Pitches, Stories and Asking – Three Keys to Successful Selling!

I was at a meeting a while ago and we broke for a coffee and comfort break which allowed us to stretch out legs and mull over what we had just been listening to. I took a seat at a table with my colleague and after a few moments two people came and sat at the next table.

It was a salesman and it became apparent quite quickly that the other guy was his prospect. The salesman got the other guy and himself a coffee and sat down next to his prospect.

After a few short pleasantries exchanged between them he took out some papers and began to run through his sales pitch beginning with stating the benefits to his prospective client. We listened to the conversation and he explained the benefits very clearly, then he paused for a few moments.

The client said nothing, there was a deafening silence between them.

So, the salesman launched into the clever features of the product, giving the prospective client a complete run down of them all.

Again, he appeared very knowledgeable about his product and when he had finished laying out the different features he paused and waited for the client to say something.

The client said nothing, and for what seemed like an eternity this quietness fell upon them both.

By this time, we were quite wrapped up in listening to the conversation, I know we should not have been listening but we could not help overhearing as our tables and seats were so close together in the packed room.

The salesman was not going to give up, so he launched again into to benefits of the product. The prospect asked a couple of questions which were dealt with expertly, and then he fell silent.

After a few moments, the salesman shuffled in his chair, moved some brochures around and dove into the features of his product once more.

The Prospect still looked interested but once again this long pregnant pause arrived and they both sat there looking at one another. I don’t know if the salesman made his sale as we were called back into the meeting.

But later that day I found my mind wandering and recalling something that happened to me. I sat there recalling a home visit I paid to a client of mine when I was in Financial Services, some 30 years ago.

I’d arrived at my client’s home to discuss his pension requirements and we sat in the living room with my client, his lady partner, and their dog. I had not been in the job long and was a little green on sales but boy did I know my stuff about pensions and retirement income.

We passed a few moments chatting over a cup of coffee and I said: “Let’s get on with what I’m here for shall we?” I went through my pitch.

They both listened intensely as I laid out the benefits. Then it fell silent, so I went into the features and how the pensions worked. Still interested they made kind comments on how well I’d explained it and how they now knew much more about its benefits and what it could do for them.

I used to work on the premises that once you have done your pitch the next one to speak has lost. (I don’t anymore)

In fact, they were throwing out “buying signals” right, left and center and I just wasn’t aware of them.

But, after each run through on my pitch they sat in silence, so I pitched again just like our neighbor earlier at the next table.

I cringe to think now, but I’ll be honest, I ran through my pitch three times and in the end, the client must have been so bored he stopped me and said –

“Dave, shall we just get on with it, and do it?” Somewhat embarrassed I took out the paperwork, filled it in, got it signed and left I’m sure I left them and me, sighing with relief.

What hit me square between the eyes was that when you finish your pitch – ASK FOR THE BUSINESS!

Our salesman on the other table was making exactly the same mistake I had all those years ago, but it would have been too impolite to intervene and point out what I had learned that night long ago.

I’ve never made the mistake again and now when I get to the point where I have discussed what we do and how it will benefit them my closing remark is: –

“I’ll just get the paperwork while you get your credit card or debit card out.”

The other thing I learned that night was that I could have made it so much easier for myself if I had told them a story about one of my other clients. He had not taken out pensions and I was desperately trying to help him cope with retirement on a fixed income that would soon be left behind by inflation.

Now I never talk benefits and features in the way I would have back then.

All I speak about are the stories of people who have not taken up what I offered. Or those who have done what I suggested and reaped rewards from it.

If I don’t have a client who has experienced that then I ask them to imagine what would happen to them if they did not do what I was suggesting – “Imagine what would happen to your family if you had the opportunity to make your future better and didn’t take it”. How would you feel?

I end on….

Just let me get a piece of paper to take your debit or credit card details and we can get on with things.

The key lessons in this article.
1. Always ask for the business

2. Don’t talk features unless it’s to remove a barrier, then quickly ally it to a benefit – and just lay out your clients’ benefits in the form of a story.

3. Stories sell better than anything else.

But they must be the truth, if you can’t relate a story to them that has happened to you and a client, then go back to ask them to imagine what they will do or how they will manage if they don’t do it and something happens to them later in life. I like to use stories that start with: – “Can you remember about 10 years ago when….(insert what happened)

Now establish your stories and go out there and tell people about them, and ask for the business!

David Birchall
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