships, make you seem more genuine and it gets you to repeat and emphasise the value of what you're selling.
The final stage in any pitch is to end on a clear call to action. Tell the client what needs to happen in order for them to realise the results that you have discussed. Set some clear timelines of when they can see results if they meet your call to action. If you can tell a client that they can achieve a goal by a certain date then they will recognise that delaying is only to their detriment.
Don't wait for your prospect to make the call to action - this is your responsibility and not doing this could lead to the relationship or meeting ending before you have met your reason for coming.
As it's a dialogue you might forget to close, in fact a study found that 85% of the meetings between sellers and clients end without the seller ever asking for the sale. But closing is crucial.
You've done most of the work already, all you need to do now is ask for their business. Don't talk yourself out of the sale- ask for their business and don't add any more information as you've already provided this. Avoid filling the silence and allow them to think before they respond. The close should feel like a natural progression from the rest of your pitch so asking for their business will seem like the next logical step.
You may need to negotiate with the client. You may get a "maybe" or a "yes" even if they've initially declined. Consider offering samples or trial periods.
After a client has decided to buy they want to get the best deal. There are rules:
You need to be ok with a "no" and go into the next meeting feeling positive and enthusiastic. The number of companies who won't buy is always larger than the number who will so anticipate rejection, accept it gracefully and thank the buyers for their time.
If you have built up a positive relationship with your prospect ask for referrals to other potential clients. Ensure that you ask for a quick email introduction as a name and phone number is unlikely to generate a reply.
If you have been referred your pitch is likely to be well-received as you are already viewed as credible and worth listening to.
80% of all deals are made in the follow-up so when you end the pitch and walk out of the door you want to already have your follow-up or at least a mechanism to follow up in place. If you leave with no means to contact the client then you will effectively be cold calling when you pick up the phone to make contact again.
But if you have a meeting lined up or a call in the diary then you can leave with a clear time frame for them to consider the proposal and reach a conclusion. This will add urgency without pressure and will increase your chances of success.
Send a follow-up email within 24 hours thanking the client for the meeting despite the outcome. If you made plans for next steps, such as setting up another meeting, getting a referral, sending more information etc., then include this in the message.
Continue to follow-up until you get a yes or a definite no. Never interpret a lack of response as a no. You have to be relentless.
Think about what went well and what didn't and alter your pitch.
Following the steps above will ensure that your sales pitch is clear, direct and effective, but there is still no replacement for practice. Making a sales pitch is much like acting in that you need to convey the message in a certain way to elicit the reaction that you desire. Very few people can make a great sales pitch on the first attempt, so you will need to practice.
Begin with a solid pitch that is ready to present to a client and read it through until you are familiar with each slide. Read aloud and focus on your tone of voice and presence and then perform it in front of peers who can critique your pitch or in a realistic environment using virtual reality. This allows you to simulate giving an actual pitch in a realistic, immersive way.