Stop pitching products

I work at Zerto, a technology startup dealing in Enterprise-class data protection, business continuity, cloud migration, and disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) software and services. In short, we deliver IT Resilience solutions, and pioneered the idea of going beyond backups and beyond the traditional storage-focused view of most IT business continuity tools. I point all of this out purely as background to our typical market-leading view of the world. My own approach to selling has been no exception to that.

At the recent Zerto 2017 Summer Outing, a couple of our Sales Development Reps asked me what they should be talking about when they reach out to a potential customer, aka a “prospect”, to try and lock down a meeting. I asked about the current talk track and listened as they told me how they talk about latest-feature-XYZ or the usual product bells-and-whistles that we too-often lead with.

They were a bit stunned when I flatly stated, “Yeah, if it were me I wouldn’t talk about any of that.”

This is a team with some pretty amazing stats in terms of booking meetings with prospects. Still, I’d listened in on some calls and thought I might be able to offer a technique to increase their conversion rate. Fortunately, I’ve had some success at Zerto and so they gave me the floor.

“If it’s me, I’m not talking at all about the product,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong, follow the script for now, but I wouldn’t be talking at all about the product.”

One of them asked, “Really?”

“Really,” I started. “I’d call, introduce myself, and just go right into how I’m calling to see if you’ve got 20 minutes in the next week or so to meet with Jim Bob (sales rep) and hear about the 3 biggest IT Resilience challenges that other folks in the same industry are facing today. No products, no slides, Jim will just share some of the major pains your peers are facing and if you’re facing 1 or even all 3 of them like some of our customers were before Zerto, then Jim can set a follow-up meeting to discuss our solution. Then I’d just ask what some day looks like for them, say, 2-3 days from now. Literally ask, ‘How’s Thursday at 2pm look for you?'”

Another moment passed by as they contemplated the strategy.

“What if I don’t know the prospect’s problem?” one of them replied.

“What do you mean you d… of course you know their problems!” I shot back. “We hear the same problems from prospects all the time! The same problems are why they buy. What do you hear in healthcare? Write it down. What do you hear in finance? Write it down. Same for everyone. Put it all down. There’s your cheat sheet for the next prospect in the same industry.”

Wanting to quickly provide a real value proposition behind this I said, “Look, I was a customer once, right? So pretend I’m a prospect, you know me, I’m busy solving a hundred other problems. Why would I talk to you if you have nothing to offer other than asking for 5 or 10 minutes to bombard me with questions about my current approach or just pitch some features? I’d hang up on you. Wouldn’t I?”

They agreed.

“Shouldn’t you just assume, then,” I argued, “that since I’m not yet a customer – that since they are not yet a customer – can’t we assume that means they have the same or at least similar problems as others in the same industry had before we helped them?”

And just like that, the lightbulbs came to life.


Don’t sell products. Don’t sell features. Don’t pitch bells and whistles. Sell on being knowledgeable in your customer’s industry and having experience with overcoming those problems. They have a painful issue in your key product/solution area, possibly several painful issues, and you know what those issues are and how to overcome them because you’ve done it dozens or hundreds of times.

Walk your prospects through the journey from “pain point” to “problem solved”. Get them from “here” to “there” and enjoy the win-win.

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