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Ditch ‘Pitch’ from Your Vocabulary

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By Shane Shapiro

RISMEDIA, July 22, 2008-I recently read an article on the importance of presentation skills which it spoke of perfecting one’s “pitch.” The points raised in the article were all valid and quite constructive. A sales professional must clearly articulate their value proposition. I had some problems doing exactly this in my own career.Some years ago, as a leading salesperson in another industry, I was on the phone with a colleague in a remote office. She had some questions about how I made cold calls to sell appointment. I recall saying that the idea was not to pitch the product to get the appointment, but to pitch the appointment on its own merits.

My manager was walking past my desk at the time. He knew who to whom I was speaking. He took the phone from my hand, apologized to her telling I’d call her back shortly, and insisted that I join him in his office. Once we sat down he said something I’m not likely to ever forget.

He told me that if I ever use the word “pitch” again, he would throw me out of the window, get his car, and back up over me several times with the rest of the sales group watching, and take them out for dinner without me! I was pretty upset. No, I don’t think he would have really done that.

What harm would there have been if one salesperson speaking in confidence to another suggested a better way to “pitch” an appointment. But his answer changed my career and my entire thinking about my role as a sales professional.

Conventional thinking holds that the more you pitch, the more you get, right? If a salesperson, you for example, feels that the best they can do is pitch an appointment, sooner or later you’re going to get one. Then you can meet the client and you can pitch the listing. And the more you pitch, the more you win, right? I’m not so sure.

If all you did was pitch, pitch, and pitch, when did you ever listen? Pitching, the presentation of prepared sales messaging, completely and almost intentionally eliminates the sales professional’s potential to assess the client’s needs.

Rather than “Pitching” an appointment, what of significant value could you offer in a face-to-face meeting with a qualified prospective client. Note: prospective client, not “prospect.”

Could you offer your knowledge of the market, of current pricing trends, of competing properties on the market, of your transaction knowledge, of alternative financing strategies, or any of the other skills you have developed as an accomplished professional?

Once you have established your value proposition, you will be much better able to articulate the value your client will garner from a personal meeting consultative meeting with you.

If I, for example, could show you how to increase your market share and results by being better able to articulate your client value proposition, would you take 30 minutes to meet with me? Would Wednesday at 2 p.m. work with your schedule? There you go. Now you’re getting it!

Think about every person that turned you down when you asked for an appointment. What compelling value proposition did you articulate?

On one hand this is a very subtle point; pitch vs. present. On the other hand, it is the difference between a vended sales approach, in which you basically take orders, and a consultative approach in which you identify client needs, develop the information the consumer will need to make a better informed decision, and then manage the transaction process to conclusion.

Most likely, your presentation style is comprised of many elements you’ve found valuable through the years. But that was then, and this is now. Drop the old. Develop the new.

Consumers demand more today. Even back in the day, you didn’t sell houses, did you? You identified client needs and provided them with the best options, choices, alternatives, and strategies, even if you had to “pitch” that first appointment to get in the door! Imagine the results you could have attained with a more consultative and audience-focused approach.

That our industry, and many, many others, have accepted terms such as “pitch,” is sad. The term itself suggests that the salesperson doing the pitching is basically throwing so much mud against the wall. Something has to stick, right? Wrong.

Accepting and using terms such as “pitch,” corrupts your thinking and relegates your self-perception to that of a mud thrower. It is toxic.

When you’re throwing so much mud against the wall, you can’t help but to focus on rejection and failure. In the real world, your success is measured only by the number of successful consultative business conversations you conclude.

Concentrate upon the many ways you have added value in your client relationships through the years. Create a demographic profile of these highly qualified prospective clients.

Were you most successful with empty nesters, developers, investors, relos, expireds, under 35 years of age, over 35?

Concentrate on identifying other like-minded clients. Define your value proposition. Your presentation will naturally simply evolve into your true, candid, and successfully proven value proposition.

Don’t pitch, present. Elevate your thinking-soar!

Shane Shapiro is vice president of corporate communications for RISMedia. Contact him at shane@rismedia.com.

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