Mastering Your Sales Pitch With Immersion & Feedback
- by Aaron Farley
- August 30, 2020
- Sales Skills
SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform
A great sale starts with a perfect sales pitch. It’s when the sales team uses their raw talent and makes the magic happen – right?
As with everything else, research backs the fact that it’s not the talent that counts – but the work you put in.
This is true for any salesperson out there – talent only takes you a fraction of the way. Everything else is practice, practice, practice.
Salesmen have practiced in the mirror ever since mirrors were invented. But nowadays that simply isn’t enough.
Everything is becoming more personalized in the sales world, from powerful targeted ads to AI, to influential networking and social marketing tools.
Carrying the bag and making great sales means carrying the whole brand, persona, story, social network, and a big psychology textbook.
Mastering sales pitch practice is a must when you’re trying to get your team to perform well in this competitive world and sound natural, informed, and be problem solvers for your clients – not parrot from a pre-written script.
Effective sales are a language that is not native to most people. In fact, every organization has different dialects and vocabulary. Learning it requires very much the same things that it would take to teach someone any other language.
In one word – immersion. Immersion is the only way to ditch the pitch deck and actually have a conversation with your potential customer. In order to develop and grow a great sales pitch, you need to do it in a social, immersive environment with role-playing and feedback.
Think about your time in that high school language class – the kids that actually went for a summer in Spain, Germany, Mexico, or France came back light years ahead of everyone else, simply because they were forced into meaningful conversations that involved real-life problems.
This is another important fact about immersion sales pitch practice and training – immersion in real-life situations makes the sales rep more responsive to customer stories in real life. It erases the “stop and internally translate” stage of the process, and instead empowers the sales team to have a fluent conversation and provide solutions to the client’s problems in real-time.
Some of the most effective pitch practice methods out there highlight the individual experience of both the customer and the sales rep. A good sales pitch isn’t something written down in stone, but an organic living thing that takes a life of its own.
This is all done with a goal in mind – to get the sales rep is confident and at ease with the customer and can maintain a natural, informative, and engaging conversation. You want to give them all the sales tools they need when problems come up in a live discussion. This is a very steep learning curve, but it can be done!
Onboarding is probably the most crucial time for a sales rep. Think of them as being like baby ducks – they imprint on the first thing they see. If you try to undo any training errors and neglect later, it’s a thousand times harder than just easing them in right from the start.
The onboarding calendar is going to be your biggest ally when tackling this task – everything should be planned carefully, including e-learning time and pitch practice, as well as an introduction to your sales library of content. You don’t want to just throw a bunch of links at your new sales reps and hope they stick.
They need to know that it’s important and that an effective sales pitch requires knowledge and understanding that you can only get through getting excited about the material.
When you record a sales pitch at the very beginning of someone’s training, it’s a great idea to compare a later pitch practice once they get more experience out in the field. This is a good way of recording how a sales pitch can change with knowledge – maybe you’ll see some correlation or something that always tends to repeat? This way, you can adjust your training to make it more effective right from the start.
There is a difference between an automaton-like sales pitch presentation and a lively discussion about problem-solving. More often than not, one will result in relationship building, creative problem solving, and a strong sale – the other one not so much.
There is a difference between a strong sale and a passive sale. A strong sale forges a relationship, especially in a SaaS environment. The customer feels like they have an ally who understands their needs beyond an effective sales pitch. They will come back to your company for problem-solving and questions about the product instead of just ghosting you and eventually going to someone else.
This requires going through pitch practice with feeling and purpose instead of just going through the motions. A lot of sales reps go through pitch practice just to check it off their list and expect to wing it
This might sound confusing if you’re an architect or an engineer, but in the world of sales and non-construction businesses like SaaS companies, this makes perfect sense. In order to successfully lead a newly hired salesperson through your company’s values, best sales practices, and culture, you need to develop powerful pillars. They will help to support not only the onboarding process but every process going forward.
The pillars of sales enablement can be similar across many companies, but they can’t and shouldn’t be carbon copied because every business and sales ecosystem is different. In order to practice sales enablement well, you need to know what your sales environment is and make your pillars work organically with your company values, goals, and context.
If you’re curious about Tanium’s 7 pillars, here they are:
These pillars give us a picture of someone who is knowledgeable, aggressive, and proactive with well-rehearsed abilities to problem-solve and have a meaningful conversation become a powerful sales pitch.
If you’re introducing sales enablement into a large company with hundreds of employees, one of the most important themes in your pillars should be communication and getting everyone within this large company structure on board with the program. The pillars can help you do so systematically and keep your eye on the ball.
Some effective teams have as little as 3 or 4 pillars, while others make their pillar lists longer.
As the VP of Global Sales Enablement at Tanium we’ve laid out no less than 7 powerful pillars. At the top of the list is the Ability to Articulate “Why Tanium” – putting communication and knowledge at the very head of their sales enablement goals.
Your pillars will reflect who you are as an organization and what your values are and they are vital in helping you in creating a scorecard for grading sales pitch practice. What points should your sales team focus on? What should you excel at? The use of your best practices can be tracked through these scorecards when calls are “graded” by your leadership team. At Tanium, the scorecards may look something like:
Here, again, we see that a big part of the Tanium culture is all about knowledge and confidence. The reps are graded on the confidence and presentation they put forward as well as the in-depth knowledge of the product or service they provide.
Leadership is probably one of the most important factors in successful training and motivation for salespeople. It’s too often that sales reps are left to their own devices, with casual feedback from their immediate team leaders or management – being cut off from the bigger picture.
Having a CEO, COO, or CSO on board with the program makes the team members take the training seriously. Even if you have the most motivated people on board, they are going to be five times motivated if they see that their work and pitch practice is getting reviewed in real-time.
Recording and capturing a sales pitch lets the top leaders in your organization see exactly what the clients see. This is an invaluable resource for the leadership in your company to step in and correct the course immediately. This positively affects the learning process and the investment that your sales team makes into pitch practice.
Remember that when establishing a great sales enablement practice in your company, you can’t expect the sales team to hold themselves up – they need a call to action that’s shouted from the mountain top by their leaders. Feedback, monitoring, and course changes are necessary to keep them motivated, competitive, and informed.
Companies like Tanium put an emphasis on real-time feedback and in situation training – they have made it a part of their company culture. They use a feedback system to certify their reps and to have the best and most informed people on the front lines of their customer engagement and sales.
There’s something magical that happens when a competitive person knows that someone is evaluating their work – and even more so if the best work is going to get praise and recognition. All of a sudden, these people start producing some of their best sales pitches and conversations and making use of their resources. What’s more – they immediately know where to find their resources and can work your content map with ease, not get lost in piles of spreadsheets and brochures.
Why is that? Great leadership and great results start from the top – there is nothing better for motivation than being recognized and having your work appreciated. Having the company leaders “buy-in” into this training, and recognize its importance is key to building company culture and momentum. Leaders always set the pace. When your sales trainee gets immersed from the beginning and feels like they’re a key player – all eyes are on them and what they do matters, they learn it and they know it. It’s not like high school – “learn it, pass the test and forget it”.
When done from day one, this process builds conversational competence and results in a confident team from the very beginning and builds incredible muscle memory. Here are a few simple steps to follow:
Maybe it’s not so obvious yet, but working remotely is really growing on us. The teams that are benefiting are the ones that have always been a bit remote – especially parts of large international teams.
Let’s face it – remote teams were always easy to neglect. The amount of effort that was put into managing them, even if it included frequent flying and in-person meetings just never seemed to be enough. Now we’re mostly all on the same page – or at least, in the same Zoom space.
When brought online, sales pitch training can bring your whole company together and make team members more accessible to each other than they were when they worked in person. All of a sudden, they are all remote together. They can share personal stories and they can experience value first hand – and see what works and what doesn’t in a team setting.
Role-playing when practicing a sales pitch will also bring to light individual problems that a rep might encounter. They might have something to do with their previous experience in sales, or with their personality traits. Keeping it custom helps every team member achieve their potential to the fullest extent.
It’s easy to “get in character” when all of your sales pitches are communicated remotely – the practice can take on a form that’s exactly the same as the actual salesperson to client interaction. There’s no better confidence-building tool.
One of the most important aspects of making the international team’s sales pitch effective is providing them with localized resources in their sales enablement library. If there is a language barrier, make sure that your team leaders abroad have all the necessary materials in their own language, and that the sales pitch practice is coming along in the exact language that the reps are going to use in conversation with their customer.
Additionally, have a champion that knows the culture, language and can build a bridge of understanding between the top management and the sales reps in the field. The international team has to know that the language barrier isn’t really a barrier at all and a good sales pitch should be recognized across all of your sales teams, even if it needs to be translated.
The important part is making every sales team’s experience custom. In a global setting, even if your product or service is the same, the customer problems might differ. Role-playing and practice problem solving helps everyone involved understand what problems the salespeople may face and helps to adjust in real-time.
This is especially true for team members who feel like they’re far away from the “mother ship” – and although that’s usually your international team members, in the days of remote working it might be someone who’s in the same town as your headquarters.
Once your team has practiced a sales pitch and their conversation skills, gotten certified, and gone out into the real world, it’s time to repeat the process again. Why? Because now it’s time to take your work to the next level. Once your “students” have gained confidence in the process and in themselves through practice, gone out into the real world, it’s time for them to come back and build their own customer experience library to build on successes and failures.
Having a well-reviewed sales pitch practice regiment will immediately alert the leadership team if something is off, or not communicated enough. This will allow you to adjust course – in training, changing your scorecard requirements or reviewing the materials you have available in your content library.
Even if you run a large ship, it should be easy to turn around if you pinpoint your issues from the start and catch them before they grow.
In addition to being not only an accomplished practitioner and leader of sales enablement, I’m also a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, doing the job that everyone wants – diving in the big tank to feed the fish. As crazy as it sounds this experience can be compared to managing sales development.
It might be a bit daunting that a sales development manager can relate his job to being surrounded hungry fish and trying to hand out the krill shake without “having his fingers bitten off”, but it’s an accurate portrayal of how famished your team may be for information, content, and tools that will help them succeed.
Being “hungry” has always been a word used to describe salespeople, and as an effective leader in the sales enablement process, you have to provide quite a feast of powerful, “just-in-time” content.
A good starting point is to collect success stories and case studies so your team knows they’re not starting from scratch. Sales is very much a practice that you pick up like a baton in a relay race, not a single-runner sprint. You have people behind you and you’ll have people in front of you.
The people behind you will learn from you, and you will learn from the people in front of you – shared experiences will become educational.
This is a long list, but when you make your library well organized and searchable, it will be your most serious resource.
A sales library needs to have powerful material for your sales reps to build on, and it needs to be constantly replenished with fresh content from the front lines. This is important for not only training but being able to adjust your course efficiently. Recording your sales pitch practice and making it a part of your resource bank will improve sales team confidence.
There is no better time to have your teams practice their sales pitch remotely – after all, most of your sales teams and customer care teams have probably become remote.
No matter where you are and where your teams are and when things are expected to go “back to normal” in your area, this is an ideal time to expand remote pitch practice, take your remote training to a new level, and have your domestic teams become closer allies with any international sales teams you might manage.
You can use remote sales pitch practice to build better onboarding systems for the future and to make a more efficient and responsive network of trainers, leaders and team builders. If there ever was a silver lining, this is it.
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