Different situations will call for a different type of 'pitch,' or sales presentation. In some circumstances, a full-bore sales pitch is inappropriate and will be more likely to annoy or offend a prospect than engage them. As a rule of thumb, the less of a relationship you've built with a given prospect, the easier you should go with regards to selling.
The Elevator Pitch
When you first meet a potential customer, the only pitch you should make is an elevator pitch. That's a quick speech that introduces yourself and your company and provides a benefit or two. A good elevator pitch is designed to leave the prospect wanting to know more about your product. That way they'll be the one to ask you for more information, instead of you having to ask them for permission to proceed. An elevator pitch is a good way to introduce yourself even when you're not actively pursuing a sale, particularly at networking events and similar functions.
The elevator speech can also be used as the opening phrase during a cold call. But once you have piqued the prospect's interest, you should then move on to a more information-rich pitch. The cold call pitch is longer than the elevator pitch, but it's still intended to intrigue the prospect rather than to immediately close a sale. Ideally, your cold call pitch will give the prospect enough information that they'll want to proceed to an appointment with you, but no more than that. Too much information too early in the sales cycle can actually hurt you, because the prospect may decide they've heard enough to know that they're not interested after all.
The Full Sales Presentation
Finally, once you have a prospect sitting down with you for a sales appointment, it's time to pull out all the stops and give a full sales presentation. By this point, you've spoken with the prospect at least once before and have had time to ask them some pertinent questions and to do some research. You should now be aware of the prospect's 'hot buttons' – their most important issues and needs with regard to your product. If you try to give a full sales presentation without that information, you're shooting blind because you don't know which benefits matter most to the prospect.
The other danger of giving a long presentation early in your relationship with a prospect is lack of trust. When you speak with a prospect, you are always facing the negative stereotype that nearly everyone holds about salespeople. Consciously or unconsciously, each prospect expects salespeople to launch immediately into a self-serving attempt to close the deal. If you hold off on your sales push during the first conversation or two, you diminish that stereotype a bit.
The Cold Call Pitch
Your elevator pitch will be roughly the same no matter what the occasion, but your cold call pitch will tend to vary slightly depending on the prospect and your full sales presentation should change quite a bit depending on the information you've picked up from the prospect. You can simplify your presentation-building by drawing up a basic outline that you can flesh out by plugging in the right language for each new prospect. The presentation's basic structure will remain the same throughout, making it easier for you to customize your pitch without having to start from scratch each time.
Make the Most Out of Your Presentation
Each of these types of sales pitches is a critical tool for salespeople. The precise style of your pitches will vary based on the type of product you sell and on your intended customer base. Keep in mind that even the perfect pitch should be revised on a regular basis because saying the same words in the same way for too long will start to sound rehearsed. Periodic tweaking can also help you to uncover more effective ways to get and keep a prospect's attention.