Poor economic growth has caused many businesses to reevaluate the strength of their partnerships. As a result, vendors and suppliers that don’t perform well are increasingly put on the chopping block. This trend doesn’t bode well given how many vendors are able to provide what customers are looking for. According to Gallup’s “Guide to Customer Centricity: Analytics and Advice for B2B Leaders,” only 31 percent of businesses believe their suppliers understand their needs.
If you plan on seeking a high-level leadership role in business, you’ll need to acknowledge how an effective sales pitch mitigates this customer-supplier issue (the pitch isn’t just a chance to show off your product). In today’s business climate, your pitch must convince potential customers that you recognize their struggles and empathize with their concerns. By supporting the vendor-client relationship in such a positive manner, you reduce your risk of churn. This is true of any endeavor, whether you’re a startup entrepreneur trying to get investors or a manager of sales trying to re-engage a high-profile client.
That said, business operations have changed in such a way that old pitching techniques—such as lengthy slide decks and requesting non-disclosure agreements—no longer work. The sales leaders of today and tomorrow need to adapt accordingly. Below are 6 ways to perfect your sales pitch to any audience:
1. Know the Modern Buyer
Clients today are more likely to research a product or vendor long before getting in contact with sales. They pore through product descriptions, read consumer reviews, and search trade publications for additional insight. Businesses have adapted accordingly, creating free assets like white papers and case studies to display their expertise. As such, with so much information available, prospective clients in the initial stages of their buyer’s journeys have higher levels of knowledge regarding a particular service than in years past.
Unfortunately, many sales teams haven’t kept up. They still focus on preliminary talking points, restating information that clients have already learned. While the prospect’s questions now are more specific and in depth, and thus, some salespeople are unprepared to answer them.
Understanding modern client actions and motivations ahead of time can help you avoid such scenarios. As a salesperson, you need a thorough grasp of your products and services and must anticipate unusual or hypothetical questions. Similarly, as Gallup’s research indicated, you need an intimate understanding of the client’s needs. Just as potential customers or investors research your business, so too should you research theirs. Below are 3 tips for doing so:
1. See what assets they have available, then think critically about what sort of services they need to sell their products or why your portfolio or business philosophy makes for a good investment.
2. Identify pain points within the industry, both common and uncommon.
3. Get as specific as possible. The more you understand about what the prospect needs and how he or she finds solutions, the better equipped you are to create a convincing sales pitch.
Research prospects when crafting your pitch.
2. Understand the Prospect’s Risk Tolerance
Steve W. Martin, founder of the Heavy Hitter Sales training program, noted that risk tolerance changes depending on department. He commented that an information technology manager is more willing to gamble on a vendor than a marketing manager might be, meaning these two individuals will view the same sales pitch with different attitudes. Whereas marketing may be more willing to take a chance, IT will demand more examples, specifications, case studies, and other elements of proof before entering a partnership. After surveying over 230 business professionals, Martin provided a chart that provides a brief look at the risk-tolerance percentages of different departments. A higher tolerance means the department is more willing to risk losing money to get better results:
3. Enhance Your Communication
Effective communication is essential for sales. Instead of talking at a potential client or investor, modern sales techniques require you to hold a reciprocal conversation. Doing so demonstrates you respect prospects and understand their needs, which can help them view your business more favorably. Similarly, listening to investors and answering their questions in a trustworthy manner shows your commitment to their interests, not just your own.
Communication puts your soft skills on full display, but many graduates are deficient in this area. According to a Payscale survey, only 46 percent of graduates are effective communicators. This is why you should focus on developing your soft skills while in the process of obtaining your online MBA. Practice active listening and try viewing projects from another person’s point of view. Furthermore, if you choose to work while getting your degree, you can get real-world experience by practicing your soft skills while on the job.
4. Focus on Collaboration
Sales is typically seen as a single-person undertaking, despite the fact that the outcome of a pitch affects the whole company. By thinking of sales as a collaborative activity, you can bring new perspectives into your pitch and may find points for improvement you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Even if you attend meetings alone, developing your pitch with other people helps ensure success. As a student at the Washington State University Carson College of Business, your peers will be a great resource for refining your technique. Although the program is 100 percent online, you still have the opportunity to connect with your fellow students and bounce ideas off each other. In addition, if you attend the 10-day international field study, you’ll get to meet and travel with your peers in person, and get even more opportunity to receive feedback on your pitching technique.
5. Learn to Communicate with the C-suite
Salespeople are used to talking to people in mid-level and upper management, but their skills may not be ready for executive-level prospects. According to Martin, only 31 percent of salespeople are effective at communicating with senior executives. This shortfall is unfortunate, as these business leaders are often the decision makers. You can’t land the sale without them, even if you successfully pitch to management.
The difference between talking to managers and executives lies in their distinct points of view. Managers are concerned with their teams’ efficiency, while executives are focused on the business as a whole. When pitching to the C-suite, explain how your service reduces overall operating costs, minimizes friction in production, or offers other such benefits that have a company-wide impact. Reading trade news and publications is also beneficial, as doing so helps you recognize which industry issues are currently at the top of executives’ minds.
6. Strengthen Your Close
Even a perfect pitch can fall apart at the close. Instead of using this moment to secure a sale, take time to remind potential clients why partnering with your company is beneficial. Prompt them by asking if they see the potential for a partnership, and if they say yes, ask why. Having the client verbally express this viewpoint solidifies the idea that working with you or your company is a good decision.
Furthermore, when the prospect or investor accepts your pitch, it’s time to stop pushing. You’ve achieved your initial goal, so now you must deliver what you promised. It is best to save upsells for later in the relationship when the client has developed trust.
Studying Business Techniques at the Carson College
You’ll create and pitch a business plan as part of your studies at the Carson College.
The Carson College’s online MBA program gives you the opportunity to further improve your entrepreneurial skills and build on knowledge you obtained in undergrad and the workplace. As part of the base curriculum, you’ll study business law, accounting, marketing, data analysis, leadership, finance, and more. You can also choose to focus your education along one of four concentrations: finance, marketing, international business, or hospitality business management. If these don’t align with your professional goals, or you’d rather have a more overarching experience, you can follow the general MBA track.
In the Capstone courses, you can learn to develop a full business plan, which you will then pitch to the faculty committee as though they were a group of investors. This exercise is your opportunity to show evidence of your achievements and credentials. With the education and experience an online MBA from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business offers, you can be prepared to successfully pitch your business or service to prospects throughout your career.