Have you ever watched someone about to make a sales pitch? They tense up, shuffle their notes, fiddle nervously with their slides, and clear their throats a few times. And then they launch into a pre-prepared ‘pitch’ of the features of their product/service. Because they think that is what they are supposed to do.
9 times out of 10 when I role play with a client or a workshop participant, this is what happens. And then they look expectantly at me to see how they are doing. Because, after all, they’ve just delivered their sales pitch without stumbling, so now all they have to do is sit back and wait for the order.
Except that’s not how successful salespeople pitch their products or services.
Successful salespeople open the sales conversation by asking the prospect how things are going. Probing for pain points and areas of concern. They continue asking questions, both to draw out the prospect and to clarify for understanding. Only when the prospect has begun to articulate a possible solution to the problems that have been identified, maybe for the first time, only then does an experienced salesperson provide a ‘pitch’. But it isn’t a pre-prepared pitch; it’s tailored to the needs that the prospect has just identified.
Don't be A Telemarketer Calling at Dinnertime
A pitch made before your prospect’s needs are fully identified is really just a telemarketer on the end of the phone that won’t stop talking. How often do they tell you something you really want to hear? And what is your usual response? At best you’re tuning them out until there is a pause in their word flow long enough for you to say “I’m sorry, I’m not interested.” That’s what's happening in a sales presentation focused on features that tumbles out of you before your prospect has had a chance to tell you what his problem really is. Happens all the time in my workshops. And my response? How did you know that was what I wanted to hear?
They Want Benefits, Not Features
And while your prospect is interested in the features of your product, if you aren’t able to talk about the benefits they’ll receive from purchasing, why would they be interested in putting up their cold, hard cash? This was one of my very first marketing lessons, more than 20 years ago. I was writing some wonderful copy for a direct mail piece (remember those?) when my manager stopped me to ask what the benefits were. Why would a client want to purchase this service? And since I couldn’t answer, a little lesson that I’ve never forgotten ensued.
People aren’t buying the features of your product or service. They’re buying what those features are going to do for them. Always. And if you can get this right, add in some emotion too, suddenly you’re selling value. Which generally means you can charge a higher price. Nice!
What Do Successful Salespeople Do?
Gong publishes the best sales statistics, based on analysis of actual sales calls. Here’s what their research had to say about what successful salespeople do in sales conversations compared to average salespeople: top performing reps (those above 120% of quota) talked about product features 39% less often than those reps just meeting quota. (You should read the article, it’s very eye-opening.)
They talked about business and value rather than features. And this was shown in analysis of sales reps that moved up the rankings tables too. The behavior trait that was most common among salespeople who were able to improve their game was this shift from focusing on features to focusing on benefits.
Your New Sales Pitch
So what are you going to do the next time you need to make a sales pitch? I hope you’re already planning it out. And if you need help practicing how to do this, give me a call. We’ll get you benefits focused in no time.