On the Netflix original show “White Gold,” we’re introduced to Vincent Swan, a chap from Essex with no real ambition in life. He works a dead-end job he doesn’t care for, until finding his true calling: manipulating unwitting people into purchasing a product — in this case, home windows — they don’t really need, all for the sake of landing a sale and making that bonus.
The show, which takes place in the 80s, is a rather brutal depiction of the stereotypical image conjured up for so many people when they hear the moniker “salesman.” He’s decked out impeccably in the latest business attire, hair slicked back with no chance of mussing, and when he shows up at your front door, briefcase in hand, he doesn’t intend to leave without a signed bill of sale, no matter what extremes he needs to go to in order to succeed.
Needless to say, this Vincent character may see immediate results, but inevitably his tactic results in a plethora of not-so-pleasant repercussions. In the real world, beyond the ethical implications that come with this approach to sales, it’s just not even a sustainable method. Especially today. People are wise to the tricks of the trade. They put in their due diligence to study a company and product. And they don’t hand over their money needlessly. And they talk. Reputation is everything and nowadays, that “dirty” approach to sales is not acceptable.
Today, salespeople need to take a fully honest, transparent approach. They need to treat potential customers not just as commodities, but as people. And they should target those that actually have a need for what it is they’re selling. Following are a few tips to keep in mind to help make your next sales pitch a winner.
Know who you’re talking to.
Do your homework. Before you even think about sitting down to sell your product to a potential buyer, make sure you know who you’re talking to. For starters, know the names and positions of everyone you’ll be meeting with; on top of that, know what it is the company does, what their values are, and what is missing from their business (i.e. what you can do to help them out). The last thing you want is to go into a meeting blind.
Ditch the standard pitch.
Think about how you would feel if someone kicked off a meeting by unleashing a fury of information at you all at once. You’d probably feel overwhelmed, and at some point your eyes may start to gloss over. Instead, turn your pitch into a two-sided conversation. Use this meeting as a means to establish a relationship. Make it personal. Instead of listing off everything your product does, identify pain points and demonstrate how your product can alleviate their problems. All those other features are bonuses, once you’ve addressed the immediate needs (and wants). The value of the product is much more important than the function.
Ask the right questions.
Sure, you’ve done your research. But not everything is Googleable. Asking questions shows that you care about learning everything you can about their needs, and it gives you additional insight into just how good a fit your product is. Just make sure to choose your questions wisely, so you’re met with informative responses you can use, and not just a simple yes or no.
Consider potential objections.
What roadblocks might you encounter during your meeting? Consider the concerns that other people have shown in the past. Plan for any additional doubts that may arise along the way. (Maybe this company worked with someone offering a similar service in the past, and their experience was poor.) Have a string of responses at the ready. These types of questions will almost undoubtedly arise; if you can reply without missing a beat, rather than meeting them with silence or a quick shuffling through papers, you have a much better chance of alleviating their concerns.
Close with a commitment.
In an ideal world, we’d all walk away from every pitch meeting with a signed deal. But it doesn’t always work that way. What you can do if your prospect is still on the fence by the end, is secure some sort of commitment. Whether it’s a promise to reflect on your proposal, or a preemptively scheduled plan to follow-up with a meeting or phone call, make sure this isn’t the end of the discussion.
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