The sales pitch is dead… long live the sales conversation!

The digital evolution seems to have put marketing in the driver’s seat of the sales process. Two-thirds of the sale takes place before the first face to face contact with your prospects because they get informed through digital media.

You hear that a lot these days.

But does it mean that the sales pitch as we know it is dead?

Or is it just time to re-invent it?

The sales pitch is dead… it really is!

Surely there are many reasons to assume that the classic sales pitch has become obsolete. For one thing, can you still afford the infamous lack of consistency in your sales or product story?

Sales rep Suzy still uses the old slide deck which – heaven forbids – contains last year’s pricing. Or account manager Mike who heads out with his special version of the company presentation that looked really crisp on his laptop, but not so much on his tablet. It’s a known secret that in most sales organisations there are as many stories as there are people. And that is counterproductive at best.

Another even more important reason is that your average sales presentation or talk tends to be overly generic and linear. It does not address the client’s specific situation or industry issues, nor does it allow your sales to adjust their story according to the real flow of the conversation. “Let’s skip these slides, they’re not relevant for you,” is not the best way to show your prospect you are the trusted advisor he or she is looking for.

Your odd sales appointment poses other real pains for a sales manager. You spend weeks or months on training and onboarding sales people or preparing them for new marketing campaigns. And when you send them out there in the field, you have no control whatsoever anymore over how they actually spread the word. “We had a good chat. Coffee was great. They looked really interested. I’m sure there’s some business there.” Classic. Right, but how on earth will you measure the outcome of those lovely coffee klatches?

Increasing the value of ‘analogue’ sales contacts

In these digital times, live contacts are becoming scarcer and therefore more valuable. It’s no surprise to see that ‘analogue’ experiences are gaining importance again. Face to face contacts and live interactive experiences have become the new counterweight for what may be perceived as digital overkill. The time is now for sales to take advantage of that.

So, is the sales pitch not dead after all? Oh yes, it surely is. At least, the one where your sales people do the dog and pony show. It is now up to marketing to make sure your prospects are well-informed, interested and even sympathetic to your cause even before their first physical meeting with you.

It is, on the other hand, your sales team’s job to listen to your customers and prospects, understand their pains, and get maximum value out of their – and their customer’s – limited and precious time. If they succeed in turning the sales pitch or presentation into a two-way conversation, they will not only increase the value of the encounter, they will boost the value of the order.

Leaving the safe harbour of PowerPoint

Turning your sales into conversationists may seem like a colossal challenge. You may be worried that Suzy or Mike will get lost at sea when they leave the safe harbour of PowerPoint. And rightly so. How do you improve their confidence and make sure they are out their catching big fish? Here are a few hints:

Invest in a solid yet flexible story

Conversation does not mean story anarchy. In order to spend maximum time on conversation – i.e. getting to know your prospective customers and understanding their true pains – your sales team needs to master the basic ‘mother’ story. Without being pinned down by a rigid set of slides, they need a narrative that they can easily own, get across and can bend to the conversation.

Use smart presentation technology

Once you have got your story nailed down, you need to arm your sales force with technology to facilitate a conversation. That allows them to focus on the core narrative, on responding to the customer’s thoughts, instead of focusing on the next slide. A sales presentation tool supporting them to create a sales experience anywhere, anytime on any device. That limits the time they spend on meeting preparation to a minimum. That technology is available today.

Tap into emotions

Conversation is not only about words. It’s about making a connection. If you can tap into your customer’s or prospect’s emotions at every meeting, you multiply your chances to make a valuable sale and create a lasting relationship. Therefore, put visual power to work. Use interactive features, stunning images, video or even virtual and augmented reality to create remarkable experiences and to bring your story to life.

Measure results

No more coffee klatch. You want to know how your story and sales experience exactly resonates with your audiences. When using smart presentation technology, be sure it has the capability to provide you with powerful analytics and insights in your sales funnel performance, prospective targeting efficiency and brand content appeal. Use those insights to tune your story and steer your sales team in the right direction: that of a well-filled pipeline.

Long live the sales conversation!

Even if many sales professionals are confident they master contemporary sales conversation techniques, they all too often fail to turn a sales pitch into a profitable deal.

Just like digitisation has profoundly transformed marketing, modern presentation technology is now adding new and indispensable dimensions to the classic sales pitch. It empowers sales people to save time before and during sales appointments while increasing their commercial impact. And while marketing is taking over the wheel of lead generation, it is more than ever a sales job to have the value conversation that improves and closes the final deal.

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