At a glance
The art of selling is not just for salespeople. The ability to nail a pitch is a valuable skill for everyone, no matter what your role or industry.
“When it comes to the crunch, your personal brand is your product,” says Amanda Rose, founder and CEO of Small Business Women Australia.
Selling often gets a bad rap. The stereotypical salesman is a shady character, but Rose says dishonesty doesn’t make you a good salesperson – just the opposite.
“Selling is about understanding what you have to offer and having a real desire for someone else to enjoy it or benefit from it,” she says. “For me, it’s all about relationship building.”
Jenny Folley, founder and managing director of @WORKSPACES, knows a thing or two about sales. She gave up primary school teaching 38 years ago to start several businesses offering shared office spaces, first in Melbourne and then across the country and internationally.
“Sales is one of the most important parts of our business,” says Folley. “We didn’t have social media when I started – you had to be very good at selling.” A face-to-face meeting, she says, was your sole chance to win over a client.
Like Rose, Folley says it isn’t just salespeople who benefit from the ability to nail a pitch.
“I say to everyone, no matter what you’re doing in life, you’re selling,” she says. “I used to teach – when I taught the kids to read and write, it was a sales job. Everything you do in your daily role is selling – you have to put your best foot forward.”
Practice makes perfect
The key to nailing a pitch is practice. “Practice makes perfect – you can’t avoid it,” says Rose. “Practice on your own first in the mirror. Record yourself, even if you hate it.”
In the workplace, she says, practice with a colleague and give each other honest feedback.
You don’t need the “gift of the gab” to put together a successful sales pitch. “Anyone can do it – although ‘selling’ is probably the wrong word,” Folley says. “You’ve got to be passionate. You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t believe in what you do, you shouldn’t be there.”
The best salespeople are well-researched and natural in their delivery, says Rose. “That’s where a lot of people trip up – they think you’ve got to be really charismatic to sell. Yes, it does help. But if you can communicate clearly using your personality, you’ve nailed it. The second you try to be someone else, the second you try to sell like a salesman, or you retreat and become a ‘robot’, you’ve lost it.”
Make sure you know what you are selling inside and out. “If it’s about yourself, where are your case studies of your successes? If it’s a product or a service, who has used it before and what were the successes? Understanding the outcomes and benefits of something is the best way to sell it,” says Rose. “What you’re doing is educating that person on why it’s so good.”
The proliferation of videoconferencing technology has opened up a new virtual world for sales, with its own unique opportunities and challenges.
While video tools have allowed businesses to connect with clients previously unreachable due to distance or lockdowns, pitching through a screen requires its own particular skillset.
“Our salespeople and business development managers built their careers…on successfully building a rapport with people across a table,” says Folley. “Virtual pitching is a completely new ballgame.”
Since analysing facial expressions and body language can be difficult in an online environment, establishing eye contact is essential for connection in a video call. “Make sure you are looking at the camera… and you are pitching directly to the person,” says Folley.
Rose points to some of the advantages virtual communication has over face-to-face interactions. A video meeting “is not as daunting as walking into a boardroom – it takes away a lot of that pressure”, says Rose. When you’re meeting through a screen, “you can have your notes next to you, and it can be a comfortable setting”.
Virtual pitching is also a boon for accessibility. “Don’t think you have to go to a networking function or see people face to face to sell,” says Rose. “You can sell via email, you can sell via a phone conversation. It’s all about understanding what it is you’re selling and why you’re selling it.”