6 Steps to Selling Without a Sales Pitch

salesmanOn a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy giving a sales pitch? Many small business owners I speak with would prefer getting a root canal done rather than sell.

The word I hear most often when it comes to giving a sales pitch is “convince.” How do I convince the client to buy? How do I convince them to buy from me? How do I convince them that I can fix their problem? How can I convince them that it is worth the money?

The short answer is that you can’t. You can’t convince anyone of anything. In fact you can’t make anyone do anything if they don’t chose to do it themselves. The client is in control of his thought and this idea of convincing or controlling his thoughts is completely impractical, unless you are running a cult.

The long answer is that the only way to convince someone is to let them convince themselves.

The reason a sales talk is called a “pitch” is because once you tell the client why she should buy from you, she starts batting or telling you why she really shouldn’t. But there is a better way.

Have you ever asked yourself how do police investigators convince criminals to hand over information, admit to crimes or implicate their pals?  A police investigator recently shared just how he accomplishes that.  His answer was astoundingly simple. The number one trick taught to investigators is … to ask questions.

The person asking the question drives the conversation. The asker is the one with the most power. This seems counterintuitive, because in our perception the asker doesn’t know something and the answerer provides the information.

Consider the following household example shared by coach Yael Zaltz. If a parent asks a child what she wants to do today, the child is the one who has to come up with the activity and the parent then gets to approve or veto the suggestion. On the other hand, if the children ask the mother about the entertainment plan for the day, the mother has to satisfy the kids’ whims.

In Hasidic thought, a good question has half the answer in it. That means that the questions are purposeful and lead the conversation to a productive goal.  The conversation creates learning for both people engaged in it.

What this means is that instead of telling the client what she needs to do and doing all the talking, get rid of the sales pitch and begin a sales conversation. A conversation is a two-way street and you should stick to questions.  This way, instead of selling to the client, you essentially let her sell to herself.

For example, let’s say you are a web agency contacted by a client who wants to sell more of her gadgets. Consider the following possible scenarios of how you can go about selling your services (don’t take it as a comment on the pros/cons of FB and PPC):

Client: I want more buyers for my gadget. What do you suggest?

Web agency: I suggest that you get a website featuring your gadget and promote it with a blog and a Facebook campaign. We have been doing this for 15 years and have many happy clients.

Client: I don’t know how to run a Facebook campaign and many of my friends told me it’s not worth it. I don’t have the time. I hear Pay Per Click is a better option.

Web agency: You don’t have to run a Facebook campaign by yourself; we will be happy to do it for you.

Client: But you don’t know anything about my gadget!


Web agency: You said you want to sell more of your gadget. What options have you considered for doing that?

Client: Well I know I need a website. Many of my friends also get exposure with a blog. I know other people use Facebook, though I am less comfortable with that, but I know Pay per Click seems to work for people.

Web agency: What makes you feel uncomfortable about Facebook?

Client: It’s a time drain and I don’t want to get sucked into it.

Web agency: I hear you. Facebook can be a great marketing tool, but it doesn’t seem right for you at this time. Why do you think PPC is a good solution?

Client: I can control the costs and I don’t have to “babysit” it 24/7. Also my friends have had success with it.

Web agency: So you said you want a website, blog, and PPC campaign. Would you like to hear how we can set you up with that?

See the difference? In the first conversation, the client rejected the web agency’s idea, because it wasn’t right for him, but the agency had no clue about that. They weren’t humble enough to ask the client about his needs.

Secondly, since the agency proposed the idea, the client now had a choice between saying yes and no. His decision was based on considerations that were not covered in the conversation.  In the second example, the client himself made the suggestion and shared his preferences. He also got to explain why he thought one option was better than the other. Now instead of the agency selling the idea of a website and a blog, the client had singlehandedly sold the idea to himself.

In addition, no service is absolutely perfect. There are always pros and cons. In this example even if the Facebook campaign (or whatever you sell) is a great solution, it may not be the right one for this client. You need to know enough about the client to be able to weigh the pluses and minuses, but you can’t do it if you don’t ask the client about his considerations.

Finally, once the agency gets into an argument with the client, the client automatically switches into defense mode. He also feels that the agency doesn’t understand him. There is no way the agency can leave this conversation as a winner, because for the client preserving his self-esteem and opinion trumps all else.

If you want to “convince” your clients to buy from you, stop talking and start asking. Instead of the sales pitch, try these six steps to a conversation

6 Steps to an Effective Sales talk

1. Start with the end in mind – before you begin a sales talk (or any other conversation for that matter), consider where you want it to end. What do you want to walk away with?

2. Focus on your client – the way to get the client to agree to your end goal is to make it very clear for both of you that your goal is in the best interests of the client. If your goal and the clients’ goals don’t align than you are not the right person to serve them. Assuming that you are looking to conduct an honest business, the first priority of the sales talk is to make sure that you really have what it takes to get the client to the place she wants to get to. If no, you will save yourself a lot of aggravation by referring the client to someone else.

3. Get the client to tell you what she needs – ask the client about her ideal situation, the one she dreams to achieve. Ask too what she has done until now to get there and what have been the obstacles. Ask her what she thinks a good solution includes and what it doesn’t include. What would be a deal breaker for her? Why?

4. Client mistakes – if a client is stuck in a wrong thinking pattern or is making a mistake, ask her why this is important or suitable for her. Once you understand why she is opting for a certain approach, you may reveal circumstances of which you had not been aware. If you are convinced that a different option is still better, you can ask her about it. Possible questions could include:

Have you considered the possibility of ….?

Are you comfortable with doing………?

Why are you un/comfortable with it?

If we could make this possibility work without this problem would you be interested?

5. Summarize – summarize what the client said and make sure you got her right. It will make the other side feel understood and more importantly it will show that you paid attention and took interest in her ideas. This is important for building trust.

6. The next step – tell the client what you think she should do and why. Show her how your recommendation will help her get exactly what she wants and avoid the obstacles she doesn’t want to meet. Let her ask questions.

What do you hate most about sales pitches? Have you been successful with other approaches? Please share your tips.





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One Response to 6 Steps to Selling Without a Sales Pitch

  1. Aviva says:

    Hi Leah, just wanted to thank you for this super helpful article.
    Aviva, Israel Health Consulting

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