Years ago I did consulting for KPMG. The group I trained sold an 8 figure solution that originally took 3 years to close (we brought it down to 4 months). One of the first things they did was to get an appointment with one of the managers (an entry point, not a real decision maker) – and then proceed to spend weeks preparing for the meeting by developing a very, very impressive ‘pitch book.’ You might have seen those pitch books that are used in high dollar sales: large, colorful binders, huge sets of PPT material – in all, it cost (in time and materials) anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to a million.
The assumption was that if they could explain to the prospect who they were as savvy, knowledgeable consultants, how their solution would benefit the prospect, and prove dollars and cents savings, THEN the prospect would know to choose them.
So they spent untold amounts of time and money to develop these pitches, and the same percentage of clients bought as in any other sales initiative. In other words, lots and lots of people spent lots and lots of resources to have a low result.
You know what happened, of course: when working with Buying Facilitation™ they started using the telephone for the early calls, only went to visit when the entire Buying Decision Team had bought into the possibility of change, the entire Buying Decision Team was present, and all had figured out the internal issues that the new solution would create and resolve. By the time the senior partners showed up to meet the prospects, there was little need for a pitch.
PITCHES AREN’T NECESSARY
I realize it’s sacrilege to say this, but pitches aren’t necessary. Here is why:
- Pitches are a hold over from pre-technology days. Buyers can get all of the data they need from the net or your site (and yes, the net will also offer unsolicited data from happy and unhappy clients).
- Sales assumes that with an efficacious presentation, buyers will know they need to buy. This is silly: If I give you data about a gym, or a great hair stylist, or a fabulous neighborhood, does that mean you’ll work out, or change your hair style, or move? Until or unless there is buy-in from all of the elements that are somehow involved in the creation or maintainence of the status quo, they won’t buy. A need only looks like a need from the outside: it would have been resolved already if the ‘inside’ found it an irksome issue.
- Sales treats the identified problem as an isolated event. Without any knowledge of how or where a new solution would sit with the internal (unknown) factors, you are pitching into the wind. The bigger problem is that the buyer doesn’t know where it fits either – and when they do, they’ll make a purchase. Hence the sales cycle: the time it takes for buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle.
- Data about a solution is necessary only when the internal change management issues have been resolved. Then information is vital – but by then, buyers know exactly what they need, how they need it, and the questions to ask. Otherwise they don’t know what to listen for or ask about. We give pitches far too early in the decision cycle.
MANAGE THE BUYING ENVIRONMENT FIRST
Instead of entering to recognize a need and help resolve it with your solution, begin prospecting by helping buyers:
- decide how, or if, they want to change,
- bring together all (ALL) of the internal decision factors such as rules, historic issues, relationships, initiatives, old vendors, etc,
- know how the new solution can be made to fit with their existing ‘system’ to avoid chaos and disruption.
When it’s time for prospects to know a full set of details – how the solution will work/fit with what they are doing now and how to maintain it through time with the resources they have – then you can pitch. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and effort. And your good will.