Sales people: can you resist the itch to pitch?


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Jill Konrath’s “SNAP Selling” identifies the “itch to pitch” as one of the most damaging habits sales people can possibly fall into – and my own observations suggest that it’s one of the most common and dangerous ways of driving an otherwise promising sale off-track and into the weeds, with little hope of recovery.

The itch to pitch – otherwise known as “showing up and throwing up” or (in particularly trigger-happy cases) “premature elaboration” is an all too common condition.  It can be observed whenever a sales person, upon hearing their prospect acknowledge an issue or challenge they know they can fix, can’t wait to pitch in with an enthusiastic description of their company’s offering or capabilities.

“As long as I’m learning, I’m listening…” 

Within seconds, the previously receptive prospect has usually completely tuned out and the opportunity has been lost – potentially forever.  When I talk to today’s B2B buyers, one theme comes through loud and strong – they tell me that “for as long as I am learning, I am listening.  But the moment I feel I’m being pitched to, I’m outta here”.

Today’s buyers hate being sold to.  They can’t stand over-enthusiastic sales people who can’t wait to tell them how great their product is, or how many features it boasts, or all the acronyms that are inevitably associated with it.  And they have come (with good reason) to dread the phrase “and here’s another feature…”.

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Missing the golden moment…

Sales people who cannot resist the itch to pitch are missing a golden moment.  When a prospect acknowledges an issue that you are confident you can help with, the worst possible thing you can do is to jump straight in and tell them how.

Time to explore… 

Think of their acknowledgement of the issue as a golden opportunity to explore.  Instead of prescribing your “solution”, determine instead to learn more about their circumstances.  

What first drew their attention to the problem?  What are the consequences of the problem?  Who else is affected?  What would happen if no fix can be found?  Could they live with the status quo?  Have they tried to deal with it before?  With what results?  Why is solving it important now?

Interesting, important or urgent… 

You’ll learn an enormous amount by following these lines of enquiry.  You may even help your prospect to think differently, and to take a fresh perspective - and earn their respect as a result.  Perhaps most important, you’ll be a better position to judge whether the issue they have acknowledged is interesting, important or urgent to their organisation.

Interesting needs can get you considered.  Important needs can get you evaluated.  But only urgent needs will get you bought.  There’s no point in pitching a solution to a problem that isn’t regarded as urgent.  But by asking these questions, you may be able to elevate an interesting or important need to an urgent one – or to identify a related need that turns out to be truly urgent.  Or you may be in a position to conclude that there’s no urgent need to be solved, and nothing that you can do to secure a sale.

Making it easy to buy…

When the time finally comes to present your solution, you’ll be in much better shape.  You’ll be confident that you are addressing a real need that demands an urgent resolution.  You’ll have discovered who else is affected.  You’ll be confident in your business case.  And you’ll have built a rapport and a reputation with your prospect as an expert advisor, rather than a trigger-happy sales person. 

When was the last time you were exposed to a sales person who can’t resist the “itch to pitch”?  And how did you feel about the experience?  Well beware, because if you can’t resist the tendency, your prospects will be feeling the same…


  1. Man, don’t salespeople like to talk (pitch). Most of them wouldn’t listen at all if they didn’t think it was their turn to talk next.

    Sales pro’s make more sales with their ears than with their tongues.

  2. It’s about solutions to a problem or need. You first have to understand the situation before you can offer your solution and this involves active listening. It should always be about the customer. Not “what’s in it for me”


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