Traditionally, a sales pitch is defined as "a talk or a way of talking that is intended to persuade you to buy something". But here's the thing: People don’t like being sold to—our brains are wired to resist sales messages. A sales pitch shouldn't be about convincing a prospective customer to make a purchase. Instead, use a sales pitch to persuade the prospect to take the next step in the sales process. Read on to explore:
- What is a sales pitch?
- The five-step sales pitch structure
- How to write a sales pitch
- Sales pitch examples
- Sales pitch templates
What is a sales pitch?
A sales pitch is a message or script designed to lead your audience to a certain action, such as scheduling an appointment or demo. It can be formal or informal, verbal or written down. No matter the format, it's important to get it right—the sales pitch sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. A good sales pitch is concise and provides value to the prospect. Use it to begin a conversation, not to sell. The term encompasses many different types of pitches:
- One-line sales pitch
- Elevator pitch
- Phone sales pitch
- Email sales pitch
- Social media pitch
- Presentation sales pitch
- Follow-up sales pitch
- Investor pitch
- Pain-point pitch
- One-minute sales pitch
You can use a combination of sales pitches for the same prospect. For example, you might give an elevator pitch at a conference and send an email pitch to a prospective buyer before finally delivering a comprehensive presentation pitch.
How do you write a sales pitch?
It's been said that timing is everything. This is especially true when pitching your products or services to someone. Aside from choosing the right timing, you must also choose your target audience wisely. Your prospects will set the tone for your pitch, as you'll need to personalise your message in order to establish rapport and form a connection with them. One effective way to grab their attention? Tell a story. Though our brains resist selling, they're receptive to stories. Whether you're communicating with potential customers in person, by email, by phone or over social media, ground the pitch in a compelling narrative to keep them interested.
1. Reach out at the right time, and connect with the right person
A successful sales pitch is all about timing, according to Courtney Gupta, a community engagement specialist and former SMB account executive at Zendesk. "You can have this amazing sales pitch, but the success of it really depends on timing," Gupta says. “Sometimes, prospects would love to talk but aren’t looking to change vendors or are in the middle of another deal. Make a note if they provide a better time to reach out."
"You can have this amazing sales pitch, but the success of it really depends on timing."Courtney Gupta, Zendesk community engagement specialist
Gupta also emphasises the importance of getting in touch with the right person. "Some salespeople will start off speaking with lower-level management, for example, because that might seem like an easier in, but they don't always have buying power," she says. "Whoever is signing the deal (usually VP and above) should be your target."
2. Make the prospect the hero of your story
The next step is framing your pitch with an engaging narrative. In this story, the prospect is the hero—they have a problem they need to overcome. Your product is the sidekick that will help them do it. Your job as a salesperson is to make the connection between your product and your prospect's happy ending. Use your value proposition, testimonials and data to support the story. Get creative—Troops, a revenue communications platform, created physical cards to enable storytelling in sales and help sales reps quickly find the right narrative. Other companies write detailed briefs of various sales personas to familiarise reps with different stories. Whatever information or format you use, make sure your pitch always focuses on an outcome. "Before you make your sales pitch, find what the person can gain from the deal going forward," Gupta advises. "If they're going to get a promotion at the end of this, learn how you can help them work toward that or how you can set them up for success when they talk to their CEO. Finding out what's at stake and what’s going to be beneficial to the person you're selling to is important in any sales pitch."
"Before you make your sales pitch, find what the person can gain from the deal going forward."Courtney Gupta
3. Understand the customer's needs, and personalise the solution
You can't tell the right story if you don’t know your audience. Buyers want sales reps to take the time to gain a firm understanding of their business and the challenges they're facing—but the reality doesn't always match the expectation. Many customers don't believe that sales reps truly understand their problems (or have a way to solve them). Your initial sales pitch should demonstrate your knowledge of the prospect's business, industry and unique challenges. Most types of sales pitches allow for some time to research the prospective buyer in advance, and it's critical to do so. Even just 15 minutes of research on Google News and LinkedIn will go a long way toward inspiring confidence. Elevator pitches are a little different because you won’t know who you're pitching ahead of time. In this scenario, tell the story of your target customer. But instead of pitching your company as an HR software platform, for example, you might say: "We help companies of all sizes provide their employees with generous, corporate-quality benefits." Then, use open-ended questions and active listening to turn the conversation toward the prospect's specific needs. "A good sales pitch relates the action you want the customer or prospect to take back to why it’s important to them and their company," says Gupta. "You need something from them, but what can they gain from working with you and your business? There has to be some incentive on their end."
"A good sales pitch relates the action you want the customer or prospect to take back to why it's important to them and their company."Courtney Gupta
4. Start your email pitches with a strong subject line
If you're emailing your pitch, your subject line is the "once upon a time" that leads prospects into your sales story. In many ways, it's a microcosm of your whole sales pitch. An intriguing subject line speaks to prospects on a personal level and persuades them to take the time to read it. We analysed sales emails from 15 different SaaS companies to identify the most effective tactics for writing powerful sales subject lines. Here's what we learned:
- Keep it personal by using the contact's name and the word "you". Generic subject lines are easy to ignore and will quickly end up in the trash folder.
- Hook the prospect into your story by writing something meaningful. Include an eye-catching statistic, offer an informational (or controversial) statement or ask a question that demonstrates your knowledge of their industry. Do your research, and target a personal pain point.
Crafting subject lines that are relevant to your prospects comes with practice. Consistently A/B test your emails to learn what works and what doesn't in your messages.
5. Get creative
Go beyond the standard sales pitch email or cold call—there are creative ways to take a pitch to the next level. "If your emails didn't work, gifts are another avenue," says Gupta. "Gifts show your brand character. They often make prospects want to take a meeting because they remember you and relate that positive memory to your brand. Even if the timing wasn't right the first time, they’ll keep those warm, fuzzy feelings in mind in the future."
"If your emails didn't work, gifts are another avenue. Gifts show your brand character."Courtney Gupta
Some gift ideas include:
- Company swag
- Water bottles
- Trendy technology like speakers
- Boxes of goodies
6. Keep the pitch length in mind
Buyers don't care about your product or service—they care about their problems. If you spend all your time with a buyer talking about yourself and your company, it'll be hard to convince them that you actually want to help them solve their problems. Make your sales pitches concise in order to leave room for listening and engagement. Keeping your pitch brief also forces you to refine it and concentrate on your value proposition. You're less likely to talk about irrelevant features if you're locked into a short length. The ideal sales pitch length depends on the format, of course, but here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Aim for 300 words in your sales emails. A study of cold sales emails found that emails with 1,400 to 1,500 characters (approximately 300 words) showed a substantially higher response rate than emails of 100 words or fewer.
- Keep your cold calls under eight minutes. Chorus, a conversation intelligence platform, discovered that 7.5 minutes is the average length of a cold call that converts into a next step.
- Limit your sales presentation to 18 minutes. Apply the TED Talk principle to your sales presentations. TED Talk speakers are limited to 18-minute presentations for a simple, data-backed reason: After the 18-minute mark, you lose your audience to information overload. Attention wanes, engagement is lost and it's that much harder to get a "yes".
If these limitations sound too difficult for you, the problem could be your understanding of your product's value. Once you're confident in the benefits your offering brings to the table, you'll find it much easier to keep your pitch short and engaging. Start by refining your positioning statement.