TALKING SALES 110: "The secrets to a winning sales pitch"

John Smibert

Sales pitch 700x400       "How can we present to achieve buy-in every time"  - Discussion with  John Smibert.

As salespeople we regularly pitch to influencers and decision makers.  Some do well regularly but many fall flat.  Why?

How can we ensure our buyers get excited about our pitch and want to commit?

Cian Portrait570x618I asked the pitch master himself, Cian McLoughlin, to give us the answer. 

He reinforced the importance of a great pitch.  He said; "The best product, the best price, the best brand in the market - will all come a distant second to the best pitch".

Cian shared his secrets - insightful recommendations based on that will help you succeed with your pitch. And they are not what some might expect.

View or read the interview below to learn the secrets on how to conduct a great pitch.

Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he's a speaker, an author, and a leading advisor to the sales fraternity.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Hello! I've got Cian McLoughlin with me again - welcome back, Cian!

Cian: Thanks, John!

John: Last time we had a discussion about the right brain, left brain, and how we really need to engage at a human level. I know you talk a lot about how to do pitches, pitching at through different stages through the sales process and so on. A lot of pitches I see are very much around the product, the service, the value we can create for you, Mr. Customer, and often I don't see a lot of relation to the human elements.

Cian: Yes, absolutely.

John: How do you recommend people actually leverage the human elements through the pitch?

Cian: I think the first piece of advice I'd give is don't leave your personality in the chair when you stand up to talk.

John: [laughs] It happens so often, doesn't it?

Cian: It happens so often, and I suppose we've all been guilty of it as well. You feel under pressure, you might have a big audience or a very senior audience, and you think, "I've got to be very serious here, I've got to be very corporate, I've got to make sure I hit my mark." But actually, what you need to focus on really is being authentic, and you need to focus on creating a connection with your audience. I think that's the more important part than the perception of being credible in the corporate sense, because people are looking at you and making decisions; you become the personification of the brand you're representing, and so they're making decisions on you and your team.

John: And I said so often that when a good salesperson does stand up, they are themselves, they do have that human element, and you can see people sit forward because they actually want to interrelate with this person.

Cian: That's exactly right, they're engaging with their stakeholders. A piece of advice I received early in my sales career was that the best product, the best price, the best brand in the market will all come a distant second to the best pitch, because the best pitch is structured in such a way that it brings the audience in, that it's really relevant and specific to their needs, and it's been tailored in such a way that everybody who's in the audience feels that they're getting something out of it, and that, in my opinion, is what constitutes a great pitch.

John: It rings a bell for me, because I remember once I was seeing a consummate salesperson pitch to about 20 people in the room - big corporate, big corporate decision - and that person had got to know all of the 20 people in the room over the sales process quite well, and knew what their personal and business drivers were. And during that pitch I noticed he would make a point, it was often a very human type point or whatever, and he'd look at a person, and then make another point and look at another person. I realised he was actually talking individually to everybody of the 20 people in the audience, and everybody felt he was talking directly to them.

Cian: Absolutely. If you think about that, if you analysed that, what that is it's... Clearly that's great pitching, but that's great salescraft, because what that individual or the team had done is they'd done their discovery really well; they knew what was pertinent, what was relevant, what people cared about. The CFO maybe cares about the ROI from the project, the IT department care about how it's going to integrate with the existing systems, the user community care about how much training is going to be required, or will it do the things that we've been able to do in the past.

John: And all of those people also care about their own career and the people they're working for.

Cian: Absolutely.

John: So if you understand what they're trying to achieve personally, you can relate much better to them and help them.

Cian: You can, you can - absolutely. There's a little bit of a science to it. We've mentioned discovery, and that's really, really important. I think the other thing which is important is establishing your credibility and authority at the very beginning when you stand up to speak, because everything you say after that will either land or not land based on the fact that "Do I think you're a credible authority? Do you know what you're talking about? Are you an experienced expert?"

John: And the establishment of that often goes right back to what you've done through the sales process, and even before.

Cian: Correct.

John: If you've got the right sort of presence, the right sort of personal brand, they can see this person emanates value, and then you build on that through the sales process; when you stand up to speak, you've got that credibility.

Cian: You do, you absolutely do. The other things which I've found in terms of the pitching that are really useful is harnessing the power of storytelling.

John: Yes.

Cian: It's funny because storytelling dates back to prehistoric times, paintings on cave walls right the way through, and it's always been a constant part of our learning process as humans, and yet we don't use it very often. It's really, really important.

John: And it really helps us relate at the human level, doesn't it?

Cian: It does.

John: I'm telling a story that I know will be relevant to you, and you can relate to that story.

Cian: And it also allows our message to land and to stick, because one of the things, again, which we often don't do in a pitching context is we don't think about what's the hook, what's the anchor, what's the piece that's going to have our message land. I did a piece of work recently with a client, to help their team in terms of their pitching process. We had a sort of before and after the team got to pitch in the morning and we made some suggestions and some tweaks, and one group came back in the afternoon and they were running through a pitch which was going to be to a retailer.

What they did was they took a can, I think it was Coke, and there were three of them pitching, and they did a day in a life of this can of Coke, right the way from manufacturing through the warehouse; how did it get to the store, and then who came in and drank it because "I had a hangover." or were really thirsty or whatever, and they passed the can from person to person as they did their pitch. It was a really, really strong, subtle but strong, hook that tied the narrative together and made it much more engaging for the audience.

John: And memorable.

Cian: Yes, absolutely.

John: They'll walk away and remember that for a long time.

Cian: Correct. And I think the last thing for me in terms of pitching is earning the right to talk about yourself or your product or your company, because I think too often what we do is we show up and throw up. We get straight into "Let me talk about us, let me talk about our features and our functions," and we haven't earned the right to do that. We have to establish the context of what we're going to talk about, the "so what" factor, before we then get into the detail. I think if you can do that and you can tick some of those other boxes, you're along the way in the right direction to honing your pitch.

John: Great advice on pitching there, and I think the audience will get a lot of value out of it. I certainly did, and I appreciate your time and your experience.

Cian: Pleasure, John - thanks very much for having me!

John: Thanks, Cian!
Cian: Thank you!


More interviews with Cian McLoughlin:



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