The World’s Greatest Salesperson – A Culture Of Pitchmen?


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There has been such a great discussion going on at my last post on this topic.  If you’ve missed it, you should look at it, The World’s Greatest Salesperson.  The discussion in the comments is better than the post itself.

As I read the stream of comments, there has been a lot of indignation over the concept of “How Important Is the Pitch” to professional selling.  OgilvyOne has been singled out for their lack of understanding of professional selling and reducing professional sales to crafty presentations an pitches.  But I wonder if pointing the finger at Ogilvy is just too easy an excuse?

I mean if you step back from the drama surrounding the contest and the controversy sparked in the last blog post, and you reflect on what we see every day in sales, don’t we have a sales culture that is more biased to pitching and presenting, than we do of discovery, questioning, probing and understanding? 

Take all the hype around Ogilvy out of it, and consider:

  • When I talk to buyers about sales people, I hear:  “They don’t understand me, they don’t listen to me, all they do is present their products and try to get me to buy.”
  • Go to any bookstores (real or virtual) and the number of books on presentations far outnumber the books on questioning.  They far outnumber the books on understanding and delivering value.  They far out number the books on the importance of business acumen in selling.
  • I speak at a lot of sales conferences for organizations.  I always look at the agenda, inevitably there is some sort of contest.  But those contests are seldom about effective qualification, managing and executing the sales process.  They usually focus around a presentation or pitch of some sort.  It could be the participants learned about a new product, so the way we test what they learned is to create a killer presentation.
  • We all talk about our “elevator pitch,”  trying to refine it to have maximum impact, whether it’s at a networking meeting to get a job, or on a phone call to get a customer to see us, we are always creating some sort of pitch or presentation.
  • When I talk to sales people about meetings they are going to have, more often they describe the meeting a “pitching” something to the customer.  Those responses far out number the ones that say, “I’m going to wander around their factory to try to understand how they work and their problems,”  or “I’m going to go talk to their customers to come up with ideas about how they can better serve their customers.”
  • I see blog after blog, sales training courses, new social media tools, all sorts of things oriented at presenting ourselves, our companies, and our products more effectively.
  • Finally, I think in every sales training, leadership, or marketing seminar or training class I’ve attended (and many that I’ve presented), there’s always someone up front saying, “Remember God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth, use the in that proportion.”  One wonders why we have to constantly be reminded  to stop talking, presenting, pitching and start listening and observing.

I’m not excusing Ogilvy at all, one would hope they could exercise much better thought leadership, but it does strike me as too easy to be pointing fingers at them, saying they don’t get it, when we really should examine the evidence all around us.  We have created and live in a business culture where talking, pitching, presenting is more prevalent than other behaviors.  As goal directed sales people, we tend to take that to an extreme.

No one would disagree, there is a place for the pitch or presentation.  Further no one would disagree, there are a lot of other aspects to sales professionalism.  All the comments in the last post make that perfectly clear.  Let’s start focusing the discussion on how we change our profession and improve the professional practice of selling.  To my mind, that’s the most significant discussion.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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