Ditch the Pitch: A book review by Bob Morris

Ditch the PitchDitch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion
Steve Yastrow
SelectBooks (2014)

Salesmanship “on the other side of complexity”

Steve Yastrow has become convinced – and I agree – that the most effective communications are those that do NOT seem like a “pitch.” Rather, they seem natural, unrehearsed, straightforward, improvised, etc. He recommends developing and then sustaining six “ditch the pitch” habits that, in my opinion, are refinements of what Neil Rackham advocates in his business classic, SPIN Selling (1988): Obtain answers to questions that reveal the current Situation, Problem(s) to be solved, Implication(s) of solving it, and Need(s) fulfilled as a result. Each of the six habits helps to establish and then strengthen a personal relationship based on a series of “persuasive conversations”: the prospective buyer becomes convinced that the salesperson is a knowledgeable and trustworthy adviser.

More specifically, Yastrow explains HOW to

o Start a persuasive conversation (e.g. ask Qs and listen, then evaluate)
o Propel a persuasive conversation forward (e.g. create a series of “yeses” and explore issues further)
o Create a shared story (i.e. listen to prospect’s story and then indicate how it will become “our” story)
o Use a “dimmer switch” effectively
o Lead customer to the brink of a relationship within and beyond a purchase situation
o Create “the persuasion ensemble” (i.e. selling collaboratively)
o Ditch the pitch to brainstorm ideas

No two sales prospects are exactly the same. Each phase of a persuasive conversation — within a cultivation/exploration process — must accommodate differences. That said, it’s all about the buyer — or at least should be — and without pressure or stress.

Years ago, I observed an interview of several members of the Second City ensemble group and one of them (I forget who) said the ultimate objective (the “Holy Grail”) was effortless spontaneity, whatever the subject requested by someone in the audience might be. I mention this because Yastrow refers to the fact he interviewed several SC members and once took two improv courses at Second City. So perhaps, just perhaps, it is less a matter of ditching a pitch than it is one of mastering certain skills and developing a mindset that transcend the need for the limiting structure of a traditional, tightloy structured (“canned”) sales approach.

Long before he established what became the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, César Ritz said that superior customer service must be “invisible.” I suspect that Steve Yastrow agrees with me that the same can be said of persuasion at its highest level: salesmanship (to paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes) that is “on the other side of complexity.”

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