Are You a Pitcher or a Professional?

Okay, so let me begin by acknowledging that I’m likely to offend some long-time salespeople. There will be other people who think that “it’s just a word” so what does it matter. 

 

To the first group I’d say get over it, if you’re that easily offended then your success in sales will always be limited. To the second group I’d say if you think “it’s just a word” then think also of all the times “just a word” changed your attitude, changed your thinking, and maybe changed your level of success. Words matter!

 

The word I’m writing about today is “pitch.” 

 

A pitch might be the legal delivery of a baseball by a pitcher. It could be the slope of a roof. Sometimes it’s the quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. My personal favorite use of the word pitch is a high approach shot onto a golf green. 

 

But a “pitch” is never never never a professional sales presentation. Now, before some salespeople, and even some sales trainers, tell me that pitch is only a word let me stop you before you begin. It’s not just a word, it’s a huge word. 

 

It’s huge because it plays an important role in determining your mindset as a salesperson. Your actions tend to follow your words and your thoughts. When you say you’re giving a pitch, or even think it, then everything you say and do around your prospect or customer will be affected….and not in a good way.

 

Salespeople, at least professional salespeople, need to stay focused on what’s important. The only thing that really matters to professional salespeople is their customer. Professional salespeople don’t make a pitch to a prospect; they craft a presentation based on their customer’s needs. 

 

Professional salespeople make recommendations based on information. The information comes from customers as a result of a thorough discovery process. 

 

Sales isn’t a game where you make a pitch and hope the prospect takes it. It is not a game where you try to pitch something past a customer. You don’t need to “pitch” anything because if you’re a professional salesperson you don’t play games with a customer. You don’t think of a sale as a “win” for yourself. The only win in professional selling is making sure the customer gets what they need.

 

Do not kid yourself. If you’re not thinking in terms of helping a customer or prospect reach a goal or an objective then you’re not thinking like a professional salesperson. 

 

Thinking in terms of “making a pitch” puts a salesperson in the wrong frame of mind. It diminishes the importance of what a professional salesperson does. Peddlers and average salespeople make pitches. Professional salespeople make formal, professional, and meaningful presentations. 


So ditch the pitch and be the professional salesperson your prospects and customers deserve. 

The Gift of Listen

As far back as I can remember there has been a saying that good salespeople have the gift of gab. 

For the last 30 years or so I’ve known that saying to be utterly false. Good salespeople, actually great salespeople, truly professional salespeople, don’t have the gift of gab, they have the gift of listen. 

You’ll never hear a truly professional salesperson say that they “talked” anyone into doing anything. The best salespeople actually listen far more than they talk. They  don’t want to sell people stuff that they don’t need. They want to help them buy products and services that help their customer receive a real benefit in return. 

Great salespeople ask great questions of their customers knowing full well that if they ask the right questions what follows are honest answers that will help them help their customer.

Once they ask great questions then they listen and they don’t just listen to respond, they listen to understand. They linger on the words of their customer until they fully understand the needs and wants of their customer. If for any reason they don’t fully understand they will ask more questions until they do. What they never do is guess. They don’t guess at what their customer might need or what they might want, they ask great questions and then they listen until they understand.

They listen as if that particular customer is the only customer in the world because they know that, in that moment, they are in fact the only customer that matters. 

If you want to know how you measure up to the best sales professionals in the world consider this: the best sales professionals listen more than twice as much as they talk. 70% of their interactions with a customer are invested in listening and only 30% are spent talking. For average salespeople those percentages are just about reversed. 

You will never learn how to help your customer by talking to them, talking just starts the communications process. Listening to your customer helps you learn how to help them, listening completes the communications process.

So… are you listening yet?

 

Especially for Sales Leaders!

Yep, that’s what it says.  For Sales Leaders!  If you’re not a leader or have no interest in becoming one, you may just want skip this post and go about doing whatever it is that followers do.  If you are a leader, or want to be, then read on.

First of all, notice that the title is not, it’s not for sales managers. In the often challenging business environment where we all work today, the last thing a company needs is more managers. While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability to gain the commitment of theirs.  Today, perhaps more the ever before, a key element to success is commitment.

Let’s talk about leading a team of sales professionals for instance.   It is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication and a strong desire to see others succeed. 

Skills! What we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of a sales organization need to thrive.  All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people and most say it is the critical part of their job.  They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.  

Yet, many sales managers today attempt to accomplish this task from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.”  Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be.  It may not look like it but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our marketplace from behind them.  If you’re the leader of a professional sales team today, and you’re not spending time in the field with your sales team on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on in the market.  Here is a test for you:  how many times in the last year has a member of your team lost a good opportunity for business and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?”  You’re the leader, you should know!  Think about it.

How about dedication?  Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses.  Leaders don’t let little things get in their way; managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success.  Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers; they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the sales team.  

Are you a leader who leads their team through challenges or are you a manager who uses excuses to explain shortcomings?  It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time.  What do you think?

Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders.  A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible.  Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and ample market intelligence.  Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their sales team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.   

Tools like call reports, an almost instantaneous understanding and knowledge of a salesperson’s closing percentage, weekly plans and goals are the hallmark of sales success.  Salespeople shun them while sales professionals embrace them.  Many managers see these tools as burdensome and time-consuming. 

Managers  speak of the trust within their organizations and say that reports can violate that trust, all the while not having enough information to really know.  Leaders see these tools as vital to a salesperson’s success and won’t attempt to lead even a day without them.  Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best.

A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen.  A leader raises issues, debates them and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow.  Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it.  Leaders see change as opportunity.  Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example.

Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader?  Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage?  If that means making some changes, will you do it?  The choice, is of course, yours to make; but before you do ask yourself one last question, would you rather work for a manager or a leader?  

I thought so!