Closing a business deal is one of those areas in life where coming in first is everything — coming in second doesn’t count.

You either get the business or you don’t.

So, let’s talk about something that businesses and sales professionals seem to avoid thinking about or honing their skills and strategies on.

It frequently amazes me that well-educated, intelligent and ambitious professionals and businessmen frequently overlook the No. 1 skill that will ensure them the sales success that they deserve — the ability to pitch for and win the business that will bring in the dollars.

Following my years of experience in running training programmes for organisations, I have discovered that only a minority of business executives and sales professionals have the skills, knowledge and mindset to pitch perfectly for a project or deal.

Don’t focus on self

I define the word “pitch” as the highest level in the communication hierarchy of sales talk.

Many people make sales presentations, mostly boring affairs with little to benefit the potential client, and almost always focused on the marvellous vendor company or the product or service itself.

There is immutable evidence that the world of selling has moved from an “us” position to a “you” position.

Companies must move accordingly to improve their bid to win ratios.

Many vendors neither take the trouble to find out what their potential buyers value nor consider the emotional, monetary and technical pressures that could easily derail the sale.

Let it be said that even though you may make a perfect pitch, in the imperfect world of business, you may never know the many pressures experienced by the buyer that may influence his decision to give business to one vendor over another.

However, unless a sales or marketing team is able to deliver a perfect pitch, the odds will always be stacked against it.

Unless the sales team fully understands the importance of understanding a client’s business concerns, it will fail in most efforts to win the business.

The old way of doing business — where the sales team would say, “We’re so-and-so, our credentials are exemplary, and here’s why you should let us take care of your business” — no longer works.

Understand client first

The pitch scale must be moved up so that the client knows that the sales team understands his current problems and concerns.

The team, in turn, must communicate to the client how it can help him seize opportunities and overcome challenges.

Once the client perceives this, he will be more willing to listen to what the sales team has to offer.

Companies can up their game by forming an alliance with an experienced executive pitch coach who can help their sales teams prepare more impactful pitches to client organisations.

If the bid is for a substantial account, the investment makes economic sense.

The vendor team will benefit from more powerful communication skills, greater levels of certainty, video-based coaching, training and re-training.

In addition, the sales professionals will feel more confident due to a greater certainty of winning the business, acquire a better understanding of the values and beliefs of the clients, learn excellent pitch techniques and develop verbal skills to handle objections put forward by buyers.

Management expert Peter Drucker said the objective of business is to find and retain customers.

If companies can’t find a steady stream of customers or increase their bid-to-win ratio, they won’t have much of a business future.