The term “pitch” brings up images of a hard sell. In the best sense though, a pitch is short for the story you tell. A good pitch is one that you tailored to your customer’s needs and helped you differentiate your offering from competitors. But today, because customers are educating themselves on your products and those of your competitors through the internet and conversations with other customers, the product knowledge gap you filled in the past is getting smaller.
Sure, you have to talk about your capabilities, but how and when has changed. Nothing I can think of will ever reduce your need for you to understand your products and your customers’ needs. As a matter of fact, you need an even a deeper understanding of both. Beyond that though, you must bring more to your customers than the ability to differentiate your capabilities. Customers expect you to be more proactive and more creative in solving their business issues.
What you bring as YOU, the value you add to helping customers meet their business objectives, your ability to help them see a broader perspective, is as important, often more important, than what your products will do for them. Lately, there has been a focus on the need for salespeople to increase their business acumen — and rightly so.
Customers expect you to engage them in broader business dialogues, and that demands business acumen. The internet and training resources can help you build business acumen. But one of the best seminars on earth is your customer’s office. Take advantage of your customer’s knowledge. Don’t shy away from asking broader, more strategic questions. If you are prepared and it is a value give and take, customers will share knowledge with you. Ask questions to understand how your customers see their business and what they want to achieve. Not only will you be better positioned to customize a winning solution, but you will LEARN and be smarter for this customer and the ones after that.
When I asked Vivian Potamkin, one of the great collectors and experts in 20th Century American Art, how she learned so much about art, she said, “Dealers. I spent every Saturday for years going from gallery to gallery asking questions and learning from them.” The successful call is one in which both you and the customer learn something.
Customers value industry knowledge. They value competitive data. They value research and metrics. They value being helped to broaden their perspective. Customers’ product knowledge gaps are getting smaller and smaller, but the areas where you can provide value have changed and expanded. When your product capabilities are framed with what customers value, they will reward you for it.
After your next call, ask yourself what you learned that broadened your knowledge and built your business acumen. Make this as important as what your customers learned from you. Together you will build winning solutions.