by Bill Hellkamp

Because of my unique position as a consultant in both sales and public speaking, I am often asked to evaluate company pitches. In 25 years of doing this, I have found very few that are useful to the sales process. Conversely, I would contend that most of them either confuse or alienate potential customers. Here are what I found to be the key problems:

1. Too Much Chest Pounding – The pitch invariably starts out with how great my company is…… here is how much money we make, these are our big, important clients, we have many offices all over the world and these are the bunches of awards we’ve won. WOW! Aren’t we great? With that kind of credibility, you should be begging to buy our great whatever. The comment I make on over half of the slides in most decks is, “Who cares?” This self-aggrandizement is nauseating. Prospects don’t care how wonderful your company is. They care about what your product or service can do to ease their pain and increase their profits. And you better get to it pretty quickly before they tune you out for good.

2. Generic and Unfocussed – We are all busy and may have three or more appointments in any given day. Often that means salespeople are likely to give their generic sales presentation rather than customizing it for each potential client. Unfortunately, this leads to highlighting information which can cause a prospect to hesitate or even be turned off. Let’s suppose that I am presenting to a manufacturer that has three locations in one state. In my presentation I get to the slide that shows our 27 offices throughout the country and 6 more worldwide. Then the next slide shows my list of HUGE multinational customers. What could be going through the mind of that prospect? Perhaps she is thinking, “They work with such big companies. We won’t mean anything to them.” or “How much of our money will go to support a worldwide reach that we don’t need and won’t use?” The salespeople who give the pitches seldom take time to edit the content so it is focused on the needs of the prospect.

3. Given Too Early in the Sale – Many companies that we’ve worked with have encouraged their salespeople to give the company pitch early in the sales process as a form of gaining interest and credibility. Quite often the prospect will give an opening for this to happen by saying, “Tell me what you do.” The inexperienced salesperson will then launch into their pitch with no idea of how it will play with the prospect. Then they give the generic pitch (what else do they have) with no focus on this prospect’s particular needs, because they can only guess as to what they are.

4. One-Way Communications – Because most sales people (and most people in general) don’t know how to present in an interactive way and because most marketing developed sales pitches don’t allow for interaction, the sales presentation becomes a boring monologue that the prospect is patiently waiting to end. Even if a salesperson has fixed their presentation and is giving it at the correct time (as a proof statement that we can do what we are proposing), if they don’t allow the potential client to be a vocal part of the presentation, they will lose interest and the impact of the presentation is lessened.

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