“Sales Pitch” (Book Review)

MAA1
4 min readDec 15, 2023

Last year I reviewed “Obviously Awesome”, a book by April Dunford about the intricacies of effective product positioning. In her latest book, “Sales Pitch”, Dunford explains how we can use positioning to deliver successful sales pitches. Sales people assume that prospects want an answer to the question “Why should I pick you?” Instead, the question that the customer really wants to answer is, “Why should I pick you over all the alternatives?”

Image Credit: DesignDisciplin

The concept of “Differentiated Value” is my biggest takeaway from reading “Sales Pitch”. Dunford describes value as the stepping stone that customers need to get from features to determine why features matter. Value is the answer to the question, “So what?”

Differentiated value sits at the core of product positioning and a good sales pitch; addressing the alternatives and helps customers understand how to categorise the alternatives. This understanding also highlights strengths and weaknesses for different types of buyers.

Most sales and marketing teams tend to use one of four approaches to craft a narrative or a pitch: the product walkthrough, the problem / solution pitch, the vision narrative or the hero’s journey. The downside of most of these structures is that they’re focused on features, and not on value to the customer.

In “the book”Sales Pitch”, Dunford challenges existing approaches to sales pitches and describes her view on the characteristics of a great sales pitch:

  1. Market overview — The pitch should help prospects understand the entire market. This includes any (competitive) alternatives beyond your product and the pros and cons of these alternatives.
  2. Discovery — The pitch should accommodate the need for the salesperson to do in-depth discovery.
  3. Differentiated value — The pitch should help prospects clearly understand your differentiated value versus other alternatives and why the unique value only you can deliver is critically important to the customer.
  4. Product demo — Incorporate the product demo as a natural part of the narrative flow of the pitch.
  5. Call to action — The pitch should include a clear call to action for what the prospect should do next.
Image Credit: April Dunford

Dunford outlines five components of positioning, each of which is mapped to a component of the sales pitch:

  • Insight: Insight represents the critical concepts your best-fit customers need to be aware of to understand why your unique value matters. Start with the market insight that makes your differentiated value important to customers. To craft your unique market insight, you need to ask this question: “What do your best-fit prospects need to know to understand why your unique value is important to them?”
  • Alternatives: This step maps directly to the competitive alternatives that you’ve captured in your positioning. Dunford suggests grouping all the alternatives available in the market into different “approaches” to solving the problem.
  • The Perfect World: Think of the Perfect World Step as a way of defining purchase criteria for the customers you sell to.
  • The Introduction: Here, you introduce the product using the market category from your positioning.
  • Differentiated Value: This maps directly to the differentiated value and unique capabilities from your positioning. This step is all about demonstrating the value that only you can deliver and showing the features that enable that value. Dunford explains how many companies she’s advised start the Differentiated Value step with a slide that introduces the value themes. Then they move to a detailed demo that walks through the key features that support each theme, and then move back to the slide to reiterate the value themes before moving to the next step.
  • Proof: This is the proof that you can deliver on the value that you say you can. There are numerous ways in which you can prove value, e.g. through customer case studies and statistics validated by your customers.
  • Objections and The Ask: These two steps don’t come from your positioning, but rather from your own sales experience and process. Anticipating and handling unspoken objections is often a critical component of a first sales call. With “The Ask” the goal is to help your prospect decide what to do next. The Ask will depend on what you believe is the best next step in your purchase process.

Main learning point: Reading “Sales Pitch” made me realise the importance of telling a story about differentiated value, instead of jumping straight into product features.

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MAA1

Product person, author of "My Product Management Toolkit" and “Managing Product = Managing Tension” — see https://bit.ly/3gH2dOD.