Rummaging in a drawer for a certain business card, I unearthed something I had saved and posted to my bulletin board long ago. It’s a short version of how to do a sales pitch. Just five steps everyone engaged in the business of persuading should learn. And that’s really everyone.
When I say “sales pitch,” don’t think used car salesperson. Every one of us needs to sell something to someone every day, whether it’s a thing, an idea, or ourselves. So adapt these steps to your own needs. Fill in the details that apply, and try it out.
Step One: Start where people are.
What’s the current situation of the person you’re talking with or advertising to? What’s going on in their life or business? Speak to that. For instance, “I understand that recently, you’ve been…” whatever their present challenge is. Be sure they confirm that’s what they’re dealing with before moving on.
Step Two: Talk about problems and opportunities.
Try to state the person’s real problem concisely. I mean, if they have identified a problem, but you see that the problem actually is wider or narrower than they can see, describe and explain what you see as the real problem. If they agree, then start talking about how that problem offers the opportunity for growth, greater understanding, better relationships, more revenue, more fun, or another relevant benefit.
An account executive wasn’t happy with how his marriage was going. He and his wife didn’t talk much any more, chugged along from day to day all right, but the spark and the fun were gone. So he approached the problem from an account executive’s perspective. He determined an objective: to improve his wife’s satisfaction level with their marriage. His strategy would be to make whatever adjustments in his own behavior would improve his relationship with his wife.
He conducted a one-on-one focus group; he surveyed his wife to learn what specific things she liked and didn’t like about their current relationship. He quantified her responses. He took the findings and developed specific action steps to maximize his wife’s happiness and minimize her unhappiness.
For instance, he found that she really wanted more communication, especially when they both got home from work. So he would make it a point to talk to her when he got home, not just flop onto the La-Z-Boy and grab the channel changer. He would listen to her talk about her day as they washed and dried dishes together. They would go out on a date every Friday night. Things like that. Pretty simple things, but the strategy worked.
When he measured his wife’s satisfaction level after several weeks of his “campaign,” he found there was a significant improvement. Job well done!
Step Three: Talk about objectives and strategies.
If your person desires the benefit you’ve outlined (accent is on “relevant”), then the next natural step is to set out a specific objective: what the desired outcome of any action taken will be. For example, “We will increase our profits by 12% in the first quarter of 2010.” The objective can’t be vague, as in “We’d like to make more revenue in 2010.” The timeline and identified goal must be clear. When they are set, you can move on to the next part of this step, strategies.
A strategy is a broad plan of action moving you toward the goal. Say you’re selling a new product nobody knows about yet. Your goal is to achieve a certain level of top-of-mind awareness of your product among an identified target group. “Our strategy is to gain 25% top-of-mind awareness of the product among 18-34-year-olds in three selected areas of town by implementing a free sampling program during the month of March. We will establish a benchmark for awareness, then measure awareness among the target group at the conclusion of the sampling program.”
Step Four: Then move to the Selling Idea.
Beyond awareness, you want your target audience to be excited about the product’s benefits, too. What is the compelling selling idea? Maybe a new cell phone has more practical apps than iPhone, and the benefit is that you can get your work done more easily. Or maybe the new phone is ergonomically designed to fit the side of your face, so it’s more comfortable to use. Whatever it is, the selling idea has to be strong enough that people who own a different phone will be motivated to switch.
Step Five: Conclude with how the selling idea solves the problem.
Rosser Reeves’ Unique Selling Proposition still works. The USP is a unique statement no other product/service can or does advertise, compelling enough to get people to buy the product, that can be conveyed in the form of a proposition like, “When you buy the ElfPhone, you get 20 practical new business apps that help you get work done in 50% less time.”
Back to the account executive example, his USP might have been, “When you are my spouse, you get a high level of communication and many behaviors that show you how much I care about your happiness.” Now, what woman could resist a USP like that?