How to turn your sales meetings into fun-filled events

How many marketing messages are we bombarded with every day? Some say it’s around 5000; others maintain it’s closer to 20000. Whatever the figure is, it’s astronomical. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we know when we’re being “sold to” and don’t hesitate to tune out PDQ. But, if we want our business clients to stay tuned in, what’s the most effective way of grabbing – and keeping – their attention?

According to Steve Yastrow, author of bestselling Ditch the Pitch – The Art of Improvised Persuasion, if your sales team meet customers with a pre-conceived notion of what to say, they’re likely to fail. He lists five reasons why:

  1. Your customer doesn’t have any interest in your story, only their own.
  2. They’ll quickly suss out they’re being “pitched to” and stop listening.
  3. Customers don’t want to hear you speak; they want to do the talking themselves.
  4. It’s highly unlikely any pre-fab sales pitch will exactly match the needs of that particular customer at that particular time.
  5. Customers resent being made to do the work of figuring out why your product’s features meet their needs.

So, what’s the answer? Yastrow maintains it’s all about improvised persuasive conversations. You need to literally “ditch the pitch” in favour of conversations that are customer focused; which are diagnostic rather than prescriptive; and which are animated, interesting exchanges that benefit both parties.

Improvised? Before you turn green with stage fright, we’re not talking improv stand-up comedy here (although a little well placed humour never goes astray). Yastrow recommends five steps to help you transform a sales pitch into an exchange both parties will enjoy.

  1. Reduce the volume on your analytical thinking to help you remain focused on the customer.
  2. Know more about who you’re engaging with; take time to get to know your customer and the true context of their needs.
  3. Abandon ever saying “Yes, but…” and exchange it for “Yes, and…”. Doing so will keep the conversation flowing and avoid it coming to a complete standstill.
  4. Focus the conversation on the customer, not you. Yastrow suggests 95% is ideal.
  5. Don’t rush! Customers positively hate being bombarded with information.

Most important of all, says Yastrow, is to learn how to incorporate a concept he calls a “callback”. These are recurring references linking back to statements the customer has made; you keep leading them back to what they said earlier. For example,

“This environment-focused investment fund ties in well with what you were saying earlier about your desire to invest more ethically.”

“That point you were making about flexibility being important? Well, here’s another way you can adapt this widget …”

Callbacks prove to the customer that you’ve been listening and that you believe the points they’ve made are valid. Matching what they’ve said with the features of your product or service confirms why they should do business with you.

This persuasive process is a more productive method than any hard-line sales pitch because it eliminates the pressure to convince. The client comes up with their own conclusions and it’s a far easier and more pleasant – fun, even – process all round. And, if you don’t make a sale this time, the door remains open for the next time you call.

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