One of the major challenges of many small-business owners is probably bringing in new business. You may have tried traditional cold calling, sending email blasts or blanketing an area with "lumpy" direct mailers, but you and I both know a scattershot approach may not yield the best results.
Whether you’re making a sales pitch via snail mail, email or in person, there are several tips that may help put you ahead of your competition and give you a better shot at closing a deal. Here are my insider tips, along with some practical examples of ways you can make a stellar sales pitch.
1. Be different.
Look to break traditional protocol in ways that may immediately capture your prospect’s attention. Disclaimer: While different may garner you attention, it’s professionalism that lands you the job. Don’t go too far over the line, or you could find yourself alienating potential clients. The key may be to start your sales pitch with something unexpected that invokes curiosity.
Example: “Whatever you do, don’t read any further. Unless ...”
2. Find your targeted niche.
Rather than tossing your product out into the world and seeing who happens upon it, consider figuring out who your ideal client is. Research their critical details—gender, age, profession, needs and problems. Once you’ve figured out exactly who you’re pitching to, try making the proposal all about your audience. As they read or hear your pitch, they should ideally feel as if you're talking specifically to their situation. They should feel like you're psychic. You may get a better close rate and spend less money on marketing once you’ve narrowed your niche down.
Example: “As a Los Angeles CPA, you not only face the struggle of differentiating yourself from your peers; you face the dynamics of reaching a bilingual community. I have a solution.” Or, “Though it can be difficult to make your home health care business more profitable because of the large concentration of competition within a 10-mile radius of your location, we’ve created a unique solution that can fix that problem.”
3. Procure a targeted list.
Once you’ve targeted your audience, consider using a prospecting database like Infousa.com or do a little research on associations and magazines that speak to your target market and sell access to their member lists. And trust me, there’s often a group for everything.
Examples of real organizations: The Association of Pet Loss & Bereavement, Association for Renaissance Martial Arts, Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, ABANA (The Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America) and the American Association of Candy Technologists. Once you identify associations for your target audience, consider getting involved, or possibly buy their lists
4. Be informal.
Formality may impose distance between two people, and that’s the opposite of what you’re shooting for. Here’s my strategy for writing a pitch with just the right level of informality: I write my pitch as if it’s addressed to my best friend, then I swap the name of my friend with my prospect, and finally I clean up the pitch to edit out anything that’s too casual. What I end up with is the perfect tone.
Example: “Hey [fill in prospect’s name]. I hope things are well with you on the business front. I know I haven't reached out in a while (sorry). I thought of your business this morning, and wanted to share something …” The goal here is conversational, non-salesy and personable.
5. Employ linear progression.
Ideally, your email subject line should inspire your prospect to open the email. The goal of your first sentence should be to get the prospect to read the second line. And so on. You must move your prospect through your pitch, one step at a time.
Throughout, consider cultivating curiosity, and a natural progression toward a call to action.
Example: Consider starting with a short, attention-getting subject line like “Crazy Idea!” or “We Need to Talk.” Then build: "Mornin', [fill in prospect’s name]." Build more: "I know, it's a little weird to use the word 'mornin,'" Build more: "But I said it because there's something critical you need to know." And more: "I compiled some shocking stats, revealing your business is less productive (by a long shot) in the morning." Action desired: "I created a one-page productivity report for your industry and will gladly send you a prerelease copy before its public release next month." The call to action: "Would you like me to email you a copy (I just ask that you don't share it)?"
6. Stay client-focused.
So many old sales pitches in direct mailings are vendor-focused—telling prospects about how great you are. The best pitches often focus on the clients’ needs and how you can address them. Speaking to your clients’ challenges and problems may help.
Example: “I get it. The optical market you're in is constantly faced with the need to both cut costs and increase quality. I have a solution that we have deployed with 37 optical stores this month. I think it may be a perfect fit for you. Do you want to discuss this briefly?"
7. Be concise.
Your goal will likely be getting them to take the first step. Don’t try to do too much in your initial pitch. The goal is often to generate curiosity and enthusiasm, and you want to get your prospect involved in a dialogue. Whether you’re thinking about the subject line of an email or the text of the pitch itself, concise and to the point is usually best.
Example: “Killer idea for the optical industry” can be a great subject line. In the text of your pitch, you might get to the point and let your prospect know what you want them to do. “Call me, and we can sit down and talk.” Or, “How about if I stop by your office next Thursday?”
8. The right call to action.
Determine what step you want a prospect to take—fill out this form, call me back, reply to my email, click here to join my email list, watch this video I created just for you—and consider letting prospects know what benefits they’ll derive from doing what you ask. Moving prospects through your sales funnel is often a process of small, deliberate steps. Giving a few options may help your prospect feel the freedom of choice but without feeling overwhelmed with options.
Example: “I've blocked out Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and also Friday before 6 p.m. for you. Please email me back with what works best for you.”
9. Differentiate between warm and cold pitches.
It may help to capitalize on any connection between you and your prospect—no matter how tenuous. For example, you might mention a mutual friend or a conference you both attended.
Example: “I was so looking forward to picking your brain at the ABANA conference last week. I'm so sorry we didn’t connect.” Or, “When Marion told me about the challenge you’re facing, I knew I had to hop on the phone with you right away.”
Personalized, concise and powerful. That’s how you can build a persuasive sales pitch. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the market’s usually too competitive to simply mail a few postcards and call it a day. Focus your pitch and take the time to get it right, and you may reap the rewards.
For more insights on expanding your business, access our exclusive guide by Drybar founder and chief creative officer Alli Webb, Disrupt & Grow: How Drybar Became a $50M Business.
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A version of this article was originally published on August 24, 2015.