Time to Ditch the Pitch? The Shift to the Sales Conversation

July 23, 2014 | Ann Lambert
Time to Ditch the Pitch? The Shift to the Sales Conversation

Imagine for a second that you’re a prospect. Your company has asked you to do some research and explore a few different options for a new product or service. You’ve narrowed down your vendor options and are prepped to walk into a meeting to hear… their pitch

What you MIGHT be expecting: A rep walks into the room with all the bravado of the proverbial salesperson. Firm handshake, “No thanks, I already had my coffee this morning…. yes, actually, water would be great,” a few pleasantries about the Monday Night Football game as he sets up his slide deck, and we have liftoff!  Away we go into the hour-long pitch about his company, his product, why you can’t live without it, and when would you like to sign up?

What you SHOULD expect: A sales rep is there when you arrive in the conference room stands to introduce himself, sits down and begins to undistractedly chat with you. 

How is work going? 

I heard you guys just acquired Company XYZ (Read up on my industry… how refreshing). 

You must be pretty stoked about Germany winning the World Cup (Knows I like soccer… must’ve looked me up on Twitter). 

Any summer plans? 

Did you go to your 10 year reunion at UConn this spring?  (Aware of my alma mater… looks like he took the time to get to know me on LinkedIn). 

After you’ve caught up on the latest, he segues into a conversation by asking what brings you to this meeting. You proceed to engage in an open dialogue about the needs of your company, your exploratory research, and concerns you have about the offerings of the products you’re considering.  And, shockingly enough… drumroll please… he listens.  What, no pitch?  This feels oddly like a conversation with someone who is interested in what I have to say and responds accordingly.

Feels good right? Remember that, because that’s how it SHOULD feel for a prospect when they meet with you or one of your sales reps.

“If someone is pitching to you, what are your options?” Nancy Bleeke, president of Sales Pro Insider, told Forbes.com in a recent article. “If you are pitched at, you either swing to bat it away or duck to avoid it. Neither of these works well in sales.” 

For that reason, more and more sales organizations are seeing and encouraging a shift away from the old pitch, and toward the sales conversation. Gone are the days where sales reps make their pitch and fight for time to squeeze in every last slide they planned to show—regardless of how long you’ve been waiting to ask your question about a point he made in slide 3. 

But…but… then how can I effectively make my sales pitch?

“First,” advises Jacquelyn Smith in the same Forbes article, “ditch the ‘pitch’—or at least neglect the traditional meaning of the word. It basically describes what salespeople used to do: throw information at prospects hoping to sell a product or service before the buyer could hang up the phone or slam the door. But according to sales experts, today good salespeople treat the ‘pitch’ process as a collaborative conversation.” 

Not only will engaging the prospect in a conversation convey an amiability that puts them at ease, it will allow you to better understand their needs and ultimately position you to sell your product better.

“Just remember one thing,” warns Wendy Weiss, an author and sales coach. “If you go in with the idea that you are just going to talk, talk, talk, and make the sale, it’s going to be a struggle. But if you go in with the idea that you are going to have a conversation and build a relationship with the prospect, you’ll have a much better success rate.”

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