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Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

Are your Reps Pitchmen? [please say NO]

by Janet Stucchi on Tue, Aug 16, 2011

I recently sat in on a vendor presentation and let me tell you, it was a disaster from hello.

(By way of backstory, my client had received a high level overview of a vendor’s technology and scheduled a 2nd call to dig into the value the technology would bring to the Inside Sales team.)

From the start, the Seller launched into a canned pitch - essentially a 10 minute monologue about their product. She sounded like Billy Mays, the Infomercial king. When I was able to interject, she provided a slightly varied version of her canned pitch. I never received a direct answer to my questions.

Needless to say, I was quite frustrated. Here’s a company with a seemingly good product (at least from what their website suggested) but the seller failed at moving the process forward. After the call, my client commented that he would not evaluate the product because he couldn’t envision working successfully with the sales rep.

What went wrong?

For a complex sale, our reps just have to do better. When products are more complex, decisions are more convoluted and there’s more competition than ever before (think: Why is this project worth my attention?). Prospects need to feel confident they’re making an informed decision that they can defend internally.

The onus is on our Reps to help prospects understand how our products a) will solve their problems, b) be better than status quo and c) are more crucial than competing priorities & products.

5 training items to help Reps avoid becoming pitchmen

  1. Pre-call planning
    Prior to scheduled meetings, there is no excuse for Reps not having contacted/researched attendees before the call. There is much that Reps can learn about a buyer’s role, team structure, priorities & personality that they can then leverage during the presentation.
  2. Focus on the result, not the product
    Prospects need to understand how your product/service will solve their problems and be able to quantify the benefit. Companies are tightening up on buying authority. Before ever thinking about getting buy-in from senior management, your buyers need to believe that this is a priority and that the results will be significant. 
  3. Present persona-based benefits (i.e. relevant to the individual/role)
    Don’t discuss lowering cost per lead if the individual is concerned about reducing their sales cycle. Make sure your Reps are business fluent not just product trained.
  4. Slow down & insert pauses
    There’s nothing worse than trying to keep up with a motor-mouth - trying to digest what they said three sentences ago. Reps should provide an opportunity for the prospect to process information and ask questions. If prospects are given time to think, they will be more likely to open up and discuss issues.
  5. Listen
    Many reps are so eager to ‘close’ that they forget to listen to the prospect. We’ve all seen Reps framing the next question or comment while the prospect is still speaking. I love this line from Geoff Alexander, “As a rep, keeping to your own objectives is important, but in doing so, remember to stop when you hear a great clue, and address it right then.

In each sales situation, reps must be able to make an individual buyer persona the hero (and not the product) in a specific, custom story. For many reps, this is not intuitive.

As managers, it is our responsibility to train & coach our Reps to be value-adding resources. It requires ongoing role-playing, side-by-side coaching, call debriefing, recorded call reviews, etc. to ensure that they continue to sell on benefits vs. falling back on the feature pitch.

What else can you add to this list? How do you train your reps to be more than pitchmen?

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(Photo credit: solo)

Topics: inside sales management, mentoring

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