The power of an effective in-person pitch is immense. A charismatic salesperson who uses persuasive language and exhibits expansive body language is captivating. In this article, we start by revisiting tried and tested methods for persuasive and effective pitching.
But what ultimately leads to a winning pitch? We believe the differentiating factor between a good and great sales pitch is the ability to connect with the customer. To be human. To build trust and rapport and to exhibit emotional intelligence such that the customer feels valued, understood and persuaded to make a purchasing decision. In this article, we explore why harnessing this human aspect of sales is crucial for success.
Finally, we look at how the sales landscape is changing. Information overload, the growing presence and influence of artificial intelligence and the rise of omnichannel pitching 1 mean the road to a successful pitch is increasingly complex. In this article, we consider the implications of these changes for salespeople seeking success.
Using the following techniques can create a persuasive message which is significantly more effective than stand-alone facts and figures:
Not only does the language used in a pitch matter but, importantly, delivery excellence requires consideration of body language, facial expressions, presence and more:
Finally, pitching must be approached with a growth mindset, motivated by a desire to learn and improve and to understand and manage own emotions as well as those of customers. This is two-fold: first, the ability to manage one’s own emotions when delivering a pitch and ensuring the right mindset ahead of pitching. Second, the ability to empathetically address the emotions of the customer, building rapport during the presentation and thus increasing their confidence in your ability to meet their needs and alleviate their concerns.
Firstly, it is essential to embrace the right mindset ahead of your pitch presentation by establishing a ritual that utilises your physiology and gets you into a relaxed and winning mentality.
This could include:
Secondly, a proven technique to help manage your emotions when faced with unexpected problems, is to seek out the positive in every situation. As opposed to taking an ‘outside-in’ approach to determine your level of motivation, the key to staying motivated is to proactively decide, irrespective of what happens on the outside, that you will choose to feel good and resourceful on the inside. This is the ‘inside-out’ approach to motivation.
Rather than reacting emotionally to an obstacle, you can stay resourceful in difficult situations by using a simple process called E+R=O.
When confronted with a difficult external EVENT (E) it’s easy, in the heat of the moment, to take this personally, get defensive, lose control and then REACT (R) in a highly emotional way. After such an outburst you’re left with a highly undesirable OUTCOME (O) where the problem remains unresolved, and you’ve damaged the relationship.
1. Omnichannel pitching
Gone are the days where a pitch is won solely face-to-face. According to McKinsey, a ‘rule of thirds’ has emerged where customers employ a roughly even mix of traditional face-to-face, remote (e.g. video conferencing and phone calls) and self-service (e.g., digital portals) at each stage of the sales process. In some instances, B2B customers are using up to 10 different channels to interact with suppliers.13
To support this shift to omnichannel selling and multi-experience buying, sales representatives need to effectively pitch in-person and virtually, and work with their wider organisation to ensure digital portals and the alike are attractive to buyers.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the ways in which sales representatives are trained and prepare pitches. A survey of hundreds of sales leaders revealed that representatives using conversation intelligence and AI-powered conversation guidance are more satisfied with their coaching.14 AI can be used to practise pitches, receive instant feedback and ultimately improve pitch quality. For example, Showpad’s ‘PitchAI’ analyses a seller’s pitch and provides direct feedback on four pitch characteristics: speed, body language, silences and enthusiasm. 15 AI can also be used to craft outreach to clients and to develop the pitch itself.
To stay competitive, sales representatives must be trained on how best to utilise AI in pitch preparation.
3. New Type of Customer
Finally, salespeople face a new type of customer: generationally diverse, ever more sceptical and increasingly informed. Millennials are generally sceptical of sales representatives and show preference for data-backed evidence. Even in the face of data, millennials will often do their own research, possibly as a result of growing up in the era of information abundance and reduced trust.16 Regardless of generation, customers have access more data and information than ever before, which can be overwhelming. Customers spend 15% of the buying cycle time deconflicting information, making sense of data from different sources.17 And finally, today’s buying groups are diverse; it is no longer the case that winning over a senior decision maker will equate to a sale. According to a Gartner survey, 75% of customers agreed that their purchase involved people from a variety of roles and locations.
The key to success amid these new demands is to take time to understand your customer and ensure information consistency: those who report consistency are roughly 4.5x more likely to successfully sell. 18
1 McKinsey B2B Sales: Omnichannel everywhere, every time – December 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/b2b-sales-omnichannel-everywhere-every-time
2Allan Pease (1991) – Body Language: how to read others’ thoughts by their gestures. https://www.academia.edu/22610347/Allan_Pease_Body_Language?auto=download
3Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson and Greg Boose – Noverbal Communication and Body Language. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/nonverbal-communication.htm
4 Rule, N. O., & Ambady, N. (2008). The Face of Success: Inferences From Chief Executive Officers’ Appearance Predict Company Profits. Psychological Science, 19(2), 109–111. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02054.x
5 Patsy Rodenburg – https://patsyrodenburg.co.uk/courses/discovering/
6 Leveleleven – The Importance of Trust in Sales (August 2018). https://leveleleven.com/2018/08/importance-trust-sales/
7 Salesforce – State of the Connected Customer 5th edition. https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/documents/research/salesforce-state-of-the-connected-customer-fifth-ed.pdf
8 Harvard Business Review. What Makes a Great Pitch (May 2020). https://hbr.org/2020/05/what-makes-a-great-pitch
9 Lance Tyson, The Human Sales Factor (2022).
10 McKinsey B2B Sales: Omnichannel everywhere, every time – December 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/b2b-sales-omnichannel-everywhere-every-time
11 Nielsen – Consumer Trust in Online Social and Mobile Advertising Grows (April 2012) https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2012/consumer-trust-in-online-social-and-mobile-advertising-grows/
12 How to Close the Referral Gap, Daniel Decker Texas Tech Today, 2018. https://today.ttu.edu/posts/2018/05/close-referral-gap
13 McKinsey B2B Sales: Omnichannel everywhere, every time – December 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/b2b-sales-omnichannel-everywhere-every-time
14 Revenue.io – 3 Key Findings From the 2021 State of Sales Coaching. https://www.revenue.io/blog/3-key-findings-from-the-2021-state-of-sales-coaching
15 Showpad – How AI can make sales pitches more effective (May 2023) https://www.showpad.com/blog/how-ai-can-make-sales-pitches-more-effective/
16 Gartner What Sales Should Know About B2B Buyers In 2019 – https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-sales-should-know-about-b2b-buyers-in-2019
17 The Future of Sales 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/future-of-sales-2025-deliver-the-digital-options-b2b-buyers-demand
18 The Future of Sales 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/future-of-sales-2025-deliver-the-digital-options-b2b-buyers-demand