Sales are the lifeblood of any company: No matter how fantastic your product or service is, if customers or clients are not purchasing it, it might as well not exist. That's why crafting an effective sales pitch is so critical for business growth.
Bob Circosta, the original host of the Home Shopping Network and television's "Billion Dollar Man," knows a lot about what it takes to close a sale. It's not about giving a rundown of the facts and features of your product — it's about communicating the ways in which it can help the buyer, he said.
"Stop thinking of it just from the perspective of what you have," Circosta told Business News Daily. "Think about what it will do for others. You need to take your elevator pitch and transcend it ... to other people's perspective [and] solve their problems."
Circosta advised approaching sales from a helping perspective. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to make the sale, just focus on what the product means to the buyer, he said.
"If [sales reps] focus on how to communicate effectively and help the person, it takes pressure off themselves, and puts the focus and energy where it needs to be," Circosta said. "A superior salesperson inspires the buyer to feel the benefits of what they have."
If you want to craft better sales pitches, here are a few key elements you should focus on. [See Related Story: How to Pitch Your Business to Customers, Investors or Anyone Else]
The first contact with a potential customer or client is crucial to setting the tone for the ongoing relationship. Tom Silk, executive vice president at WorkStride, a provider of employee recognition software, said there is power in the first sentence of the sales pitch. But it's not what you say; it's how you say it, he added.
"Use tone, energy — stand up and show enthusiasm," Silk said. "Energy sets the tone of the conversation."
Moreover, it's important to establish a connection with the person you're selling to, said Brian Stafford, CEO of collaboration software company Diligent Corp.
"Establishing rapport is absolutely critical," Stafford said. "The best sales rep creates a connection with the prospect as early on as possible."
Whether in person or on the phone, pay attention to the cues that are happening during the pitch, Stafford said. Pay attention to who is speaking, and if it's an in-person meeting, note the body language. Look for affirmative cues, such as head nods, forward leaning, and open, relaxed postures. If you are getting the opposite, such as crossed arms or other nonresponses, then take a step back.
"I think sometimes, [sales reps] keep plowing ahead even if they aren't getting the response they hoped for," Stafford said. "It can be more dynamic to stop and pump the brakes, ask questions, and force them to say what isn't working for them."
It is harder to identify these types of social cues over the phone, but they are there if you listen. Silk advised envisioning what is going on in the room and working through the "noise language." What is being said, by whom and how? Adjust to the silence, and solicit feedback.
"If the plan is not going well, change and adjust on the fly," Silk said.
The call to action
This is perhaps the most important part of the sales pitch: Ask someone to take action at the end of a sales presentation, Circosta said. Even if the prospective buyer isn't ready to make a final decision yet, leaving them with a clear call to action will at least keep the idea of doing business with you fresh in their mind.
"If you don't ask them for the sale, they probably won't go through with it," he said.
The follow-up plan
Knowing how and when to follow up on a sales pitch is another factor in its success. It would be nice if every sale were closed at the end of the pitch, but that rarely happens. Decision makers need to take time to evaluate the proposal and ensure what you have to offer is going to fix their problem or improve their capabilities.
WorkStride creates a project plan with its potential clients, defining the milestones for follow-up and the best method to do so.
"The whole purpose of the project plan is to let us know when to follow up," Silk said. "No 'checking in' annoying calls. We can make the follow-up calls with a purpose — after a key meeting of decision makers or at the appropriate time in their budget cycle."
Diligent Corp. employs a similar strategy: "Follow up, and make yourself be a champion of your key contact in the sales process," Stafford said. "Problem solve with them. What are the things we need to do to get them over the line?"
Above all else, Stafford said the most important thing you can do throughout the entire sales process is to listen to your prospective client.
"Ask questions and listen," he said. "Figure out what a potential client wants in a product, and then tailor your response to meet it."