The lost art of the sales pitch

By Rich Lindblom, AVB Marketing

Have you ever been in one of your big-box competitors and had the good fortune to hear an apron-clad associate deliver a sales pitch?

I know I have, but to call it a sales pitch is overly generous. If you ask me, it’s more of a feature review than anything else. There’s no actual selling going on.

“It does this and it does that and it does this and here’s the price.”

That got me thinking about how times have changed in retail. When I started selling appliances in 1977, you delivered a true sales pitch. You didn’t just talk about things, you showed customers things. For example:

  • I would pull a quarter out of my pocket and dare the customer to try to scratch the porcelain top of a Maytag washer or dryer.
  • I would pull the lid off a Maytag washer to show them how the lid balls worked with no moving parts and no possibility of rusting.
  • We would spin a Maytag washer with a huge Chicago phone book in the tub to show how the washer would not go off balance.
  • We actually had a competitive brand washer in our showroom with the front cut off and replaced by plexiglass to show the difference between our washer and theirs.
  • I would turn on a dryer with a log chain inside to show how durable the drum finish was.
  • When we started selling microwaves, we would put a neon lamp inside and turn it on to show people how it “worked.”
  • We would take door bins out of a refrigerator, put them on the floor and stand on them to show how sturdy they were.
  • When showing a gas range with heavy grates, I would take the grate off and hand it to the customer so they could see how “well made” the range was.

Back then it was a true sales pitch, not just a feature review session. Your goal should be to get the customer more physically engaged with the product and the sales presentation. Things become more real for the customer when they can see, feel, touch and hear the product, as opposed to listening to you read a list of features.

So ask yourselves, how many of you are still giving your customers a full-service sales pitch?  

Folks, you are the true product experts. In fact, this is what sets you apart from your competition. So get out there on your sales floor and start sharing that expertise with the customer. It will not only impress them, but it will often be the difference between making and losing the sale.

If they aren’t live already, you must do everything in your power to ensure that anything on your sales floor with a power cord is plugged in! Spin that washer or tumble that dryer (without the phone book or log chain). Turn on the refrigerator so they can hear how quiet it is. Let them experience the sights and sounds of that new TV. Have them sit in the recliner and play with the controls.

The bottom line is that, sadly, I think most of us have forgotten the true meaning of being a salesperson.  A true salesperson knows how to deliver a proper sales presentation, one that will not only win the sale but win the customer for the long haul. So I suggest you go “Back to the Future” and start showing (not telling) the customer why they should buy the product you are suggesting. 

It will make a dramatic difference in your close rate. I guarantee it.  

Rich Lindblom is a past principal of Advanced Maytag Home Appliance Center, a family business founded 64 years ago in Schaumburg, Ill.  After working at and later leading the company for more than four decades, he and his brother sold the operation.  Lindblom now shares his 40-plus years of hard-won retail experience with fellow BrandSource members as a columnist for YSN and product manager of AVB’s SYNC point-of-sale system. Contact him at

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