Pitch-Slapped: 6 Reasons Why Sales People Fail To Generate Business at Conferences

die hard cheesy sales guy

Remember Harry Ellis, the cheesy sales guy from Die Hard. His most memorable line was, “Hey babe, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this Eurotrash.”  He was smug, arrogant, and only cared about his own agenda. Nothing else mattered to this guy. He Pitch-Slapped Hans Gruber so hard and got himself killed. This is the guy that comes to mind when I think about the sales techniques I witnessed at my latest conference.

I recently returned from one of the premier financial institution conferences and I have to say I’m disappointed by the sales techniques I encountered while I was there. This is where I first heard the phrase Pitch-Slapped and I almost spit my coffee on the table laughing. As a business strategist, my primary purpose at the conference was to learn new strategy tactics, network, and find vendors that can help my company be more efficient and effective. I was and am a sales target and yes, I want to assist our sales team help generate business. I do realize however companies spend mega bucks to send their employees to these types of conferences to drum up business as their primary type of purpose, but stop with the sales assault! Sales techniques need to get better. Here are 6 ideas all sales people need to be aware of when attending conferences to avoid the Pitch-Slap and the Harry Ellis effect.

1. Initiating the sales pitch too early
There’s an old saying in the job interview process. The person who brings up compensation first loses. This same is true about sales conversations. Just stop with the probing questions geared towards your own agenda. I do want to hear what you do and how your company works but after 2 minutes no one wants you to start telling them how your company can make them better. Not all companies in the same industry are identical with the same needs. I even heard a guy who was networking the room like his hair was on fire. He would approach a stranger, shake their hand, asked their title and company, and if all his boxes weren’t checked in 30 seconds, he would rudely say “bye” and head on to his next victim.

2. Would you sell to you?
If someone held the exact same conversation with you, would you do business with them? I assume many would say yes, but if we actually recorded the conversation and played it back to you, you might have a different opinion.

3. Too focused on the sales quota, not relationships
Ask where they are from or how many kids they have. Relate to them. If you have kids, tell them. If you live in a cool city (like Nashville), tell them how great it is. If you’ve visited where they live, talk about what you like most about their city. You’ll be surprised how much people will open up. Focus on the relationship and trust, not on your next transaction. You’ll be surprised how the more effort you put into building relationships will lead to greater trust and eventually more sales.

4. Stumbles through the elevator speech
Professional athletes train like no one else. Their countless hours of training is all in preparation for the big game. So why do sales people not practice their elevator speech and tailor it for the environment they are in? My answer would be because they are like Harry Ellis and solely focused on “The Sale”. It’s okay to tell people who you work for, what your company does, and how proud you are to work for your company for X reason, but your elevator speech should not include how you can immediately show them you can generate 20% more profit for them.

5. You aren’t speed dating
If you go into the networking event like you have a timer set for every conversation, your Harry Ellis sales agenda will be exposed. Sales representatives need to go into each conversation to gain a greater understanding of why others are at the conference. If your job is sales, go into the conference to try and conduct research as if you were a grad student preparing to defend a dissertation. Most people love to talk about what they do. They are proud of their work. Listen more than you talk. You’ll be surprised how much you will learn and you’ll be even more surprised that you will be remembered.

6. Following up with a sales pitch, not with a new connection
After you have a quality conversation, make sure you follow up without a sales pitch. Send them a LinkedIn connection request and send them an email letting them know how much you appreciated meeting them and lay out some personal information you may have learned about them. I would remember and more importantly respond to an email sent to me that said something along these lines,
“Hey Joe! It was great to meet you. I trust you made it back to Nashville safely and are now enjoying being home with your wife and 16 month old daughter. I know you’ll be watching the Preds game tonight so I wanted to wish your team good luck… I’d love to connect with you by phone and share some best practices.”
I would respond to this type of email as soon as I read it, but more importantly, I would respond with some dates and times that work for me.

All sales people need to realize everyone’s pitch-slap guard is up during conferences. We are just waiting for the next Harry Ellis to approach us. Some or even all of these techniques will go against what your mind is conditioned to do; however, with a little preparation and a greater understanding of others, conferences can be very productive for your sales team.

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