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Life’s a pitch and then you buy.

Life’s a Pitch and Then You Buy. This website from Trevor Pinch, sociology professor at Cornell University, and Colin Clark, business professor the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, is the result of their analysis of British market pitchmen’s sales techniques from 1984 to 1994.

It’s a pitch any business owner should listen carefully to, because it can impact the effectiveness of your sales force.

Make sure you’re barking up the right tree

The two professors videotaped sales pitchmen at work, and also studied the buyers’ reactions and decision-making process using a “moment-to-moment” tracking formula that examined the words, gestures and non-verbal sales techniques used in the pitches.

The result of their research proved that the golden age of the carnival barker still provides some valuable lessons for your sales team, especially in key areas like buyer proximity and “reading” customer intent.

As professor Clark explained, “[The buyers’] very close proximity to their potential customers often meant that, in order to sell successfully, they had to develop an extraordinary sensitivity to the smallest changes in the behavior of the shoppers that gathered at their stalls.”

A “highly sophisticated form of grass-roots marketing”

Right from the start, the two professors knew they had stumbled upon some important insights from the carnival barkers they studied. As Pinch says, “We knew there was something very special in their knowledge, awareness and understanding of human behavior.” Some of their successful tactics that helped boost success rates included the following:

  • “Pulling the edge” – convincing passers-by to stop and pay attention
  • “Ramping” – making an inexpensive product appear to have more value
  • The “bat” – slowly lowering the price of a product to the point where customers think they’re getting a bargain, even though the lowest price still offers an ample profit margin

Pitch these tips to your sales team

Here’s an overview of some quick tips you can share with your sales team:

  1. Ask questions: asking questions tells you what the customer wants, and helps build a rapport, making the customer more comfortable and more likely to buy.

  2. Don’t waste your time on features: Emphasize benefits over features. Find out what the customer wants, and then explain how the product’s features can solve a customer’s problem.

  3. Keep it light: Always have a good line or two handy to relax a customer, something humorous that can help mitigate any “sticker shock” a potential client may be experiencing.

  4. Be indifferent: The great carnival barkers always act like they don’t need the cash. Instead, they convey an aura of helpfulness and benevolence, where they’re helping the customer solve a problem.

In the end, all of these tactics require confidence. Pinch and Clark say it’s a confident sales person who makes the customer think they control the deal.

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