Five Ways to Ditch the PitchBy Steve Yastrow

Here’s the truth about being persuasive in life and work: Nobody wants to hear your pitch.

Whether you are selling something or trying to get people to cooperate with you, when people detect a sales pitch, their defenses go up, their interest goes down, and their minds start to wander.

Stop trying to convince and stop trying to explain. It doesn’t work.

If you want someone to say “yes” to your idea, it’s time to ditch the pitch.

Why Pitches Don’t Work

Let’s imagine someone wants to sell you something. If they pre-script a pitch, and then deliver it to you, what are the odds their pitch will address your personal reasons for buying? Maybe one in a million?

A pitch describes the seller’s reasons a customer should buy. If you want someone to say “yes,”,= it’s important you find their reasons for buying. A pre-determined, one-size-fits-all pitch cannot possibly take into consideration the specific needs and interests of an individual customer — the very things that most often seal the deal.

The best approach to persuasion is to tear up your sales pitch and replace it with something much more effective: A fresh, personalized conversation your customer will care about.

Think Conversation, Not Presentation

Don’t think about the presentation you want to give to a customer. Think about the conversation you want to have instead.

Yes, you may need to start a meeting with a statement about why you are there, but use this as an opportunity to start a dialogue, not to deliver a monologue.

Remember: If you want to connect with a customer and persuade her to say yes, you need to identify her reasons for buying—not tell her your reasons that she should buy.

Figure Out What’s Going on Behind the Scenes

As you start a conversation with a customer, recognize your first challenge is to listen, observe, and learn. Take stock of the customer’s character and their interests in order to understand his or her reasons for buying.

Go with the Flow

It is critical to create affirmation and agreement so your conversation gains momentum. As you engage your customer in dialogue, look for ways to take the conversation to a higher level. Find out what she really cares about, and then heighten the conversation by discussing why these things are important to her.

Focus the Conversation on Your Customer

Resist the temptation to talk only about what you are trying to sell. Instead, have a conversation about your customer and her interests, and gently weave threads of your story into the narrative she is most familiar with: Her own.

Unlike a pitch, where 100 percent of the communication is about you, your product, and what you are offering, aim to have a conversation where 95 percent of the conversation is focused on the customer, and only five percent is focused on what you are selling.

Weave Stories Together

As you engage your customer in a conversation that is interesting and meaningful to her, you will inevitably discover opportunities where your offering can specifically address her needs and interests. Bring appropriate threads of your story into the conversation, resisting the opportunity to over-explain how you can help. If you reveal relevant parts of your story at appropriate times, relating them to the specific needs and interests of your customer, he will begin to see how valuable your offering is to her, and he’ll be more likely to say “yes.”

Remember, just because your pitch sounds great when you practice it in the mirror, does not mean it will sound great to a customer. In fact, it’s often just the opposite. Practice these tips, ditch the pitch, and ultimately improve your chances of hearing “yes.”

Steve Yastrow

Steve Yastrow is the author of Ditch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion (SelectBooks; January 2014) and the founder of Yastrow and Company.

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