Having been both directly and indirectly involved in the selling of products and services in a variety of industries over the past 15 years, I often try and put my finger on what makes a great pitch or process during the sales cycle. Of course, half the battle is actually getting the opportunity to pitch to a time poor, busy prospect in the first place!
Chris Anderson the TED curator talks about the 18-minute rule for the perfect length of a sales pitch in the article below and this seems like a pretty good rule to me. Most of my recent success with getting my foot in the door with prospects has been based on the promise of stealing 30 minutes of their time and so 18 minutes of content fits in nicely sandwiched by 6 minutes of meet and greet and 6 minutes of questions at the end. If the end bit goes on longer then great as this is led by the prospect and often shows that the pitch has had the desired effect.
Very importantly though, delivering a great sales pitch is all well and good but it is useless if there isn't a process before and after that sandwiches the killer content:
1/Drive the need to meet. There is a fine art to confirming a meeting and little techniques like highlighting particular pain points, name-checking key individuals within the firm, name-checking comparable/rival companies that are using your product or service and confirming that you only need 30 minutes of their busy schedule.
2/Meeting Preparation. Individual preparation- who are you meeting and what are their roles in the decision making process? Are you connected in anyway? How can you build trust? Firmwide preparation- who are the key decision makers, who are their main rivals, are they economically sound, how big is the company (turnover and employee size) what are their pain points?
3/The Killer sales Pitch. The key here is to keep those listening engaged and to make it relevant. If you have slides or topics that are in there to fill time then remove them! I have also found that some of the most successful pitches delivered are often delivered with a colleague as it changes the point of focus and gives the prospect some variety as well as another potential contact.
4/Timely follow up. There is no point delivering a killer pitch if the follow up is slow and cumbersome. Don't forget that this is a great way to showcase a proactive approach and impress a prospect still further. I often send helpful collateral that can be consumed in under 5 minutes to sit alongside the commercials and obligatory sharing of the presentation.
5/ Add Value through nurture. Customers can be won and lost through added value and the nurturing process or lack of it. At Passle, we are constantly thinking of how we can add value not just to the company but also to the individuals we are looking to sell to. Can we help make their job function easier in any way, are there relevant events coming up that might be of interest? Have we helped solve similar pain points for other companies in the past? All of this is building up trust as well as showcasing expertise without coming across as too salesy and pushy.
In conclusion, there certainly is an art to delivering a killer pitch but there is also an art in getting to the point of being able to deliver it. All of the good work can be undone in an instant if the follow up is slow or the nurture is too pushy. Get all three things to work together and you have a winning formula......timing and luck also help!
I know what you're thinking. "I have too much to say!" Yes, you do, and that's why it's critical to condense, refine, and edit your content. Chris Anderson says most speakers on a TED stage are used to speaking for 40 minutes or more. It's hard to edit, but the presentation will be much stronger because of it.