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Posted: May 26, 2011

Sales pitches vs. sales conversations

Planned -- not canned

Liz Wendling

Recently I was conducting a sales workshop for salespeople and business owners, and as they told me of their experiences I noticed a common thread running through most of them - potential prospects who were no longer using words to communicate, but using actions. These actions came in the form of the cold shoulder, the silent treatment and the disappearing act.

There are many reasons prospects resort to these methods but one blaring reason is that you are using tension-filled sales pitches instead of having high-value sales conversations. Why else would they feel like they have to lie, hide and evade you? The distinction is powerful.

A tension-filled sales pitch is a one-way monologue where you talk endlessly about how great you are or how perfect your product or service is without asking probing questions to find out your customer's true needs and pains.

A high-value sales conversation is a discussion where you have an open, two-way dialogue about your prospect's situation, problems, concerns and issues. On the surface it seems simple enough to execute. Unfortunately a variety of factors prevent people from having this type of sales conversation.
Many salespeople give customers no choice but to employ the age-old tactics of avoiding, evading, hiding, stalling, vanishing and lying. Salespeople are to blame for triggering these reactions and they are responsible for preventing them.

Think about it. If you are coming across in the sales process as open, honest, sincere and authentic, with no hidden agenda, why would a customer be unable to tell you the truth? Answer: You are creating pressure and tension with the way you sell.

Many salespeople are using outdated sales phrases, techniques and closes that create tension, raise the heat and add unnecessary pressure in the sales process, causing customers to flee. Many don't even know they are applying subtle pressure and tension because that way is the only way they know.
How can you start a conversation in a totally natural, familiar way that doesn't sound like a sales pitch to your customer, doesn't feel like a sales pitch to you and yet increases your chance of getting your next referral or making your next sale?

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a magical phrase that will make the other person want to buy your product or service - it just doesn't exist. What does exist is a tension-free approach that will elicit interest from the other person so that they will want to engage you in a conversation. Every business is different and every conversation is unique to that business.

If I could change one thing in the world of sales, I would make sure that every salesperson and business owner had high-value conversations with their prospects and customers. This is the major focus of my business: conducting workshops and delivering presentations to help salespeople master their sales conversations. Too many salespeople still launch into a sales pitch too early in the conversation, which puts the prospect on the defensive and creates pressure. Remember, the sales conversation is not about you!

I am not suggesting that every sales person is to blame for this behavior. The customer has some responsibility here as well. What I am suggesting is when you enter into a sales conversation you take responsibility for distinguishing yourself in a different way so the customer does not view you like every other sales person. If you continue to see this bad customer behavior, it's a sign you need some firm dialogue that creates mutual respect. Sales conversations equal sales opportunities.

If you have left a few messages, sent a few emails and still have not heard back from your prospects, I call that a clue. A clue that somewhere along the way you created a situation in your sale pitch that shut down the sales conversation.
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Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

Liz, nice distinction. Periodically, when a potential client and I am talking, the person asks me for my pitch. This is how conditioned folks are to getting pitched! I usually say something like, "I don't have a pitch. What I would like to do, if this is comfortable for you, is to understand what you would most like to improve ... if you had a magic wand and could wave it and have three things improved what would they be? It’s a coaching question that begins to cut to the chase of what a client really wants. This usually makes them sit back (often literally) and think about and discuss what they really want. It creates a dialog focused on solving their needs rather than a pitch selling them on my services. By TC North on 2011 05 26
I completely agree with the powerful distinction you make about a pitch vs a conversation. Many times I catch my sales people applying subtle pressure that causes customers to always say "I need to think about it." Unfortunately that means "no thanks." By Andrea on 2011 05 26
On the money, Liz! Even in acting a true "monologue" is really a dialogue with a silent partner or audience. Every sentence or new thought is motivated by their scene partner's body language, facial expressions, etc. Same holds true for sales. Being open and reactive to subtle reactions can keep you connected and on track. By Julie Hansen on 2011 05 26
Interesting article. I must confess, this article would make any salesperson a little paranoid. After 27 years as a still successful sales person I have learned that the affluent make up their own mind to purchase on 'their' schedule, not mine. One cannnot pressure them for a second. Provide honest and accurate information and always maintain the highest standard of ethics and you will be fine. Don't let your clients dictate how you conduct yourself no matter where they are from in the world. You cannot please everyone. If you try, you will please no one. Be true to yourself and don't do anything that your children wouldn't be proud of. By George R. Harvey, Jr. on 2011 05 26
Liz, I just love your style and honesty. We recently met at an event and I was in awe watching all 5 feet of you take control of the entire room with your great "stuff." We are still talking about it. Thanks for sharing. By Matt on 2011 05 26

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