How to Avoid Epic IT Sales Pitch Fails

Posted by Cyrus Woolard on May 14, 2018

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Have you ever followed up with a prospect, only to be told that they're passing on your solution based on abstractions like "lack of cultural fit" or "lack of team alignment"? Huh? What gives?

What they're probably trying to shield you from is something that looks a lot like two middle fingers:

  • We don't like you.
  • We don't trust you.

Maybe you arrived to the pitch with a sea of suits, blew through your deck, and left no time for questions. Maybe you did... any number of things wrong, honestly. Considering that only 35 percent of B2B buyers say they have a favorable view of salespeople, there are literally hundreds of ways for sales pitches to blow up. 

Perfecting the pitch isn't easy, but there are strategies you can use that will make it easier for buyers to say "yes." Our Emissaries lay out how you should prepare for pitches, what your goal should be in the meeting, and what you absolutely need to deliver.

 

Treat your pitch as an opportunity for conversation and connection

First of all, don't call it a pitch. Your meeting with the buyer is about collaboration, conversation, and connection. You'll need to ask questions—and equally, be able to answer them. And you'll need to listen closely and carefully in order to truly get to know your buyer.

"It’s about the relationship and the connection," our Emissary, a former VP of IT at Kellogg’s, said. "The reality is that a lot of people communicate but very few really connect with their customer, and you cannot connect if you are not really good at listening."

The flip-side is that it's okay—and might even be a good thing—if you don’t get to hit every single slide or talking point. If, after the first few slides, you're engaged in a lively conversation with the buyer, far from feeling derailed, you should be overjoyed: It's almost certainly a good sign. The pitch is going well. You're building trust. You have an interested, engaged buyer on your hands.

Prioritizing listening over speaking is a good way to avoid dominating the conversation. And that's important when 80 percent of buyers say aggressive sales and marketing tactics are a turnoff. Your goal should not be to get your points across—but rather, to start a real conversation.

 

Keep it simple, stupid

Recent research from Forrester indicates that 73 percent of millennials are involved in B2B purchasing decisions, and considering that generation's notoriously finical attention span and strong preference for visual information, your presentation better well be snappy, get to the point early, and contain elements designed to catch the eye.

As more than one Emissary pointed out, if the point of the meeting is connection and possible partnership, why would the salesperson come here only to rush through forty, fifty, sixty slides? In general, fifteen slides is more than enough.

If you need to tighten up your deck, a good litmus test is to pause on each slide and ask: Does this deliver value? If not, scrap it. “People get so into their pitch that they repeat themselves over and over and over again," our Kellogg's Emissary said.

Playbook CTA

Finally, when your demo malfunctions—and inevitably it will, it happens all the time according to our Emissaries—the important thing is not to panic. Of course, you should have asked about AV requirements, or the WebEx platform you would be using, ahead of time. And you should have brought along backups just in case. Because, ultimately, if you can't troubleshoot, adjust, and keep your cool, the deal is going to be DOA, our Emissaries warned.

 

Deliver value by teaching your prospect

After immediate need and available budget, the third-most-common reason for buyers to take a meeting is their belief that the salesperson will share something of value with them, according to a recent survey.

If you want to get anywhere, you need to make good on that belief. And one way of doing so is coming into the meeting prepared to teach your prospect something. How?

One approach is to proactively bring up your prospect’s competition—and pivot from there to provide market insight. For instance, you might show your prospect how a competitor is using your solution—and then follow up with specific numbers about the advantages your solution has conferred. That's an important value-add, given that, when B2B buyers don’t see personalized value, they're three times less likely to make a purchase, according to CEB.

More than providing personalized value and insights, mentioning competition can subtly up the ante, creating a sense of urgency for your prospect as the underlying question becomes: You do want to stay ahead of the curve, and hang on to your market position, don't you?

 

Executive Insights

Successful pitches include specific advice on the clients needs and how you can help solve them, but don't come into the room and simply run through your deck. The focus of the meeting is to have a conversation and make a genuine connection—so that you can collaborate down the road. If you want to win the client over during a pitch meeting, read on. Our Emissaries break down what matters when sales teams build their pitch, what they should pay attention to when they come in to present, and where they too often stumble.

  

Topics: Enterprise Software, Emissaries Speak, Information Technology