Often in sales situations the most important part of the entire funnel is the pitching with the customer – being it face to face or in a video or phone call. Regularly we will try to increase the quality of these conversations by having a manager or trainer shadowing these sessions and give feedback afterwards. The effect of this coaching is limited as the coachee often misses the customers perspective and just receives feedback “from a surperior”. Sometimes the coaching will not happen at all due to language barriers.
To improve this pitching process we introduced a format called pitchmasters.
The pitchmaster format aspires to create an internal learning format which recreates a customer situation which everyone has prepared to. By understanding the delta between the pitch delivered and the own pitch the high quality parts will get copied by everyone in the team and the non-working parts will be replaced over time. This will result in a sustainable quality improvement of the team (“best of breed”) without the need to enforce strict callscripts / replace the individual identity of the guy pitching.
The situation to be mastered shall be a crucial situation of the pitch process for that role. Examples are an on-site meeting for key account sales or a web demo for commercial sales. Everyone who is part of the pitchmasters should receive the info to the context of the meeting a couple of days before in order to prep for the meeting.
The pitch itself should be a short, but normal out-of-live situation, eg. 60min for a face to face visit, 30min for a live demo. It should be followed by a full
The roles shall be drawn directly before the start with no preparation time before start of the meeting. This ensures that no one moves the preparation time to after the draw as this limits once ability to compare “his pitch” to the pitch delivered.
The following roles exist:
1x The Pitchmaster: the one pitching (only one because there is no prep time to sync on strategy etc)
2x customers (two because then you can set roles like CEO and CMO and both can steer the direction of the meeting a bit)
1x moderator: moderating the feedback round afterwards.
Rest: viewers (it makes sense to give the viewers specific tasks, eg. Check especially for body language, framing, missed chances etc.)
To maximize the pichmaster effectiveness the following rules should be followed:
- Everyone in the room should be part of the draw and of the feedback. If you have to many “observers” who just watch but don’t need to deliver the format will become a circus where “one dances in the middle”. However to accept feedback it is crucial that this feedback is coming from a peer level and not from an observer level.
- Full in and out. The pitch starts and ends like real life. If you are visiting, enter the room. If you are doing a demo send the dial in details the way you normally do. This will ensure a true customer experience.
- No interaction from viewers. I know it is a pain to watch the pitchmaster stumble on connecting a HDMI cable or starving for a banana – but in this format we want to exactly cover these exceptional situations to be able to handle them with confidence when they happen at a customer (and no viewer is there).
- Hard cut after agreed time. Time management is one of the most pressuring tasks in a pitch situation, this is one of the essentials to be practiced.
- Tape the pitch on video. This will allow the pitchmaster to understand the feedback better once he reflects on his own pitch and allows to challenge himself on things he himself thought otherwise / didn’t notice in that way. It is also one of the no. 1 tactics how professional training work.
On feedback session
- Everyone should give feedback, unrelated of seniority and previous experience. There is no such thing as a wrong observation.
- Structure feedback in “+” what worked good and “++” what could have been even better.
- Feedback should be given with wordings such as “I would have wished…” or “You could have…” instead of a harsh you did x, y and a wring / missed to do the following. This tweaking of wordings will heavily increase the acceptance of feedback.
- No feedback on feedback. Once the first feedback is given the pitchmaster will immediately start commenting. These comments will usually be excuses (“I thought…”, “No one told me” etc). There is no value spending time on that so the moderator should immediately block these. More details on this can be found in a great post by Florian https://www.florianmueck.com/2011/10/13/no-feedback-on-feedback/
Typical objections & how to address
- My English is to bad, I would prefer to do it in my mother tongue. Totally understandable – however growth only comes from the structured exchange on formats like this one. No one will blame you for the quality of your language, it is all about the pitch and your rationale behind.
- I am not ready yet and prefer to watch. Fair enough – however I would prefer you to learn in the pitchmaster format instead at the customer, so before the first meeting us scheduled you should be more than ready for this. Maybe agree on 4 wildcards or so for the beginning. (Keep in mind that someone not eligible for pitching typically also will not prepare the meeting that intensively, as he is missing the thrill of having to present in some minutes, but for him it becomes a theatre show)