During my early years in sales I listened to many pitches. It is a great training and you should try to listen as often as possible. Sales are everywhere, so it is very simple. These days I find myself analyzing every situation. At RadioShack, Starbucks, bestbuy.....
It always keeps me puzzled how “sales people” mess it up on their own and don't even realize. However a couple of years ago the same happened to me. I kept wondering why I am always being asked questions by prospects that I didn't want to answer. They always seemed to figure out what I didn't want to talk about. Like:
“Michele, how big is you company?”
I really hated the question, at the time I was a one-man show and just didn't want people to know. I was afraid of endless discussions if I could get the job done. But it came up in every single pitch. So I talked to some buddies in sales and figured out, that they've never been asked the question. So why did my prospects do so?
I thought about it and wondered if it was possible to take control of the pitch in such a way, that this question would never be asked. Even more, only the questions I want to be asked should come up! I started to analyze what I said during the pitch and tried to find the phrase that influenced my prospects to ask the question.
I think of myself being a good salesman. I discuss every single feature of a product and detailed explain how it is working. If my customers sign they know every single detail. By the way, this creates a great aftersales experience with almost non post sale questions and happy customers.
Than I figured it out. It was not what I did say, but rather what I intentionally left out. I explained so many details that it pretty much was the only thing the customers had left to ask.
Why was I scarred about the question again? I though, if I had to answer it I would loose the sale! And I was right. I lost the sale most of the time. After I explained so many details and basically raised the service/product to be unmatched in the industry, people lost all trust when I was stumbling about this tiny, stupid question.
So I tried many things, (lying, restructuring the sales pitch, sweetening with cookies, etc.) in the end only one thing really worked out well. Taking up the topic myself and discussing it right at the beginning! May sound surprising, I know! But starting the conversation by introducing myself and explaining that I am doing this all by myself, why and how, made people understand it much better. Of course I still lost some sales, but at least I saved a couple of hours on talking to these clients.
Today I understand why it changed so much to talk about it in the beginning. It is all about meeting expectations and the last feeling you leave your prospect with. I unintentionally made them think I am a huge company due to the way I present the product. So in the end, I messed up everything myself, not meeting their expectations and leaving the pitch with a bad feeling on the client side.
But it is the last feeling that decides if they buy or not. I figured it is best to reduce expectations in the beginning and build them up to a maximum just before the end of the pitch. Pretty much like Steve Jobs. “One more thing!”
So go out, and talk about the bad things first, it will lead to more sales and happier customers.