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Sales, Training

Stop pitching and start having a conversation.

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


This article is for SaaS sales leaders and practitioners.  How do you turn great online content such as a blog post into a qualified lead?  The answer is to have a meaningful conversation.  This requires us to stop teaching how to pitch, and start coaching how to have a conversation.

In this month’s post I describe why we need it, how to do it, and what actions you can take.

The Aha! moment

Clients are looking online for content that help them understand their problem.  As they learn they may experience an Aha! moment.  This is the moment where they identify a solution to their problem.  Your company needs to provide customers with the insights that lead to that Aha! moment.  These insights are provided in blog posts, videos, use-cases etc. This is called content marketing.

The eureka effect, also known as the Aha! moment refers to a common experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.

Content marketing by itself is not good enough

But content marketing by itself is not enough. The key to success is to extend the Aha! experience from the article into a meaningful conversation. And this conversation often starts online.

Reality of todays sales pitches

When a client engages with the content it is often the Sales Development Rep’s (SDR’s) task to pick up the phone, write an email, or comment on the article. However, what they are commonly trained to do is to pitch their services (verbally or in writing). Working with a variety of SaaS sales organizations I have found the following;

  • Little to no research is done on the client, resulting in a very bad experience for the client
  • The wrong person is pitched due to lack of qualification
  • The client does not like to be pitched and hangs up
  • The pitch has an adverse impact and the client asks to be taken off the list
  • The pitch results in a price conversation because the client does not understand the value and impact on the business

I encourage SaaS organizations to take a look at their offering and question if the “sales pitch” is still what you want to do.

Start a conversation

Instead, I have found that sales teams have more success, when they have a conversation with the client;

  • These conversations often start online – they are prompted by content that provides valuable insights gained from working with others in a similar situation.
  • You must move the conversation from online to in-person – this requires the skill of engaging clients online and moving the conversation to a mutually beneficial phone/email exchange. Without conversation there is no commitment, which results in churn.
  • Basic research makes a huge difference – “Cold calling” is a waste of valuable resources. But research in many cases does not have to go deep.  This makes the ability to perform quick online research a must have skill.
  • The conversation is the most important – the conversation allows you to diagnose the problem and identify the right solution for your client, and to do it together (help the Aha!).
  • Asking relevant questions is important – being able to ask a few diagnostic questions, listen to the answers, understand the issues, and develop the conversation is a key skill set that must be instilled early on in today’s sales professionals.
  • Basic phone skills are an absolute must – the ability to use your voice as an instrument (Julian Treasure)  is a skill detrimental to success, and must be properly trained.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Having a conversation is challenging, more challenging than writing a good outbound email. This needs practice.  One way to practice this is with a group of 4-5 people standing around in a circle and play “Ring-Ring”.

In “Ring-Ring” one person acts as a “client” whereas the others practice having a conversation.  Someone says “Ring-Ring” and the game is on. The brave first soul has to role-play a live conversation with the client.  The moment they start pitching, everyone boos that person, laughs it off, and you move on to the next.  You build on each others success, and learn from each others failures.  And of course you have lots of fun with it.

Going Round-Robin everyone gets to go at least twice, taking about 15-30 minutes. I encourage to do this daily until the team has gained the ability to have a conversation, and diagnose the situation without ever pitching their product. Beware, this can take weeks to master.

Use questions to keep the conversation going

Key to success: Combining research with a few pointed questions.  

As a team you need to develop a list of questions that help you pinpoint the challenge the customer is experiencing. You need to have these questions ready and available in front of you – some of these questions may correlate with a client’s seniority, or market you are calling on – which requires research.  Print these questions out and stick them in front of you.

Now go back to your daily “Ring-Ring” and practice weaving these questions seamlessly into the conversation so that a client does not feel they are being interrogated.

Remote? No problem!

Is your sales team remote? No problem!. Just pay attention to this;

  • Have a good audio speaker, that cancels out echo and reverb, such as with the Jabra speaker.
  • If there is a team on the other side gathered around a table, use an HD camera

Want to learn more?

These and many more insights on how to build, and operate a scalable SaaS organization can be found in my book, Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization” available on Amazon.

This hardcover coffee table sized book (144 pages) provides a series of highly detailed blueprints on how to design, implement and launch a scalable SaaS Sales organization, and is based on insights gained from working with 50+ companies in the past 24 months.