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7 Deadly Sins of Sales Pitching
Are you too available, too knowledgeable, or just too damn nice? Oren Klaff lays out seven traits that could land your pitch in sales purgatory.
Eric Markowitz reports on start-ups, entrepreneurs, and issues that affect small businesses. Previously, he worked at
. He lives in New York City.
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7 Deadly Sins of Sales Pitching
You Don't Build Suspense.
You give a clean, mean, 30-second elevator pitch. Then what? There's nothing left for rest of your sales presentation. The second your listener says "I get it," they'll immediately lose interest. How do you actually build suspense into a pitch? Oren Klaff, author of
and director of capital markets at Intersection Capital, recommends setting up a story, but building tension through the ending. "You put a man in a jungle, you have beasts attack him, and you bring him to the edge of the jungle, but you don't get him all the way out," Klaff says. "That's how you get suspense."
You're Too Available.
If you don't set up a time constraint right in the beginning of the sales pitch, you could put your time-conscious listeners on edge. Klaff recommends walking into the meeting and saying something like: "I have 20 minutes to really explain this product for you, then let's just chat a little bit because I have to get out of here by 1 o'clock." This will do a few things for you. First: it will make you seem important—and needed. Second: it shows that you're not going to waste precious time. Third: it will differentiate you from every other salesperson, who would likely stay until kicked out.
You Scare People.
If your pitch is abstract and lacks visual cues, it could be interpreted as a threat. This isn't mere theory—it's backed up by hard science. Klaff explains that the presenter uses his or her neocortex, part of the brain that can handle complex reasoning and data analysis. But the potential customer processes those messages through a more primitive, instinct-aware part of the brain. Consider car marketing: no one wants to hear about gas ratios or complicated navigation systems; they want to know how they'll feel tearing down the highway at 90 miles an hour. Unless asked details, stick to emotion and narrative.
You BS the Expert.
Suppose you're pitching your company to investors. The investor asks what you project expenses to be, and you choose to casually omit, say, certain expenses you don't think the investor would find out about. Not only is this unethical, but it's just plain bad for business. Should someone in the room uncover your lie, you're likely going to bicker, which will take away from your credibility, and you'll probably lose the deal. "You never want to go toe-to-toe with an analyst," Klaff says. Besides, he says, "the more you get into details, the more you're wasting time."
You're Too Nice.
People come into sales presentations and they just supplicate, Klaff says. "They view the customer as the prize, and so they act overly nice and willing to do whatever." When you grovel, you become "low status" in the eyes of your potential client. When Klaff walks into a pitch, he'll leave a presentation slide on the table. When the person grabs for it, he'll take it out of their hands and tell them it's not time for that yet. "All of a sudden you're seen as a peer or slightly superior," he says. "It conveys status. It builds intrigue. It says, 'I'm not here to beg for your business. I'm the prize.'"
You Quote Dead People.
There's a tendency in sales pitching to rely on the words of mentors, great business leaders, and politicians. Do everything you can to resist the temptation. When you quote someone else, you not only invoke a juvenile feeling, but also you might invalidate yourself as an expert. In other words, by deferring to someone else, you also lower your status, Klaff says.
When pitching, it's easy to rely on yield curves, projected revenues, and other bits of data to sell your product or service. But the glut of data means nothing if you're not keeping the interest of the person sitting across the table from you. "We come to meetings to hear about new ideas, meet new people, and learn about interesting or even exotic people and places," Klaff says. Instead, strive to create an emotional reaction with the person you're pitching.
Last updated: Apr 18, 2011
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