Beyond Table Stakes: How To Focus On What Matters in Your Pitch.

Posted on February 26th, 2023 to Uncategorized

Coming here from the newsletter? Scroll to the bottom of this page to access the three prompt questions to consider ahead of your next sales call!

Are you familiar with the term “table stakes?” If you’re a founder or subject matter expert selling B2B, it’s a term I want you to start thinking more about when you’re pitching your services — but not for the reasons you might think. 

In poker, table stakes is a rule that says a player can’t dig in their pockets for more betting cash during a hand. In business, table stakes refers to the minimum requirements needed to compete in the market. 

For example, in today’s automotive industry, table stakes look like good gas mileage, modern features and competitive pricing. These items must be present for consumers to even consider buying the car. In the future, fully electric cars will become table stakes, forcing all auto producers to comply in order to compete — a shift we’re already seeing in the industry. 

Now, think about recent car advertisements you’ve seen. Do these ads highlight the basic features of the automobile (the table stakes), or do they focus elsewhere? 

Take the recent Kia Telluride X-Pro Super Bowl spot, “Binky Dad,” for example. The ad features a family checking into a swanky mountain resort, when the dad realizes he’s forgotten his baby’s favorite pacifier — an oversight that threatens to ruin the vacation, as the baby appears to be inching closer to a full-blown meltdown.
“Binky Dad,” Kia’s 2023 Super Bowl commercial for the Telluride X-Pro.

The dad leaps into action, jumping back into his Telluride X-Pro to race back home and retrieve the binky. Before he peels out of the parking lot, a social media influencer posts a video with the hashtag “BinkyDad,” which instantly goes viral.

With the theme from Rocky playing in the background, we see the dad driving the vehicle over various terrains, navigating hairpin turns and off-roading in the snow — he even drives through the middle of a football field, much to the delight of players and fans who have been following his quest on social media. 

I’ll let you watch the full ad to see what happens to Binky Dad, but suffice to say, by the time he gets the binky and returns to the resort, he’s a national hero. 

As the sales leader in your business, here’s what I want you think about:

The commercial doesn’t highlight a list of the vehicle’s table stakes features. Rather, the ad focuses on a much more important aspect of buyer behavior — emotion.

The message is clear: Buy a Kia Telluride X-Pro and you’ll be a hero. 

As a business owner selling your services B2B, there’s a lot to learn from Kia’s approach. 

In his latest book, Jolt, Matt Dixon homes in on an emotional mindset that he believes is the biggest challenge facing B2B sellers today: Buyer indecision due to fear of making a mistake. 

Let’s pause for a moment and really take that in. 

Dixon is saying that providing world-class services to solve intricate business problems isn’t enough — those are just the table stakes. 

You could be in a room with an ideal buyer in massive pain, wrestling with a challenge you can solve — and even if you perfectly pitch your solution, and even if the buyer believes you can do the job at a fair price, they may still say no. 

Why? Because they’re terrified of making a mistake. 

Think about it: Most buyers have been navigating unprecedented terrain since the start of the pandemic, and it’s not letting up. They’re overwhelmed, exhausted and might be fearful of things like job security or creating even more work by deviating from the status quo (even when the status quo is detrimental to their success).

If your buyers aren’t buying for fear of making a mistake, then you must do what Kia did with their Super Bowl ad:

Show your customers how investing in your services will make them a hero.

Just like car buyers need to understand that they’ll get good gas mileage, modern features and a fair price, your buyers need to see that as well — but that’s just the starting line. 

To get over the finish line to a contract, be mindful of how much time you’re spending talking about the table stakes versus what really matters. The priority is to make your potential buyer feel safe, confident — and maybe even like a hero — by choosing to work with you.  

Not sure how to shift your focus? Start by answering these prompts ahead of your next sales call:

1. Even if your buyer believes you can get the job done at a good price, what might stop them from signing a contract? What mistake might they fear making by working with you? 

2. Based on your answers to the first prompt, what questions might you ask your potential buyer to bring these fears to light? (Remember, you can’t make them feel like a hero if you don’t know what’s holding them back.)

3. What stories might you tell about how you’ve transformed other nervous buyers into workplace heroes? (Chances are you already have case studies you point to — make sure these success stories highlight how your buyer overcame the fear of making a mistake to wind up a hero.)

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