The 5 Pillars of a Successful Sales Pitch

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Posted: February 19, 2014 | Sales

Once you’ve built a repeatable customer acquisition process, most sales leaders will take a “10,000-foot view” of their teams – in other words, they’ll analyze what their best reps do and don’t best. The idea is that once you’ve pinpointed how you’ve acquired your current customers, you can reproduce that process and build a machine that scales.

During my time at Marketo (more than four years), I’ve taken many notes on the tactical traits of our best performing Sales Account Executives (AEs). Although I’ve already shared these traits with my peers who run sales teams at early/mid-stage tech companies, I’ve recently realized that these traits apply not only to Marketo, but to just about every SaaS (Software as a System) sales cycle out there. After reading Adam Grant’s Give and Take, I was inspired to share this knowledge with the industry.

When you’re providing advice or coaching to your sales team, sales leaders should focus on these five pillars of a successful sales pitch:

1) Win Your Deal on the Discovery Call

Ask questions that put your company ahead of your competition. Offer ideas your prospect hasn’t thought of before, and demonstrate your credibility and knowledge of the space. Take at least 15 minutes before each discovery call to map out the questions you want to ask, and the questions you anticipate from the prospect.

On the flip side, listen to your prospects. Junior salespeople will often run their discovery calls like an interrogation, while top performers create an environment that feels like a tennis match – they allow for an equal exchange between the buyer and seller.

2) Research

Thanks to what we call “information abundance”, today’s sales teams face new challenges in selling products. Our prospects can now do an incredible amount of research on our products before they buy (of course, that’s where lead nurturing comes in). But the abundance of information goes both ways.

Level the playing field by doing your own research. Scour their corporate website, look them up on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, and check them out on third-party review sites. The best AEs understand the business of their buyer, and are able to speak intelligently about the challenges prospects are probably facing. Better yet, find a way to compare those challenges with those your current customers have solved with your product.

3) The Presentation is the Performance

Your AEs should customize every sales presentation, and each one should be truly memorable. No matter what you’re selling, the presentation is the performance, and most people can’t stand canned presentations. Prove that your presentation has been personalized in the first 60 seconds. Don’t start with why your company is great; start with how you can help the prospect’s company.

Think of your sales cycle as a wave you’re trying to surf – it’s all about timing. During your presentation, it’s time to stand up on the board and show everyone what you’ve got. If you put the room to sleep, you’ve missed your wave, and you’ll have to wait for another one. At best, you’ll have to deal with an extended sales cycle. But the most likely outcome is an email explaining why they “don’t have the budget” or “(insert lame objection here)”.

4) Ask For (and Earn) the Next Step

Don’t just ask for the next step, earn for that next step – every single time. This is Sales 101: secure a next step every time you interact with a prospect. But junior reps often forget that next steps need to be earned, not just requested.

If you ask for a next step, and you get rejected (for example, if the prospect says “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”), it’s time to do some soul searching. What you could have done differently?

5) Be like-able

People do business with people they like. I’ve blogged about this before, but I can’t stress the importance of it enough – it’s a brutal truth of selling. If you’re cold or grumpy, or if you’re whining about the weather all of the time, your prospect will decide to spent their time elsewhere. If you’re pushy or insincere on a personal level, you’ll lose their business.

If you’re in sales, are there any pillars you would add to these five? If you aren’t in sales, but you’ve recently been approached by a sales rep, what made you buy – or not­ buy – the pitch? Let us know in the comments below.

Related Resources

Ray Carroll is the Director of Sales at Marketo, where he leads a team of talented Account Executives. He's passionate about technology, the Denver Broncos, and being a part of young companies that are destined for greatness.

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Want to close more deals? Try these 5 pillars of a successful #salespitch.

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