The Sales Pitch: Part of the Consumer Buying Process?

Hearing the Sales PitchI once read a post on titled “Ditch the Pitch”, which made me wonder more about the role of the sales pitch in the consumer buying process?  I wouldn’t ever advise getting rid of the pitch because the pitch generates the sale. But I would say the author makes some valid points about the sophistication of consumers.

Crystal Collins, the author of “Ditch the Pitch” insists that we’re now so socially savvy we can see a sales pitch from a mile away. I totally agree with that, in fact I use that to my advantage and try to look at everything from the view point of the other side. I’m always wondering “what is their motivation in this arrangement” thus when is the pitch?

While I’m sort of against being victim to the hard sell pitch, I know first hand that it works very well a great deal of the time. Having spent the last 8 years in the infomercial world, I’ve seen up-to-the-second tracking on our TV infomercials and can compare that to the incoming sales call log. We can track at what second during the show a person calls and compare that to what they just heard. 9 times out of 10 it’s the sales pitch that starts the phone ringing.

The question for me comes down to state of mind, timing and the consumer buying process. Most marketers aren’t marrying their sales pitch with the state-of-mind of their audience.

Let me explain. . .

In real life, outside this blog, I am ready to buy a new car. I haven’t pulled the trigger for a variety of reasons but I have been thinking about it a lot, looking at other cars on the road and occasionally checking out to see what’s on the market. The thing is buying a car is like anything else – it’s a process.

If you were to pitch me on buying your fantastic 2010 Honda Accord today, I just wouldn’t be ready to hear it. That sales pitch would just be noise and would add to my general feeling that car dealers are sharks (remember that part). In the consumer buying process of the car buying world, I’ve got a couple personal hurdles to overcome before I do that.

But if that sales guy approached me today by saying, “I hear you’re in the market for a car, how far down that road are you?”, I’d know that he understands the process. Not pitching me takes some maturity and experience and knowledge that it’s not worth wasting a good pitch on someone who’s not ready.

I would instantly know he’s quite savvy in his approach to his business, I would also be aware that he respects my boundaries, my money and my car buying maturity. That’s what I get from Crystal Collin’s article.  She’s not saying “stop selling”, she’s saying respect me enough to know that I’ll signal you when I am ready to hear the details.

Think about a mother whose child is struggling in school. If I just learned that my fourth grader needed math help, would I be instantly ready to call a tutor? For most people, probably not. The consumer buying process as it pertains to hiring a tutor is similar to buying a car, with its own unique steps.

The first thing a mother does after hearing about her child’s woes is determine how much time she can spend helping the child study. She’ll may request extra help from the teacher next, perhaps take away the ipod, potentially even add “study with mom” to the child’s daily chore chart. For most, that extra effort in many areas without significant improvement on the child’s part is what leads to hiring a tutor. That’s the point in the time the parent is ready to hire a tutor. And guess what they do first?

They go to the Yellow Pages, ask friends for referrals or go to the internet to be pitched services. Whether that pitch is on the phone or in the Yellow Pages ad, they are then ready to hear all the pro’s and con’s of hiring a tutor.

That’s the key to the soft, medium and hard sell sales pitch. Can you be at the right place when the buyer is pulling out their wallet? Can you have educated the buyer, as a friend, to the point they know they need the service? Or can you make yourself known to your community that you’re the guy to go to when they’re ready for the pitch? All three of these are mature admissions that you understand and respect the customer and you’re waiting for them to call, click, read or ask when they know they want to be sold.

I say don’t ditch the pitch. Instead respect what Crystal Collins is annoyed with. Understand that the pitch should only come when the consumer wants it. And even then it shouldn’t involve trickery or magic, “just the facts, mam”.

Photo Courtesy of repmikecoffman