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Sales People, We’re Certainly A Talkative Bunch

by David Brock on September 15th, 2009

I was interested in a Tweet last week from Gerhard Geschwandtner (@gerhard20 in twitter parlance).  Gerhard’s the founder and publisher of Selling Power, and a key voice in the world of sales professionals.  His tweet was important:  @gerhard20 Ditch the pitch. We are in a conversation economy. The sales pitch is dead.

I couldn’t agree with him more.  The pitch is dead, professional selling is all about a meaningful dialogue or conversation with the customer.  At least that’s what I’d like to believe.  Except the evidence all points to the contrary.

Being a curious type, I decided to go to the authorities:  Google and Amazon.  In each I made some queries.  I wasn’t looking for scientific evidence, but just some rough orders of magnitude.

 

Google Count

Amazon Count

“Sales Dialogue”

8,650,000

993*

“Sales Conversation”

34,300,000

2359

“Listening In Sales”

35,200,000

1688

“Sales Presentations”

48,200,000

9011

“Sales Pitches”

180,000,000

22,895

*It is disconcerting the title of the first entry for this query is:  Power Sales Presentations: Complete Sales Dialogues for Each Critical Step of the Sales Cycle.

It seems we like talking and reading about talking, pitching, presentations.  Both in Google and Amazon, Sales Pitches is more than 20 times more popular than Sales Dialogues.

  • Customers have a different point of view.  While I don’t have the type of data presented above, over the years, I’ve spoken to 1000’s of customers and surveyed thousands more.  Common issues that they raise:
  • Sales people don’t really listen to me.  Most of the time they are thinking about what they are going to say and not paying attention to what I am saying.
  • Sales people don’t understand me, my company, or my industry.
  • I don’t like to see sales people, all they do is come in and pitch their products, they never ask me about my business or what I want to achieve.
  • Most of them are clueless, they start talking and never stop.
  • And the inevitable, “How do you tell when a sales person is lying?  His lips are moving!”

The list can go on.  Read  what people think of sales people in LinkedIn or any number of blogs.  Customers don’t see us listening or in conversations.

We get lots of calls on helping develop sales skills.  I’ve lost track of the number of people saying “we need to have better presentation skills.”  I can count on a little more than 2 hands the number of queries on “we need to develop better listening skills, better conversational skills.”  (Though in our conversation we usually help them understand the importance and they end up asking for it).

Unfortunately, as much as I want Gerhard to be right.  As much as I want to see the sales pitch being dead and to see sales people truly engaging in a dialogue and conversation with customers, I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s comment:  “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  Unfortunately, for some time, I think this is still true of sales pitches.

Am I being too pessimistic or tough?  What are your thoughts?

 

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5 Comments
  1. Dave, this is one timely post which all entrepreneurs — whether they are your online or home-based or street corner office variety — can easily relate to.

    In my own point of view, the professional pitch is not dead; it has only melded with the new sales and marketing strategies that current sales people put into play.

    Sales and marketing are constantly evolving and the professional pitch, too, I believe, should catch up with the times.

    • Thanks for the comment Paolo. I really appreciate your continued thoughtful comments.

      The “pitch” or solution presentation is a critical part of the sales process. However, the connotation of “pitch” really is a one way form of communication. To my mind, we see way to much focus, not only in sales, but in much of business. We talk about our personal “elevator pitch,” it’s focus is on what we say to someone we meet about ourselves, not about how we engage that person in a conversation. We talk about VC Pitches—most I’ve sat in don’t engage me as a listener. And there can be many other examples.

      The quality of the engagement we have with customers is critical to our success and to helping the customers achieve what they want. A pitch by itself may not do this.

      Thanks for the comments.

  2. The difference between a sales “pitch” and a sales “conversation” resides in the delivery. They both share the same objective…moving the sales process forward. Good salespeople never pitched their prospects anyway – they always had great conversations.

    Where the biggest impact to selling has come into play is before sales even approaches the prospect. If the seller is good, they know the buyer’s industry, job function and challenges/goals. They then integrate that language into their pitch/conversation and launch the sales process.

    Maybe Google and Amazon have not yet caught up with the “semantics” of sales professional’s language but I am sure they will. Thanks for the post and I would not characterize you as pessimistic just realistic.

    • Trish, thanks for the comment. I think you are absolutely right. The difference between a pitch and a conversation is the quality of the customer engagement in the process. We can pitch with low to no customer engagement. We cannot have a conversation without the customer’s active inovlement. This is all the difference in aligning with the customer, creating value in the process as well as the solution.

      Appreciate your comments.

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