Set Your Sales Pitch Apart by Asking Informed Questions

Although a standard part of any sales pitch, asking questions that are thoughtful and that highlight knowledge of the problem and solution are both rare and differentiating.

Great salespeople ask a lot of questions and spend a great deal of time listening to the answers they receive.  This not only helps to further qualify the prospect but serves to better position the offering as each piece of additional information adds context to the discussion.

Be very prepared to anticipate objections and rejection.  Rehearsing “hard questions” and their answers before getting to the sales pitch is a best practice so be prepared for them and understand there may very well be a trail of very negative experiences from other sales pitches leading up to your conversation.

The goal is to present a credible and knowledgeable perspective about the prospect’s needs as well as how those needs are addressed differently from other options on the market.


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Focus on customer need and desired outcome in your next sales pitch

This is all about focusing on the “why” of the equation vs. the “how.”  There will be plenty of time to get into the details on how a product or service satisfies the need but spend some time understanding the problem being addressed and the specific outcome the prospect is seeking.

Elevating the conversation to this level establishes a common ground for the conversation and an approach to itemize all the things that would define success.

Once those are known and agreed upon, the seller is in a much better position to highlight how their product or service addresses each of the issues and delivers the path to success.

Getting into features or capabilities that are confusing or even irrelevant to the conversation at this stage can distract both parties and lead to a very negative outcome.  Regardless of what is being sold, focus on the solution the prospect is seeking rather than the features you offer.


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The buyer’s journey matters more than your sales process

Now more than ever, prospects have collected information and been influenced by factors beyond the seller’s control well before your first sales conversation. The marketing department should have done its job to surround the prospect with good and worthwhile information ranging from content relevant to them to publicly-available case studies and customer reviews.  If this is lacking, be prepared to play catch up in the first sales conversation…if it gets that far.

Understand and appreciate the concept of the “buyer’s journey” which, simply put, is the set of steps and decisions a prospect goes through to become a customer. If a sales process mindset dominates the conversation hoping to push the prospect through the various sales stages defined by the seller, a conflict between the two processes will quickly materialize.

It is definitely important to have a defined and disciplined sales process to ensure proper reporting and sales pipeline accuracy, but do not lose sight of the buyer in the process. Great salespeople can set themselves apart by being tuned into where prospect is in the process and even anticipating next step, including information needs.

Sales pitches will flow much smoother and be more relevant if they are timed to the prospect’s decision making process versus where the seller is in the sales process.

This can be an institutional mindset shift and must be mapped to the customer acquisition process: low touch, high velocity models with disciplined qualification before getting to a salesperson and higher touch, lower velocity models that require explicit knowledge of what needs to happen when and what content is needed and is most effective.

Remember that even with the best research and qualification, the prospect may not be ready to commit to a buying process when the pitch is delivered. So always follow up. Follow up is such an important part of sales or any type of relationship building so remember to do it, whether you use some type of automated system or work with the marketing department on a more sophisticated email nurture program. Just make sure it is done.

Timing is not always right so being disciplined about 30, 60, even 90 day intervals for follow up with something in context to that prospect can not only set a salesperson apart but position them well when the buying process kicks off in earnest.


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A better way to prepare for your next sales call

It cannot be said enough that proper preparation influences the outcome of any meeting.  This is even more important in a sales meeting.  There is a very short amount of time to make a proper impression as an individual.  Up until this point, most of the prospect’s interactions have been with marketing efforts or perhaps an email exchange or two with a salesperson to coordinate a time to speak directly.

Everyone has worked so hard to get to this moment so why squander it without a bit of preparation on the industry, company, and person?  This assumes the salesperson has command over the problem they are solving and the outcome the customer is seeking.  If not, then they should head back to sales training as they are not ready for a sales call.

There are so many resources available to research company-related news.  If the meeting is with a publicly traded company, a quick search on their ticker symbol will give you the highlights.  Pay special attention to good news (revenue, earnings, expansion) or bad news (layoffs, lawsuits, or missed forecasts) as these can definitely influence the mood in the meeting and the trajectory of the deal being pursued.  Watch for other significant events be those acquisitions or industry recognition like being named a best place to work.

All of this information is public and easily discoverable with a quick web search. There are no shortage of news and content aggregation tools out there ranging from simple mobile applications to more advanced news clipping services.

Great salespeople add understanding what’s new about a company to their preparation regimen.  Even a quick scan of recent press on the company web site or reading the last couple blog posts can go a long way to demonstrate care about the opportunity and highlight proper preparation for the discussion.  Do be careful about when and how all of this information is used with the goal of knitting it into the conversation versus directly referencing research and preparation efforts.

We also live in a day and age where information is available about the person or persons in the meeting.  Use LinkedIn to research the person’s background and interests.  See what they have written either on the company blog or their own.  Do they use Twitter or other social feeds?  See what they share to get some insight prior to the discussion

As with company information, there are many tools available to aggregate all of this publicly available personal profile data and then allow you to add notes, actions, and events.  Be sure to make the best use of technology to help with your preparation efforts and use the information gathered tactfully and in context.

As part of preparing for a sales pitch, have an accurate understanding of who makes what decisions.  Is this the decision maker, an influencer, or someone who is neither?  Understand how the decision will unfold then map preparation efforts to that path including knowing ahead of time who needs to be in the next conversation.


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Why is every sales pitch deck different at your company?

The “pitch deck” is the essential tool in the salesperson’s toolbox.  It defines the problem, showcases the deep knowledge possessed by the company and how the product or service they sell not only solves that problem but does it in a way that no other competitor can touch.

Marketing departments spend countless hours drafting, refining, and improving this perfect pitch deck and deliver it to the sales team with pride.  Then what happens?

Each individual salesperson (or maybe group) tears it apart, modifies it to fit their specific needs, or changes it to include that one perfect slide that still has last year’s branding and has never been polished by the creative team.

Why does this happen?

Because there is a blind spot in the organization between what marketing produces and what the sales team is actually using.  What works? What do customers actually consume and appreciate?  What moves deals forward?

Visibility into all these points is lacking and companies are missing out on the huge amount of institutional knowledge possessed across the sales team.

Without truly understanding what makes up the most effective content and doing so with a system that not only organizes but tracks engagement, reaction, and results, companies will continue to be mis-aligned between sales and marketing with regard to the content that is created and the various versions that come to life once delivered to the field sales team.

It is possible to remove this inefficiency with a sales engagement platform and actually accelerate the buyer’s journey with content scored by performance and collateral (like pitch decks) easily shared and modified without everyone losing visibility to what is occurring as sales engages with customers.


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Engage more effectively with your customers

Engage More Effectively With Your Customers

Engagement is the lifeblood of the sales conversation – an indifferent customer is a deal waiting to fail. And in our hyper-informed age, you can’t deeply engage your customer without content. Every interaction with customers involves content and more content – pitch decks, white papers, case studies and on and on. To meet the insatiable need, marketing teams are churning out a sea of material. Sales teams are overwhelmed by it all and feel like they are drowning .. but still don’t have exactly what they need. Everyone knows their content isn’t moving the sales process forward as effectively as it should, but nobody is sure exactly why or how.

We have met with many, many customers to understand how they use content to drive sales. Virtually all of them complain about three problems that constantly hold them back from closing more deals.

  1. Sellers Don’t Have The Right Content

Your sales team should be connected to exactly the content they need – relevant, engaging, tailored to the current opportunity, and proven to be effective in moving the deal forward. As if.

What really happens is that content is scattered across multiple internal portals, Dropbox and Box directories, and on their disk drives. Search doesn’t work, half the items they use are out of date, nothing is scored to show how effective it is, and the main way to find something is by sending email to another seller.

  1. Customer Engagement is Invisible

You sent three attachments to your customer, and you hope that it was what they wanted to see. Did they open it? Spend any time on it? Which part of the sales deck really interested them? You have no idea – once you ship it off, you are flying blind.

  1. Marketing Can’t Tell What Works

The marketing team is constantly under the gun to produce more content – white papers, battlecards, case studies … there is never enough. Every day there are more requests and more complaints that the sales team doesn’t have what it needs. “We’re getting killed by competitor X – give us something we can send!” “Where is the demo script to show off product Y?” The marketers churn out item after item, and then … nothing. No feedback, no data – did the sales team find it? Has any customer ever actually seen it? Did they read it or ignore it? Nobody knows .. but another dozen requests just came in, so marketing keeps grinding out even more.

The purpose of a sales engagement platform is to solve those three problems, so that companies engage more effectively with their customers and win more deals. It does that by closing the loop between marketing, sales, and the customer … so you have the visibility and insight that lets you optimize content usage across the entire sales cycle. How? By having four components that work together:

  1. A sales portal with a modern search and browse experience. We take it for granted that we can find whatever we need on the Web by typing a few words into Google. Behind the scenes, the magic of data science looks through billions of items to find what we want to see. Yet when your sales team needs to find a document, they probably send an email. An effective portal brings your content into the modern age, so every seller can find what they need, ranked by what is most relevant and what has performed the best.
  1. A sales playbook shows every seller carefully targeted content for each opportunity they are working on. Particularly valuable in a more prescribed selling environment, the playbook highlights exactly the items that a seller is most likely to need, with content scored based on how effectively it has performed in previous deals. Playbook content can appear as part of the opportunity inside your CRM system, so that sellers don’t have to hunt around for it.
  1. A sales pitch service that lets you present directly to customers and track their engagement. Sellers are alerted the moment a prospect clicks through to look at any of the content. They can see exactly which part of the pitch caught the customer’s attention, so they know what to focus on … and when to call.
  1. Engagement analytics for every stage of the sales cycle. Know the items that the sales team is looking at and what they are ignoring. See what gets pitched to customers, whether it engages their interest, and which content influences the deals that close. Measure the impact on deal velocity and conversion rates.

Together, these four building blocks represent the flow of content from marketing to sales to the customer. The portal and playbook connect sellers to the best and most relevant content for each situation. The pitch service gives them flexible ways to present it to customers and see if it is getting any attention. Analytics shows the content that is being used and how it is performing.

The result is that customers get more relevant and more compelling content. Which means that you will engage them more effectively, close more deals, and drive more revenue. Engagement is at the heart of the sales process, and now you can measure and optimize it through every step of the buyer’s journey.


How to Measure Content ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is front and center in the modern marketing organization as way to measure and track performance.  Every program, campaign, or technology should have this framework applied to it – what is the actual return on the investment I am making in hard dollars?

Content marketing is also core to the modern marketing organization with dedicated resources doing nothing more than writing whitepapers, ebooks, blog posts, contributed articles, etc.  The list is long and producing meaningful content requires both talented resources as well as a focus on what the target buyer persona is interested in learning as they go through the buyer’s journey.  Connecting the dots between what marketing produces, sales uses, and the customer consumes remains elusive for most organizations.  In fact, even mapping what pieces of content should be used at various stages of the sales cycle is often not in place.

Broadly speaking, organizations do not apply the same ROI rigor to their content efforts as they do to a trade show or paid advertising campaign.  There is still an investment being made and with content not a lot of great ways to know if that piece of collateral that the marketing team generated actually drove a deal forward or was instrumental in getting one closed.

This great post from the Content Marketing Institute covers “Content Marketing ROI” but when it comes to sales metrics there is an admission that “In many cases that type of data is hard to track down, so value isn’t so easily correlated to a single asset.”

The true dollars and cents of content marketing come from sales metrics. While the rest of the metrics mentioned here are important, sales metrics are the easiest aspect of the ROI equation to understand.

The best content ROI model will be based on sales metrics not social shares or times utilized in a campaign.  Closing this loop from marketing to sales to customer is only achievable by using a sales engagement platform that understands this full lifecycle and provides the analytics to connect what is created to what is used to what closes deals.

If you do not have this level of visibility in your organization, you are fundamentally missing the ROI calculation for your content efforts.


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