Study: Here’s the ‘Perfect’ Sales Pitch in B2B
The sales pitch, or Sales Pitch, is the quintessence of a salesperson’s performance. This discourse mobilizes their soft skills, sales abilities, product and market knowledge, as well as their social and emotional intelligence. In this article, the editorial team revisits a groundbreaking study that attempted to identify the characteristics of the ‘perfect’ sales pitch.
1- The basic assumptions and tested sales pitches
Ambitious, rigorous, and unprecedented. These are the three adjectives that best describe the behavioural study conducted by The Marketing Practice (TMP) and B2B Decision Labs. Led by Dr Nick Lee from Warwick Business School, this research was conducted among 500 B2B decision-makers to determine the characteristics of the Sales Pitch most likely to move them forward in their buying journey and/or convert them.
To do this, the researchers hypothesized that the B2B sales pitch was driven by three main variables:
- The integration (or lack thereof) of numbers and factual elements about the ability of the solution offered by the salesperson to address the prospect’s issue;
- The “tone” of the sales pitch: a predominantly rational or emotional verbatim;
- The integrity of the pitch, including (or not) elements of contrast such as the limitations of the proposed solution, the risks of failure, or even its breakeven point.
The empirical study tested five distinct sales pitches with different combinations of the three variables under examination:
- Emotional pitch without numbers and without contrast elements;
- Emotional pitch with numbers but without contrast elements;
- Emotional pitch with numbers and contrast elements;
- Rational pitch with numbers but without contrast elements;
- Rational pitch with numbers and contrast elements.
The five sales pitches were compared based on two indicators: the probability of conversion and the ‘sense of urgency felt by the prospect to make the purchase decision’.
2- Emotion, factual elements, and integrity: the winning trio.
It was the emotional pitch, supported by numbers and offering contrast elements (no. 3), that achieved the best commercial performance among the 500 B2B decision-makers who participated in the study. The ‘best’ Sales Pitch has the following characteristics:
- Integration of storytelling elements, both related to the brand and also to the salesperson on a more personal level. This conclusion aligns with a previous study conducted by PPTPOP, which explains that the best sales presentations consist of storytelling elements to the extent of 65%;
- Enrichment of the Sales Pitch with factual and concise content such as case studies, comparative analyses, customer cases, market studies, and infographics;
- A clear and honest explanation of the scope of action of the proposed solution and the limits of its use.
The emotional Sales Pitch, backed by numbers and incorporating contrast elements, achieved a performance 23% higher than the rational pitch, supported by numbers but without contrast elements (no. 4). This study provides interesting insights for sales teams as well as B2B marketers looking to tailor their communication efforts, whether in a branding or LeadGen context.
David Van Schaick, Marketing Director at TMP, commented on the study’s results: “In the world of B2B, it’s often assumed that decision-makers are driven by purely rational imperatives when choosing a solution. We wanted to test this hypothesis through a behavioural study, and we’re delighted that this research has generated results that will help B2B companies produce more effective communications”.
3-B2B Purchasing: (Primarily) an Emotional Act
Several studies challenge the paradigm that B2B buying is exclusively conditioned by the technical characteristics of the product, its price, and the payment schedule. For instance, a survey conducted by B2B International estimates that 90% of purchase decisions “are made at the unconscious level, precisely where our emotions reside”.
Brand perception, the experience during the buyer’s journey, and the rapport between the prospect and the company representative play a decisive role, sometimes even taking precedence over factual considerations.
In summary, in a context where B2B offerings are becoming less differentiated and where prices often end up aligning, the overall lived experience emerges as a major competitive advantage.