A Tale of Two Sales Pitches

The other day I dealt with two distinct personalities regarding a front door installation. For the sake of anonymity we'll call them Bob and Jim. Bob is a sales representative for a national door and window installation company. Jim runs a local two-man home improvement operation. Their approach was about as different as sugar and salt.

Bob practically bounced into our home. He was quick with a smile, hearty handshake and booming laugh that reminded me of a cartoon character, maybe someone on The Simpsons? He had a fancy case, and he withdrew all manner of samples to punctuate his presentation from the different styles of door his company could offer to the superior grade of steel his company used inside their kick panels. Bob spent an hour running down a memorized checklist of features he could offer over the run-of-the-mill contractor. He laid it on thick about durability, warranty and the exhaustive process involved in manufacturing their own product and delivering it to, well, your front door.

What's interesting about Bob is that he launched his presentation by pointing out that there were three types of door: builder grade, mid range, and top-of-the-line. "We don't live in the ghetto," he said.
"You don't need to spend $10,000 on a front door, so I'm going to show you our mid range models."

Putting aside for the moment that if we lived in the ghetto, we probably wouldn't have $10,000 to spend, he proceeded to unveil the amazing price of $5,800. I quickly ran down a mental list of everything I could buy for damn near $6,000 and of course said this was too high. He understood, said he really liked us and would drop the price to the unbelievable price of $5,000. I said this was still too high, so then he says he needs to put in a call to his manager to see if there was anything he could do to help us out. We only heard one side of that conversation, but the theatrics of the exchange would have made Broadway proud. Finally, after all manner of nonsense, he says into the phone, "You're willing to let this door go at that price? Are you sure?" He turns around and, astonished, informs me the door can be delivered to us at the get-off-the-market price of $4,497.

I could outfit a small home office for that amount and still have money left over!

Meanwhile, Jim had been called over to install a pair of garage door openers. As he was putting together an invoice I casually asked if he knew of any local door installation companies. Bob's presentation had been dizzying, something akin to swallowing a mouthful of sugar. I was just making conversation and wasn't really expecting an answer.

"Yeah," Jim said, "me." I was surprised and asked what else he performed, and when I heard he did all manner of handiwork, I could have kicked myself for having just wasted an hour of my life listening to a sales pitch that went nowhere.

Compared to Bob, Jim is a man of few words. He smiles very little, and to the unsuspecting bystander he might look as though he is perpetually angry. I took him to see our front door and also showed him an interior doorway where I'd like to have a door installed. He said he'd could tackle both projects and get back to me with a quote.
Under normal circumstances this would be a red flag, but having just installed my garage door openers at a reasonable rate, I am confident his estimate will be competitive and spare me the frills that went along with the Bob Show.

The experience reminded me of a few things:

First, you don't have to memorize a wide range of facts and figures to make a sale. Jim, although the quieter of the two, exuded confidence in his craft without resorting to minimizing his competition. Bob, the dedicated sales representative, should be expected to perform head and shoulders over the guy who markets his company as a secondary task.

Second, well-written copy can complement the presentation when the customer needs time to digest the finer points of your pitch. It's true that the chances of making a sell substantially diminish if the potential customer needs time to think about it, but the verbal assault of a full-scale attack is overwhelming since the average person only remembers about 25% of what is said. If you are going to go for the verbal onslaught approach, remember to focus more on benefits than on features.

Finally, polish will never substitute people skills. If the potential customer does not like you, they won't buy from you, and although you may feel in control of a conversation when making a sales pitch, it is actually their wallet that has all the power in that exchange.

Have you experienced a sales pitch that just turned you off? Can you pass along any tips to salespeople that can make their presentations more palatable?

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