There is a lot of great technology out there to make sales presentations and pitching easier, yet it often doesn’t feel easier. Sales reps still have to convince their prospects and customers to believe in them and what they’re offering. And these days, it’s not simply one prospect or one customer — there can be a whole roomful of people involved in the buying decision, often not actually in one room together at the same time.

Add to this situation changing market dynamics, economic uncertainty, longer sales cycles and tighter budgets, and sales can feel a little bleak. To help you inspire and motivate your sales reps and guide them in the right direction, here are four fun but effective ways to beat the sales pitch blues and close more deals in 2019.

1. Strip Back

You may have heard the advice that when you’re nervous about speaking in front of people, you should picture them in their underwear. How about flipping that advice on its head? Just kidding, but there is some “stripping” you should encourage. How about stripping back a sales presentation, for a start? Bells and whistles may seem a good idea when they’re prepping for a big meeting, but you don’t want the slide deck to overshadow their performance.

“The hero of the setup too often is the deck,” said Marcus Sheridan, sales and marketing expert and international speaker, in a recent video. “The deck should never be the hero … It’s there. It helps. But it’s not the presentation … Let’s stop creating so much focus on these slide decks and start focusing on creating great human-to-human experiences.”

If sales is all about relationships, they should be the focus of your team’s pitches and sales meetings. Slide decks can back them up. Too many bells and whistles (or animations, transitions or funky background music) will distract their audience and disrupt the connection they were hoping to build. Help your sales reps return to the basics; remind them what really matters in sales.

2. Learn to Dance

Have you ever watched a celebrity dance show? In the best pairings, the partnership is seamless; you can’t tell who is leading. In sales, we’ve gone from a customer relationship that was like the worst example of dance partners (the salesperson pushed and/or pulled the customer through the process) to a relationship that is becoming more like the best example. Today, customers have near parity with salespeople when it comes to information, which is no surprise — there is a lot of it out there for them to research before they make a final purchase decision.

When two dancers both try to lead, they end up with a clunky, grumpy mess. Both think they know the dance best and are in the best position to do the steering, but the inevitable result is that they both feel pushed and pulled. The dance lacks elegance, and it’s disjointed.

In order to achieve an optimum result, your salespeople need to maintain the lead dancer position. Encourage them to learn everything they can about their customers so they can interpret their slightest move, ease any discomfort and lead with the authority of someone who knows what he or she is doing. Help your reps steer their sales conversations gracefully to achieve a final performance that reflects well on everyone involved. Encourage them to treat their customers fairly — they should respect their partners enough not to drag them across the dance floor.

3. See a Therapist

If your sales reps aren’t sure what questions to ask their clients in order to understand the best way to help them, try the therapist’s approach. Counseling is designed to help clients identify their problems and resolve them, not for therapists to inform them where they’re going wrong and how they could do better. There is a lot in this model for salespeople to follow. Train your sales reps to do the following:

Ask insightful questions. They should design their discovery questions to help customers discover their needs. As well as the practical reasons a customer would be a good fit for your business, the reps also need to delve into the emotional motivations for buying. What are the implications of not making this purchase? How would those implications make the customer feel?

Let the customer do most of the talking. Most people like talking about themselves more than they like listening to salespeople. Train your sales reps to ask great questions and actively listen to the answers, asking follow-up questions until they reach the root of the problem, which will spur the buying decision. Good listeners make great allies.

Allow customers to come to their own discoveries. By asking great questions and repeating the answers, salespeople can help customers arrive at a point where they realize their buying motivations with little input from the rep. Because the rep was along for the ride, he or she is there when the customer is ready to move forward.

4. Be Alexa

Or Siri. Or Google. Reps should be whoever they need to be to convince customers that they have the answers at their fingertips. We’re all used to being able to type a question into a search engine and receiving an instant result. If your sales reps can’t tell customers an answer, the customers will look for that information elsewhere, and your reps risk breaking the connection they’ve been working hard to build.

There are types of sales where it’s difficult for salespeople to know everything about their product. Salespeople aren’t often hired for their subject matter expertise. If the subject is particularly technical, and your rep can’t master the level of detail that your customers require, think about involving a technical expert in pitches. Your reps will learn from them and from the kinds of questions the customers ask — and the customers will receive the information they want, the instant they ask for it.

Of course, some things — like price, for example — take a bit of working out. Let your reps know that it’s OK to ask for that time when they need it. Transparency and willingness to learn are key and will make them stronger, more trustworthy salespeople.

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