While there are products and services to sell, and customers willing to buy them, the ability to deliver a killer sales pitch will always be essential. And no amount of modernisation or automation of the B2B sales process will ever change that.
In the end, a good sales pitch is about getting in front of the right people, with the right message, at the right time. Hit those three things and you’ll hit the jackpot, because that’s the secret to successfully pitching:
- You need to know who the right people are
- You need to be able to get a moment of their time
- You need to say the right thing to them
- You need to say it at the right time
It’s what all modern marketing and sales techniques are about – from content marketing, to consultative selling and account based marketing – they focus on helping you find the right people at the right time.
Here, we’re going to look at how best to prepare when you’re invited to pitch to a high-level prospect. We’ll be covering everything from structuring your pitch, to designing your slides, as well as offering advice on how you can personally prepare for the big day.
Pitching your story
The art of storytelling is really what pitching is all about. A good pitch will have a logical structure, like the storyline running through a movie or book. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end, and you should be aiming to deliver something with a punch (being boring is definitely a major no-no!).
Take some time to outline your pitch. Think where you might add hooks, surprises and what you could use to make it finish on a high note. A sales pitch is like a documentary, you will explain a concept, then build up the tension as you go along and finally bring it to a grand conclusion.
How to structure your sales pitch:
- Start by stating the purpose of the pitch
- Present the status quo
- Explain your solution
- Show what makes you unique
- Define the real value of your solution
- Address fears and objections head on
- Talk about what others are saying about you
- Anchor your pricing
- Ask for the business
- Follow up
Stating the purpose of the pitch
At the very beginning, you need to talk about the purpose of your pitch. Make it clear why you are there and what the end goal is.
Sometimes, it may simply be “to present our solution to you”.
Or it could be “to define our value proposition and agree possible terms”.
Of course, it could also be “to show you why we believe we are the best to do the job and get your approval”.
This mentally prepares the audience for what they should expect from the meeting. Far too many pitches ramble on without a clear goal. Define your purpose from the beginning. If you are clear and precise about what you want to achieve, it will help everyone ‘get it’.
If timings are unclear, make a point of stating that too. Nobody likes a pitch without knowing how long it’s going to take. Prepare your listeners for how long you anticipate it will be.
Also set out some house rules, in the sense of letting your audience know whether it’s ok to interrupt you as you are going along, or if you prefer to handle any questions at the end.
It’s important that everyone knows why you are standing there in front of them. Introduce yourself, not just by name but also by what you have done in the past that might qualify you to be presenting to them. Use the introduction to help give yourself some personal credibility. Even if you think the people in the room know you already, do it anyway, as it’ll be a beneficial reminder.
Present the status quo
Every good story starts by introducing an audience to the world they’re about to enter, its characters and the plot. The same is true for a sales pitch.
Outline what the status quo is for the company you’re presenting to – this may be the general market, or their specific industry. Mention what the pain points they are likely to be feeling are.
If you’ve done your research (which should be par to the course if you’re using consultative selling) now is the time to reveal what you know. The key is to show to your audience that you’ve done your homework and fully understand their situation.
Just be careful not to exaggerate and equally, avoid playing things down too much. State the situation as it is, as far as you know and mention any sources where applicable.
You want to be seeing some nods of assurance at this point. A good presenter will be able to read their audience and figure out if they’re on board. Some people can do this naturally, others will need to learn it over time, as their experience increases.
Look out for physical signals and cues that your audience may be giving off. Nodding of heads will obviously be one of the most positive.
And try not to be too concerned if everyone sits there with their arms crossed. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and tell yourself they are simply a round of high stakes poker players, who don’t want to reveal what they think just yet.
If you are new to giving sales pitches, don’t worry about trying to read your audience. This can totally throw you off your main train of thought and that would not be good! Do whatever you can to stay in the moment. Be on high alert but concentrating and to the point.
Now that you’ve laid out the problem – the major “disaster” in your plotline – it’s time for the knight in shining armour (your solution) to make its entrance.
Explain your solution
What does the solution to all these issues and problems look like?
The tricky part in this section is not getting too distracted, or going off point. Aim to keep it precise, short and simple.
- What is the solution and what does it look like?
- How long is it going to take?
- Who is going to be involved and in what way?
You shouldn’t be talking about price yet – nor value. That bit will come later on. This is where you need to go through the mechanics of your solution, as succinctly as you can.
Avoid using jargon, even if you are in a room with industry colleagues. You can never be 100% sure that everyone will full understand it all, so it’s not worth the risk.
It takes great concentration to follow someone who is talking in long convoluted sentences. Keep your language simple and your audience will subconsciously thank you for it. Go for short sentences, with simple words and get to the point quickly. That will be key to success with your delivery.
Show what makes you unique
Once you’ve outlined the solution, it’s time to prove why you will be the best for the job.
- Do you know your USPs – unique selling points?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- How will you approach the project and how is that different to anyone else?
Quantify these differences as much as you can. Add in any numbers too, as they will always add greater credibility to any claims you make.
Define the value of your solution
Apart from solving the problem, what is the true value of your solution? We’re not taking price here. This is the moment where you remind the audience why they need to work with you.
To help you be clear on what this value may be, you need to work out the benefits of your solution. Make sure you are clear on what the difference is between features and benefits.
A great example is Apple and its first iPod. At the time, there were some good mp3 players on the market. But all they were competing over was how many gigabytes they each could hold. They talked about their value in terms of these gigabytes – a feature.
Then along came Apple who instead said their iPod could help you get “1000 songs in your pocket”. They explained why the feature (the number of gigabytes) was so good to have (the benefit). And boom, they took over the market.
Apple went on to sell record numbers of iPods, despite arguably better and cheaper players being on the market. Such is the power of talking about the real value and the real benefit to a purchaser.
To work it out for your own product or service, list all the features in a column. Then next to them list the respective benefits. It is these benefits which tune into the ‘WII-FM’ – the ‘what’s in it for me’? Which is what everyone actually wants to know.
Don’t necessarily use your list exactly as it is. Use it to pinpoint the exact value of your services and then pack these messages into your presentation.
Of course, there will be a time and a place for listing out the features. But you did that already, when you outlined the mechanics of your solution. Now is the time you need to get a connection on an emotional level. Show them what they will get out of working with you and buying your product.
Address fears and objections head on
Usually by this point lots of questions, objections and fears will have surfaced from the audience.
“Yes, but…” is happening in their minds, even if it’s not being said out loud.
The best salespeople will address these issues head on and never simply hope that no-one ever asks!
The truth is, everyone fears making the wrong purchasing decision, or a bad deal. And the higher the stakes, the bigger the fear, so you’ve got to address it.
In psychology, they say to overcome fear you must tackle it head on, and that’s certainly true for sales pitches.
Think, what are the most common or most obvious objections and fears your buyers might have? List them out and address them. See if you can turn them into a benefit, wherever possible.
Be truthful, and say: “Yes, if that was to happen the whole venture is a failure.”
But follow it up with: “Which is why we do a), b) and c) to minimise any possible chance of it occurring.”
Traditionally, this point in the process was all about sales convincing a buyer that they needed to buy. Making them take on the product no matter the cost. But these types of pressure tactics no longer work.
Yes, you may get a short term gain, but in the long run you will damage your reputation and that’s something which is difficult to regain.
Do your homework beforehand. Make sure you only speak to people who really need what you are offering. Then no matter which objection comes, it will always be a good choice for them. Your job is to show them why, with honesty and authenticity.
For more tips check out our blog 5 hot tips for effective objection handling.
Tell them what others are saying about you
Before you talk about price, there’s one more part of the story you need to address – your credibility. Share what others are saying about you, in the form of testimonials.
When you’re doing your research beforehand, come up with a couple of relevant examples that you can talk through. You want to be able to say something like: “This client had the same problem as you and we did this to solve it.”
Always chose examples that will make sense to your audience. They need examples they can easily identify with, either because they have the same problem, or they’re in the same industry, etc.
If you get a particularly good response on any of your social media platforms, then show them that too, or point them in the direction when they’re doing their own research.
Gather together all your testimonials and present them in a short but effective way. It’s an important message you’re giving out here, which is that these people say we do our job well.
Anchor your pricing
When it comes to talking about your pricing, there’s a tried and tested technique that’s proven to be effective – anchoring. The idea is that you plant the thought in your audience’s mind that all the good things you just talked about are rather pricey.
This may be done by slipping in statements such as: “usually costs….” and “all the components separately would cost….”.
Then when you reveal what you are charging, it’s actually less and there’s a moment of relief.
If you face objections over price, then the cause is usually a mismatch between the perceived value that your product will offer them, versus what it costs. Your job is to remedy this situation. If the value truly isn’t as high as the price tag, then throw in some added value.
If the objection has been caused because you didn’t explain how it all works and the benefits well enough, then explain it better. Go over it again and make it crystal clear what the value is and therefore, why the price is justified.
Ask for the business
Surprisingly, many sales pitches will end without anyone ever asking for the business. Make sure you have a strong call to action at the end of your presentation. What it is will depend on your initial goal, so bring that up again and ask when you could begin delivery.
Put the ball in their court and only finish up when there’s been some agreement on what is to happen next.
Equally surprising is that often follow ups don’t happen, or only a half-hearted attempt is made at it. But that’s like leaving money on the table.
Set reminders and use your systems to help you remember to make regular follow ups. And always send across any materials or additional information you promised during the presentation, within the timeframe you promised them.
Think about how you will present your content visually. Death by power point is to be avoided at all costs. We’ve all suffered it at some point. Whether it’s too many bullet points, too much text being crammed in, or a presenter who just reads off the slides one by one.
Break down your presentation into slides that will enhance what you’re saying. Then have a handout that re-iterates the key points and gives further details. It may be more work to prepare, but will bring you better results in the end.
World-renowned marketing specialist, Guy Kawasaki, suggests using a 10/20/30 rule. This means a pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes and contain no font smaller than thirty points.
He believes good slides are ones that enhance a live talk, they’re not meant to tell the whole story without you. For more info, check out: Guy Kawasaki – The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch
Another great resource, which offers additional ideas for stepping away from boring presentation decks and finding new ways to present and pitch your ideas, is a book called PresentationZen by Garr Reynolds, who says: “This is not a book about Zen; this is a book about communication and about seeing presentations in a slightly different way, a way that is in tune with our times.”
Before you pitch – preparation
Apart from working out a great presentation that includes appealing slides and a comprehensive handout, there are other ways you need to prepare, to help ensure it is a success:
Test your presentation
Get in front of friends and family to practice. However, avoid taking their advice on the content, unless they are in business themselves. The idea is to use them to help you battle your fears, so you feel more comfortable when you’re finally standing in front of your audience. For feedback on the content itself, make sure you test your presentation in front of a business savvy person.
There’s nothing worse than having technical issues on the day. By being super prepared you can alleviate most potential problems – and it’s always going to be better safe than sorry.
Make sure you’ve got all the necessary adapters and that the presentation is saved in multiple places, including on a memory stick and in the cloud. If you’re using your own laptop, make sure you have a backup one that’s also charged, ready and has been fully tested too. And never rely on there being an internet connection anywhere you go.
If you are including a video clip, check beforehand that the room has the ability to play the audio. If it needs to come out of your PC and it’s a big room, then you’re in trouble. Check this long before the presentation date, so you have plenty of time to plan.
Improve your skills
Nothing can beat experience and the more presentations you do, the better you will become.
But to improve your skills, consider joining a local group like Toastmasters, or a local theatre drama group. They will help you to feel more relaxed speaking in front of an audience. Eventually, you will be able to read their mood and energy, and actively respond to it during a presentation.
Overall, the key to a successful sales pitch is being able to make a connection. Show that you care, that you understand and that you are there to help. Deliver this through communication that has purpose, power and authenticity and before long your sales presentations will be legendary.