How to Outsmart a Sales Pitch

And before you know it, the deal is closed.
Image Credit: mikhasik/iStock/GettyImages

When I was recruited for a job selling software at a start-up in San Francisco, I had no sales experience but I learned quickly and excelled in a department that was particularly tough – especially for a woman. When I recently had to sit down for a timeshare presentation, I was fascinated to see the "tricks" used on me (and my deflection of them). The sales team noticed and offered me a job – even after I turned their vacation "offer" down.

These sales tricks are being used all the time both in potential client relationships and interpersonal ones. When I started, I was amazed at the way these techniques could change relationships dynamics and how easy it is to fall for them. We all like think we are savvy but these work against even the savviest.

Here is how a good salesperson is going to handle you -- and remember, anyone could be trying to sell you something; it doesn't have to be a product.

Who is asking the questions?

Have you ever had conversations with someone where you always feel behind the eight ball? He or she steers the relationship, so to speak. That's because he or she are the ones asking the questions and you're the one answering them. A real salesperson will do the same thing because whoever is asking the questions is always controlling the conversation.

Want to get control back? Answer a question with a question.

A salesperson wants to find your pain point

A pain point is a problem, either real of perceived, that needs to be solved. When I was in sales talking to business owners, their pain points might have been something like failing to find new clients or communicating better with the ones they have. But until I got them to say whatever their pain point was, I had nowhere to go. That's why I was asking all those questions.

And after I knew the pain point? I could make sure to tailor the presentation to that pain point. My product became their magic cure -- and to be fair, I did believe in it.

Value over features

Here's how you tell the difference between a good sales pitch and a bad one: Is the value of the product or idea being emphasized over the features? In the timeshare presentation, the beautiful pictures were nice but I've stayed in nice hotels and I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. #ISeeYou

But when she broke down what I would spend on vacations in my lifetime (using numbers specific to me) and compared that to the price of the timeshare, she had my attention. Value doesn't always have to mean money either. When I was in sales, I would ask things like, "Can you see how this customer retention tool would help your business retain those clients you're losing?" It wasn't about the tool. It was about the value of that tool.

A salesperson is anticipating your objection and handling it throughout the pitch

If a salesperson doesn't anticipate that you'll refuse them at some point and have a plan to deal with that throughout the presentation, they have already lost the sale. They will find it by asking those probing questions. Is it price? Is it the installation?

I didn't want to jerk the woman trying to sell me a timeshare around. After all, it wasn't her fault I needed to sit through it in order to get the airline tickets I won, so I was straight with her. "My objection is going to be price," I stated. Most people wouldn't be that clear (or know the lingo) but that's when she brought out the big guns.

If you’re a tough nut to crack, expect a “takeover”

A "takeover" is a term that is used when another salesperson, someone billed as upper management (but could easily be a peer), steps in and tries to take care of your objection. The direct approach, as well as a possible sweet deal that he or she "may or may not be able to get for you" (btw, that's a lie; they can always get it or they wouldn't put it out there) is supposed to disarm you. And it does.

When the timeshare manager asked, "If I could get you a deal, and I can't promise anything, where you paid between $200 and $300 a month, would that be something you could do?" I saw it for it what it was. And still, the question is meant to disarm. He didn't ask if I would do it. He asked if I could. If I said yes, my price objection is taken care of and what's stopping me from pulling the trigger?

This is Glengarry Glen Ross style: "always be closing."

Don't let a new voice or a new face or new "potential" offer sway you (unless you want to be swayed). Know when they are trying to close you hard.

These are just a few of the tricks the best salespeople are using without you even seeing it (that's what makes them the best). Why is it important to be aware of this? Because I think everyone deserves to know when they are being sold something.