Sales professionals and customers alike would be well served if we could remove the term "sales pitch" from our vocabulary and consciousness. In a recent article for, The Best Sales Pitches Don't Try to Sell, sales guru Geoffrey James takes issue with the term and its implications. "Whether it's written or spoken, a sales pitch is, by definition, a one-way communication," writes James, and therein lies the problem. Nobody likes to be "pitched" and sales professionals who insist on throwing features and advantages at their customers will continually strike when it comes to sales success in professional selling.

In his article, James doesn't propose eliminating the term from our vocabulary as much as redefining what a "sales pitch" looks like. "The best sales pitches, the ones that result in the most sales in the shortest amount of time, are those that begin a dialogue," writes James. That is a key observation, because when we start a dialogue, it implies we are going to give the customer a chance to speak. And what is the best way to start a conversation? Asking questions! This is where the Exploratory Process comes in, we ask questions in a purposeful way to encourage the customer to share his/her concerns, motivations and needs. This process gives the sales professional critical insight for developing solutions that solve the customer's most pressing gap(s). And nearly as important, the customer knows the solution is grounded in insight, because he or she was part of the process in providing those very insights.

James goes on to relate this concept to both elevator "pitches" and email "pitches," and his insights are pretty genius in their simplicity. Whether face-to-face or communicating via email, the sole purpose of our words should be to start a conversation; get a response from the prospect. It really changes the mindset from one of "let me tell you about‚" to one of "please, tell me about‚" And that distinction may determine whether we win or lose in the game of sales.