Death of the Sales Pitch
The sales pitch. What a horrible thing to listen to on a Friday afternoon. Or any day for that matter. Your mobile rings, it’s an unknown number. Disregarding the fact you are deep in focused work, it may be vital, so you answer it.
Rage ensues after what had been a relatively pleasant afternoon. Instead, it’s yet ANOTHER salesperson desperate for their next commission cheque.
The thing is, business owners are just like us. They need to sell their products and services, and when cleverly engaged on a cold call, they’ll often be receptive and encourage it. The problem is too many salespeople are terrible at cold calls. For many salespeople, it’s a one-way street – they deliver bad sales pitches with no attempt to engage the prospect. No wonder the prospect hangs up the phone.
As a Sales Manager for a team of 12, I actively discourage pitching. It doesn’t engage the prospect, and more often than not, it’s all about what we as the vendor can sell and less about the problems our solutions can solve. We need to ask questions to establish if the issues we solve align with the prospect’s issues.
That’s why, after reading Codex 13: Cold Calling Polarity Shifting by Justin Michael, I was pleased to read about a cold calling structure that aligned closely with my thoughts on the subject.
The Old Way vs The New Way
Traditionally, a cold call would often align to the following structure:
intro > pitch > questioning > close
Whilst this structure does work, by the time the salesperson finishes their pitch, the prospect has already established this is a sales call. They aren’t really even listening and have pretty much decided to hang up regardless of what the salesperson says. It’s about the seller, not the prospect.
Rather than the above structure, I feel it is much more effective to engage the prospect earlier on in the call, like:
intro > questions > pitch > close
By structuring the call like the above, we are enabling the prospect to start talking sooner, finding out some of the challenges that the prospect might be facing, thus, being able to more effectively craft the pitch to the prospect’s needs. This structure promotes a dialogue between two parties rather than a one-way street. This structure is about the prospect, not the seller.
The Dreaded Cold Call: Justin Michaels Approach
Justin Michael is no stranger to cold calls with over 20,000 hours logged, and it seems he has come to a similar conclusion. However, in his PDF titled Codex 13, he stresses that all too often, the sales call becomes about the sellers’ needs, not the prospects.
He stresses that the polarity needs to shift to the prospect. We need to be listening first!
By structuring the call to get the prospect to talk about what they control and identifying their immediate sphere of influence, they’ll be more likely to open up, and hopefully, not hang up on you.
With a few clever techniques, which I’ll outline below, Justin puts the control into the hands of the prospect whilst still getting the information required to close the deal.
Justin’s Tips for Cold Calling
Power: “Who’s In Charge Of _____?
Dale Carnegie states, “The most beautiful sound in the English language is the sound of the prospects own name”. So starting the call this way, with the correct pronunciation of the prospects name, gets the call started on the right foot.
Then, asking the next particular question prompts the prospect to proudly exercise their power and place in the company.
Asking the question “Who’s in charge of _____?” shifts the polarity to the prospect, not the seller and gets them talking.
Justin’s point here is that it’s a question that matters, not necessarily a specific question. Examples I have often used include, “we solve problem XYZ, am I wrong in thinking that this is a challenge you may also be experiencing?” Here, rather than going into a dreaded one-way sales pitch, we are getting the prospect engaged in the conversation early, without having to listen to a wall of audial drivel before getting the chance to speak.
Routing: Leverage Within Seconds
The other benefit of the question ‘who’s in charge of ____?” is if they aren’t the correct person to be speaking with, a referral is often supplied without too much resistance. As well, a second-order effect; we avoid wasting precious time delivering our pitch to the wrong person, often receiving a referral to the correct contact at the same time! Efficient work.
Ruin: Turning Polarity Into Traction
This stage of the calling process differs quite heavily from traditional sales techniques. Here, Justin simply asks the question, “How’s that working out for you?”
This question is brilliant because it is open and better still gets them talking. You can peel the layers off the onion on their current situation whilst validating them on their existing systems and processes. Eventually, the prospect will ask a question along the lines of “Wait, what do you do again?” It’s only now you have permission to pitch. We’ve created a desire and intrigue by getting the prospect talking, and now they’re interested in what we do.
Multiply: Go For The Close
After following the previous steps, you get to go for the close. Here Justin’s script is:
“I got it [name] – why not plug us in as a multiplier, see if we can improve your results?”
I love this close as it is not promising anything, but alluding to the fact that we could maybe improve their results. The request is anything but high-pressure and gives the prospect a chance to consider and respond.
Conclusion: Stop Being The Needy Salesperson
Justin’s strategies flip the polarity on the traditional sales call, enabling the customer to lead the conversation. As a result, we avoid the friction that often comes with unsolicited sales calls.
Gone are the days of sales tricks and high-pressure selling. The prospect is just far too informed. If they don’t like how you engage with them, they’ll simply go somewhere else.
Stop pitching, and start asking questions. Your quota will thank you for it.