Playbook: Don't kill your deal with a product pitchA product pitch is the single fastest way to alienate a buyer and kill deal momentum.

Andy Raskin in a great post on The Shift In How CEOs Communicate Strategy shows how business strategy has shifted from “It’s About Us” to “It’s About You.”

“It’s About Us” is our mission, our team, and how we win, while “It’s About You” is the value narrative on the buyer’s unmet needs, the buyer’s goals, and how the buyer wins.

But, how do you get your customer facing teams to make this shift from focusing on your product to focusing on only the parts of your product that advance a buyer’s goal?

The drift back towards product pitching happens across sales, account management and customer success teams.  There are two reasons. First, buyers and customers are often quick to ask for more details on a product or to insist that they need a product demonstration.  Second, sales and customer success team members are often most comfortable with their standard product talk tracks while conversations on buyer or customer goals are fluid and can be unpredictable.

To help your customer-facing teams focus only on the parts of your product that engage and excite your buyers, I recommend three simple practices. Here they are:


Practice #1: Demonstrate Active Understanding

The transition from buyer value discovery to product discussion needs to start by confirming an understanding of the buyer’s goal.   A verbal recap of the buyer’s goal builds trust and rapport.  It keeps the focus on engaging the buyer by sharing only product and company information most relevant to their goal.  We can recap both organizational and individual goal areas with phrases like:

  • “I heard you say that X and Y are top company priorities.  Did I hear that correctly?”
  • “My takeaway is that your organization is prioritizing X, Y, and Z.  Is that correct?”
  • “You mentioned X, Y, and Z goals. Which of those is most important to your role?  Which keeps you up at night or are the most difficult for you to accomplish?”
  • “You mentioned X, Y, and Z goals. Which are on this year’s product or business roadmap?  Which are most important to your VP or CEO?”

Confirming a buyer’s goal helps to focus the product discussion on capabilities that will advance confirmed goals.  Product capabilities are best expressed in short two-sentence or three-sentence “capability talk tracks” that give a brief overview of key functionality addressing a gap area for a buyer and explaining how they will move that buyer from their current, less-than-ideal state toward a state closer to their goal.

After presenting capability talk tracks aligned to a buyer’s goal, the next step is presenting direct evidence that the capability helps the buyer’s goal achievement.   It is not enough just to claim impact, a buyer wants to see it demonstrated.  By far, the most effective type of evidence is a success story about another customer you have already helped to achieve the desired results.  The closer the alignment in the success case to the buyer’s goal area, buyer role and market segment the better.


Practice #2: Ask the Buyer for Their “Before and After”

The purpose of the product discussion is not to show the product.  It is to get the buyer to tell us if they see how the product could help them in a meaningful way.  So, we need to stop and ask that directly.  Many product discussions are lengthy “product pitches” that drone on and on for twenty, thirty or forty minutes without any substantive conversation about what the buyer cares about.

Move your team to “micro-presentation” style.  Each micro-presentation should be five to seven minutes with a very focused discussion on the product capabilities that align to a single buyer goal area.  As soon as the micro-presentation is done, the sales or technical sales team member leading the product discussion should stop to get feedback.

The purpose of the pause in the product discussion is to gauge buyer interest.   The goal is to see if the buyer believes their life “after” they start to use our product will be better than “before” they worked with us.  Typically, pauses during a product discussion focus on generic questions that add no value to the conversation.  Things like “Any questions?”, “What did you think?” or “Isn’t that cool?”   Instead, use that pause to ask your buyer to clarify the before and after case with questions like “How would what I just shared help you?” or “Where is the first place you would think to apply this?”



Practice #3: Anchor Your Follow Up on a Payoff Statement

The real goal of buyer discovery is to identify a specific buyer payoff, or specific improvement, that will build urgency for the buyer to invest the time, internal political capital, and funding to do something new.   Buyer gains can be emotional, organizational or financial.  A payoff statement can focus on one or more of these buyer gains depending on the priorities of the buyer organization and the individual buyer’s style.

For revenue leaders, asking how team members are getting to a buyer payoff statement is the single best way to check whether a go-to-market team is leading buyers through an authentic, personalized journey or not.  A payoff statement is specific to an individual buyer and is conversation specific.  The payoff statement has to be developed in collaboration with the buyer and is often an iterative process.  Getting to the right payoff statement may involve a back and forth discovery, further discovery, and confirmation through a couple of conversations as the buyer helps define what success would really look like for them.

A good payoff statement anchors the entire arc of the conversation with a new potential buyer or with an existing customer interested in adding a new product or capability.   It is the most important “sell through” tool, giving an internal champion for our product or service a crisp way to present a case for a conversation and bring in other decision makers.  A payoff statement should be recapped at the end of an initial discovery call, reconfirmed in each prospect call and included at the beginning of a follow up email as a way to keep focus on the goal for a potential partnership.

So, avoid the deal-killing product pitches that buyers hate by adopting these three practices.  Teams that build habits and practices to focus their product discussions on “how the buyer wins” get deeper buyer engagement and faster deal velocity.