If you are an avid reader of sales blogs, it’s likely you will come across three or four blogs a week about the secret sauce for creating a winning product pitch. If sales blogs had been around 25 years ago, you would have encountered even more of them because the product pitch has been around for a very long time.
Way back when, companies spent an inordinate amount of time crafting product pitches for their major product offerings. After the pitches were created, they would charge their sales reps to rehearse them to a point of perfection. The final step was a fish-bowl type sales training program where a sales rep would get up in front of the class and deliver the “pitch” followed by a withering critique by the rest of the class.
Fortunately that sales training experience has largely fallen by the wayside. But the product pitch hasn’t and that’s a problem.
The problem with a product pitch is no matter how good you get at a bad idea; it’s still a bad idea. What is it about a product pitch that makes it fundamentally flawed? Why is the notion such a bad idea? Let’s take a look.
Why are product pitches a bad idea?
If you have had the opportunity to observe salespeople in real sales calls with real customers the answer literally pops out in front of you. Product pitches are a bad idea because they are a monologue about product features versus a dialogue about customer value.
Here it is important to remember that a product feature, no matter how unique or innovative, has no inherent value. A product feature has value only when it solves a problem that matters to the customer with whom you are interacting and the customer connects the dotes between the product feature and their problem.
What’s an alternative?
If you’ve had that experience of observing sales calls, it becomes clear that many salespeople have developed the expertise to uncover and develop customer needs. This is because a lot of companies have wisely invested in training their sales teams in the fundamental skills of asking questions and active listening (as an aside if you have not made this investment, you should immediately do so).
However, even among the sales reps who are good at asking questions and uncovering needs, the problem occurs once the needs are on the table. That’s when their questioning and listening skills all too often are abandoned and they revert into a product monologue – the pitch.
If you are a sales manager and wish to confirm this observation, keep track on your next coaching call the amount of time your sales rep is talking versus the customer once the rep starts talking about your solution. The percentage is usually heavily weighted toward the sales rep – say 70%.
During this monologue what is happening on the customer’s side of the table? Not much. Customers get lost in the narrative. They can’t make a clear connection between the product solution and their problems. So, they don’t understand the total value of what the sales rep is talking about – and that’s when lack of interest starts to set in and objections begin to surface.
The alternative? Ask questions and use your active listening skills even when your present your product solution in order keep the customer engaged. Ask whether the customer understands why a particular part of the solution is so important. As you are discussing your solution find out if the customer understands the value of what you are talking about – if not make in course corrections.
In summary, have a dialogue about the value of your product versus a monologue about the features – engage in a business conversation vs. delivering a product pitch.
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