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Sales pitches and the art of listening

Date posted:  1/8/16 07:15:00 AM Try to make your sales pitch seem improvised.

The number of responses stemming from a sales pitch is endless. While some people enjoy being pitched certain products or services, others choose to ignore anything that they deem too upfront or pushy. According to Steve Yastrow, author of the soon-to-be-released book Ditch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion, many consumers prefer a more subtle way of doing business.

"People get defensive when they detect the pitch," Yastrow told USA Today. "They feel like something is being forced on them."
Yastrow isn't referring to just product pitches, either. He's also talking about being able to sell your employer on an idea or business plan, or if you take a few steps back, selling yourself to a potential employer during a job interview.

He believes the problem many people face is trying to sell too hard.
"Everybody feels like they need to be selling themselves and persuading people," Yastrow says. "But then we fall into the trap of thinking that our job is to explain, cajole and convince, and that's not how you get people to do what you want."

How to not oversell

Yastrow said that using improvised conversation can provide those struggling with sales pitches a needed boost.

Whereas a typical sales pitch is often one person speaking loquaciously, making your pitch a two-way street of conversation can help improve results.

"The idea of selling is sort of distasteful to some people, or they feel they're not capable of doing it right," Yastrow says. "But if you have a conversation that matters to the other person and help them find the right solution, then it can be a situation of where you're collaborating, not selling."

By turning your pitch into a conversation, it puts the person being sold more at ease, making the sales push seem less forced and artificial. In turn, Yastrow said this will help lower the guard of those being pitched, which should net better results.

Other ways to build a good sales pitch

Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything, told Inc.com that a good pitch sets up a story but still builds tension through the conclusion.

"You put a man in a jungle, you have beasts attack him, and you bring him to the edge of the jungle, but you don't get him all the way out," Klaff said. "That's how you get suspense."
Klaff also said that it's crucial to not make yourself too available or overstay your welcome. By setting up a deadline or time constraint for when you have to finish your pitch, you show your potential clients that you're important and aren't going to waste their time.

Klaff told Inc.com that no matter what you're pitching, don't grovel to the person you're selling. He said that too often, people view the customer as a prize and act overly nice, which can turn them off.

Selling by the numbers

Sandler Training commissioned an Ipsos Public Affairs survey that revealed 62 percent of 1,000 working Americans are selling themselves for an hour or less each day, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, four out of five respondents said that selling themselves efficiently is the key to getting ahead.

Yastrow suggested that people should improve their active listening skills. If you're selling a product or service, asking the right kind of questions can make or break a pitch. It's best to find out what the person cares about currently in order to craft an effective pitch.

"Improvisation does not mean you don't prepare or you just 'wing it,' " Yastrow says. "You've got to know your stuff and your business."