Sales pitches surround us all day, every day, in one form or another. Product branding is trumpeted at us from the time we pour our breakfast cereal in the morning to the time we go to bed, watching the television commercials and infomercials dance on our television screens as we nod off to sleep. All throughout the day, we encounter billboards, newspapers, mail and e-mail, phone calls and fliers... the list is endless and all are intended to sell us something. How can you separate your sales pitch from the clamor of all the others?
Above all, you must believe in what you're selling. "If you truly believe you're offering the customer something worthwhile," says Rhonda Abrams, author of The Successful Business Organizer, "you're likely to be an effective salesperson. On the other hand, if you don't believe in what you're selling, you shouldn't be selling it."
Toss the canned presentation and figure out how you can connect with your clients. Your in-person pitch is likely different from your phone pitch, and those will both differ from the pitch you may find yourself giving at dinner when out with new friends. While your pitch certainly needs to contain some fundamentals, it should be flexible and not so scripted that you can't adjust it depending on your surroundings or wherever the conversation leads. "The content and delivery of sales pitches will vary depending on the setting, who initiates the conversation...whether you're providing general information or pursuing a specific assignment... Yes, your pitch is about you, but it's also all them—what they do, what they need, and whether there's a way you can help," according to SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Business (www.score.org).
Greg Nacco, vice president of Cruise Specialists and the Luxury Travel Network host agency, says, "To me, the perfect pitch starts off with something like, 'There are so many vacation choices out there, what kind of experiences make the best memories for you?' This gives the customer the sense that you are trying to get to know them. I believe this 'advisory' approach acknowledges your worth and distances you from the typical pedestrian 'sales-person' role." Selling pointerS
Show your clients why they need you. With the increasing use of the Internet to plan travel, clients might feel they can plan a trip themselves, but only you, as an agent, know how you can make their trip much richer by the experience and expertise you bring to the table. Isolate a few select points you want to make and determine how you can meet that identified need. "Tell them what they get, not what you do," says author Rhonda Abrams. "Customers want to know how you meet their needs."
As with travel, real estate is a prime market where meeting a need goes hand-in-hand with creating a connection between the agent and the client.
"The way I choose to run my business is very much based on forming lifelong relationships with my clients," says Karen Franck, a broker with Prudential, Burroughs & Chapin Realty (www.sweethomecarolina.org) in Wilmington, NC. "I do not consider myself a salesperson, so I don't focus much on 'selling' someone in a minute or less. I've learned that projecting confidence and being myself goes a long way. Mostly I rely on referrals from past clients, friends and family to sustain my business."
Listen and Learn
How do you identify what a client needs? You need to put your most effective learning skills to use with each and every client, because, as you know, each person that goes on a trip goes for different reasons. Those looking for a travel adventure won't appreciate your pitch on myriad ways to relax at a spa. Ask questions, and follow them up with more questions.
"When you receive favorable responses [to your questions], try and expand on what you can offer them," says Chris Parker, the director of Partners In Travel. However, getting to know your potential clients is only half the challenge. Once you've listened enough to learn important details, you need to be prepared to follow up with the information they are seeking.
Be prepared. "Know what to say, even if you don't say it," advises SCORE. The organization suggests structuring your pitch "like the trunk of a tree that leads to increasingly specific information." This way, you're prepared to handle any question that may come your way. Pitches structured this way also can stand up in any environment, from the corporate trade show to the chance meeting at the country club or the grocery store. SCORE (www.score.org) provides advice to small-business owners
Jennifer Allan, author of the book Sell with Soul, makes a similar point on the Real Estate Network blog Active Rain (www.activerain.com). She says that preparation is key, especially in the real estate market. "Preparation means being ready to speak intelligently and knowledgeably about the local real estate market without a hint of a sales pitch. Don't want to prospect? Then don't. Spend that time learning the heck out of your market...Knowing your market is the best way to prospect to strangers. No fancy business card, well-rehearsed elevator speech or slick closing technique will beat the confidence that exudes from you when you know your stuff."
Once you've participated in the give and take of the conversation and learned about your potential client's needs, make sure that you don't overpromise your ability to meet those needs. As always, honesty will be your best policy. Author Abrams shares a story of a hotelier acquaintance whose strategy is to "promise customers a Chevy, then deliver a Cadillac." By underpromising and overdelivering, he has built an exceptionally loyal customer base and generates terrific word-of- mouth marketing.
By following a similar approach, your reputation will likely precede you and make closing the sale a cinch when people know you will deliver above and beyond their expectations. Service like that simply sells itself, no pitch required.