Updated: May 17
Why Do Some Sales Pitches Go Wrong?
Most of my clients aren’t salespeople. I mean, they make sales every day but they’re not salespeople. They’re lawyers, copywriters, consultants, and coaches.
Basically, they got really good at their day job. That day job turned into a passion. So they decided to strike out on their own and build a business.
And that’s great. Except…they’re still not salespeople. They’re lawyers, copywriters, consultants, and coaches.
Even though sales pitches aren’t in their skill set, it’s a HUGE part of their day-to-day.
If you’re reading this, you probably became a salesperson by accident. Sales pitches aren’t in your comfort zone. And this knowledge gap might be making your approach to them a bit haphazard.
But pitching your idea or product doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable. The best sales pitches just have one thing in common. They keep their focus on the individual in front of them. That’s it
Look, usually, when salespeople have epic fails, it’s about being too self-focused. While you obsess on the outcome of your pitch, you don’t see the distance you’re creating with the client.
Frankly, the pitch can go a bit tone-deaf when you tune out.
So in this article, I want to talk about a few ways your sales pitches could be hitting a sour note. Avoid these mistakes and you might avoid alienating some really great prospects.
Consider the Audience
It’s pretty natural that if you want to be good at anything you practice, practice, practice. Totally smart idea, right? Well, yes. But wait. Let’s think about this. What does “practice” mean to most people?
Usually, it means preparing a “presentation.” You write it, drill it, and deliver it - over and over again. Which not only sounds exhausting, it sounds like the opposite of persuasive.
I mean, think about being on the receiving end of a “sales speech.”
If your sales pitch is set in stone, it’ll go over like…well, like cement.
Pre-chewed sales pitches always come across weird. They wind up more about the product than the client. Ultimately, the sales pitch falls flat.
Your sales pitches should be fresh every time.
Not completely new, don’t worry! But it should speak to the specific client. You should come from their point of view and build an alliance before any transaction can take place.
Do some research on the potential client. Go to their company website. Do a little LinkedIn snooping. Look at how they sell, if you can. How they sell is a clue to how they buy. It’s a window into their priorities, style, and values.
I’m not asking you to pretend to be someone you’re not in your sales pitches. But be a version of you that best suits the client. If they seem more formal, consider leaning into a data-driven pitch. If they sell in loud colors and bubble letters, a relaxed approach might put them more at ease.
Look at it like you’re hosting a dinner. What would you do to make your guest feel comfortable?
Researching their online presence can help you discover what they care about. Somewhere in there you’ll find something that resonates with you. Meet them there.
Create an alignment. It can breathe spontaneity and focus into your sales pitch that feels more personalized and less pre-fab.
Even If You Think They Know It, Tell the Whole Story.
Another rookie mistake in sales pitches is taking way too much for granted. You might think the reason for your pitch is obvious, but you’d be surprised.
Sales pitches often take a weird turn when the salesperson is solving problems the client doesn’t know they have.
You have to think of it like this - sales pitches are stories. But inexperienced salespeople often start in the middle or even at the end of that story! They start their pitch with how their product or service will save the day.
You have to make sure they understand that something is wrong before you solve their problem. Don’t assume they know what that is. They may not see the gaps that you see.
The Pixar Pitch
Like the best stories, something has to go wrong for the client before it can be put right. With sales pitches, you always want to start with their pain points. Create a clear, explicit worry line that’s truthful and compelling.
A good template for structuring your sales pitches is something called the Pixar Pitch. Coined by Daniel Pink, the Pixar Pitch is a simple framework for pitching according to a complete storyline.
It starts at the beginning, creates peril, and ends with the happy ending. Basically, every Pixar film fits into this template - and every good sales pitch.
The Pixar Pitch goes like this:
Once upon a time, _________________________.
Every day ___________________________.
Because of that, _______________________.
Because of that, ________________________.
Until finally, ___________________________.
It’s a simple structure that perfectly adapts to a sales pitch.
It covers the essential elements of your client’s story.
Let’s say you’re an organization consultant. You help people get their home offices in order. You’re pitching to an accountant named Stacey who’s office is a mess. It probably seems obvious what she needs.
But your sales pitch tells her the whole story.
Stacey’s Pixar Pitch goes like this:
Once upon a time, there was an accountant named Stacey who worked from a home office.
Every day she tried to work around a messy desk, piles of unopened mail, post-it notes, and a thrown-together filing system.
Because of that she misplaced important documents, burned up time and energy on small things, and needed to re-invent her workflow every single day.
Because of that she took twice as long to finish her work, lost opportunities that fell in her lap, and struggled to keep ahead of deadlines.
Until finally she got help and organized her workspace beautifully. She learned the freedom and ease that comes with a tidy and well set-up office.
Obviously, don’t say it exactly like this to Stacey. She’ll think you’re nuts.
But if you cover these elements, you’ll cover Stacey’s whole story. She’ll feel a deeper sense of the relief you’re offering.
Sales pitches have to be personalized. And they have to be clear about what’s at stake.
Your pitch can remind a prospect of their whole problem. Then, and only then, are you able to save the day.
Consider the Times
These times. Oh my god...
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this. I am. But it’s true. These have been difficult years. Some seriously weird, difficult, and tricky years.
When you run a small business you can get tunnel vision, especially in the early days of trying to meet your goals. But that’s not something you can really afford to do in your sales pitches. Not these days.
The one good by-product of our living through a pandemic together is it’s created an expectation of empathy in the marketplace. Sales pitches are seen as occasions of connection, not just a place for a “hard sell.”
Look, there’s nobody who hasn’t been through something pretty hard in the last few years. No one’s asking you to be their therapist. But in all your sales pitches you need to meet your prospect human to human.
Clients and companies “likely expect a more thoughtful selling approach from product and service vendors,” advises Forbes.com, “Customers expect empathy and customized service that creates connections on a more human level.”
Your sales pitches need to be less like a pitch and more like showing up for a neighbor.
Create rapport with your prospect by talking to them like a human. Listen. Appeal to their worries and offer to help. Focus on that with your sales pitches and you’ll put your potential client in a more receptive position.
And besides that, you’ll just make the world a better place to be.
Like all things, there’s a “sweet spot” with sales pitches. It’s about being prepared enough without reverting to some auto-pilot presentation.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It does have to tell a specific story with them in mind.
Sales pitches can be stressful in the beginning - even for bona fide salespeople. But ultimately they’re just a way of helping out. Offering specific, customized, pertinent help.
Think of your sales pitch as a first aid kit. You bring the same box of tools to everyone, but what you pull out of it depends on them.
Meet your prospect where they are. They’ve come to you with a need. Remember, your pitch is just another way to show up for them.
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