Top tips for a sales pitch

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Stylist Team
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Whether it was spray tan or winges (wig fringes), spinning a good sale was key in the latest episode of The Apprentice. While Team Venture raked in a tidy profit with Fake Bake and pedicures, Logic suffered a "pig ugly" loss - and it was all down to the delicate art of selling.

Beyond the dizzying drama of The Apprentice, the ability to sell is of course crucial to the success of any business, but also surprisingly easy to get wrong. Stylist speaks to Simon Dolan, founder of SJD Accountancy and the 703rd richest person in the UK and Ireland in the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List.

Simon made headlines a few years ago by establishing himself as the world’s first Twitter Dragon, where he gave away £5 million of his own capital to aspiring entrepreneurs who could wow him with a 140-character business pitch via Twitter. He gave us the following tips for making a good sales pitch:

Focus on the customer

It's vital that you remember from the outset that your sales pitch is all about who you are pitching to. It sounds like an obvious point, but you would be amazed how many people launch straight into their presentation, what their company is about and their history etc. without angling their pitch at the customer. All the customer wants to know is, what can I get out of this and what can you offer me? Go in with this mind set and address these points straight away. Save any other details about your business for later on in the pitch - after you have established that first spark of interest.

It's all about the money

The key stand-out factor for the person you are selling to is whether your product or service will make or save them money. Any other benefits - such as a reduced carbon footprint - are sweeteners, but essentially secondary to the issue of cash. So you should start your pitch by immediately highlighting the figures involved, for example: "What I am offering you today is a saving of £10,000." By doing this, you will grab the customer's attention immediately and avoid that glazed-over look that comes from talking endlessly about your business's history and products without mention of the figures involved.

Keep it short and sweet

Nobody wants to sit through a convoluted, drawn-out sales pitch - you've probably negotiated hard for that precious time to be heard in the first place, so make sure you use it to effect. Get quickly and concisely to the point of your sale, highlighting all the key figures and facts. It's natural that you will feel some nerves and this leads to a tendency to waffle. Be aware of this and know when to stop talking. Once you have secured an order, this is your signal to end the pitch. Many people make the mistake of continuing to discuss their product - how great it is, what's coming up next - after the customer has agreed to the sale and is in the process of signing on an order. This is basically an overload of sales patter and can be very off-putting - to the point where it even turns a deal. Instead, it's better to stop talking or change the subject to something entirely different.

Always ask for an order

It appears the most logical step of a sales pitch, but an overriding fear of rejection prevents many people for actually asking for an order from the customer. Instead, they might suggest setting up another meeting in the future or thank the person for their time and say they will be in touch. It's crucial that you don't procrastinate like this and instead capitalize on the enthusiasm and excitement that you have built around your product. If you leave your customer to think about the sale for a while, it will be easier for them to say no or forget about it. Take advantage of the fact that they are in front of them by asking "would you like to buy it?" and closing the sale then and there. If for whatever reason, the customer is unable to commit outright, establish a positive next action. For instance, if they need the approval of a superior to sign off on the sale, ask who it is, when they will next be in and identify a day and time when you will speak to them next. That way you avoid any vagueness that may lead to a lost deal.

Believe in your product

The golden rule for any would-be salesperson. We no longer live in the world of the 1950s car salesman and his cheery banter and people can see through charm for the sake of a good sale. For this reason, you need to genuinely believe in what you're selling and the fact it will actually benefit the customer by buying it. If you're insincere or lacking in confidence, people will be able to tell a mile off and it will affect the success of your pitch. If you have a natural confidence in your product then it's likely you will be able to translate this without the need for hyperbole or faux-friendliness. Saying that, you need to also have a natural empathy with people, because how you present yourself will impact how people see your product and its subsequent saleability.