Perfect Pitch

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2007

One of the best sales presentations I've ever read began with, "Hi, how are you?" It followed with, "I'm fine. Well, I'm fine but I really worry about whether I made my point . . ."

Concerned that his verbal efforts had not been successful and that he was about to get a no, the author took the time to write a six-page, handwritten sales pitch. He simply refused to receive a negative response without making a strong effort to get a yes.

The presentation was highly persuasive. It effectively discussed all the reasons why the decision makers' response should be affirmative. It included logic, compelling research and passion. The requested yes was not for a purchase by the decision maker, but it was about a purchase. The presenter was a 15-year-old boy who wanted his parents' permission to buy an expensive boom box using his own money that he had earned.

What I find interesting is that, after seeing a multitude of slickly produced Power Point and multimedia sales presentations, it's this extremely low-tech one that still resonates with me. It was so rudimentary that it was written on two different kinds of paper, partly in ink and partly pencil. But it was overwhelming in touching all the right response buttons. You could see that the salesperson (the boy) really wanted the order (permission), and was working hard at documenting why he should get it. He conveyed a sincere belief that he deserved this order. And, since good salesmanship involves satisfying buyers' needs (in this case, making the right parental decision), he made it easy for his parents to say yes.

While most of the world's population could not excel at selling, it isn't rocket science. What the most successful and professional salespeople consistently demonstrate is an acute ability to read people and situations and then to creatively, sincerely and passionately act on what they sense. They touch responsive chords. High-tech presentations can provide eye candy and information, but they generally can't make it happen without effective personal interaction.

The close of our son's presentation was: ". . . Also, do you think I would (a) spend all week trying to find out about this box compared to others, (b) shop prices and get a very good price after a week of searching, (c) work many extra hours at work so I would get a lot of 'extra' money, (d) work hard trying to convince you how good this box is and-how I promise you-I will get a lot of wonderful use of it. Please believe me!"

Our son David enjoyed his boom box for several years. He's now senior vice president at MTV Networks, responsible for over $500 million in revenue.

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