Issue 20

Business pitching or how to sell in 4 simple steps

Ana-Loredana Pascaru
Training Manager

Has it ever happened to you to attend a great event or dinner party with great people that you wanted to talk to, but you had no clue how to break the ice? Or you just wanted to exchange some ideas and get connected to some of them but it seemed like words weren"t there for you to make you feel at ease?

Most of the times, one"s got only 60 seconds to talk about what he knows to do best in his business or in his job, in front of his partners or co-workers.

A pitch is a speech of no longer than 30 seconds - 3 minutes, generally, delivered apparently in a spontaneous manner and it allows one person to promote his/her competencies, services and also the added value that he/she brings through these.

Although the pitching concept started to be promoted recently, in the business environment, e.g. in the startup ecosystem, just like we can see it happening in the USA, in Europe and even in Cluj, Romania, in the last few years, it describes and refers to a reality which is lots older than that. Throughout all the times, since prehistoric times, the leaders of the peregrine people were conquering new lands and took ownership of them through short proclaiming speeches. Actually, the very simple decision of choosing the maternal language in the daily interactions, over the newly conquered lands, was the basis of nowadays business pitches. The peace messengers and the religious missionaries were also predecessors of today"s pitchers, through the messages that they were bringing to new people, spreading the word or even persuading through it.

Why would anyone deliver a pitch? Well, this ability is inborn, they say that the most gifted salesmen are .. children. It would be very difficult for us to give up to this instinctual tool of attaining our objectives, which is the pitch, be it in personal or professional environments. From another point of view, we have the need of socializing and of getting connected, and for this we deeply need persuasion and persuasion skills, just like we need money. On top of everything else, beyond any other reason of pitching, it"s a starter. "A pitch is not used only to convince the other to adopt your ideas, but to offer something which is that attractive, that it determines the start of a conversation." (Daniel H. Pink, To Sell is Human)

If you take a look around you, in the social circles that you attend, or even in your past experiences, be it personal or professional, you will be able to notice for sure that in numerous contexts, you have already used a few introductory words, having also an explanatory, descriptive or motivating role into doing this or that. What I am trying to say is that we do pitching in every area and in any moment of our lives, be it for earning more pocket money, in childhood, be it for a salary raise or to gain an angel investor or an investment for our startup business.

Now that we are calibrated on why would one use pitching in his daily life, the next step is to follow through the structure of a pitch and learn how to create one yourself. Firstly, a pitch should not have more than four high level objectives, thus, maximum four long phrases.

To start with, it"s recommended to say your name and a key role or characteristic that you have in your business, project, role or team. The name is a unique figure and it offers identity and authenticity to your role, profession or to the business that you are developing. The key role is critical also, because it offers authority to you and your presentation and it will make people believe in you and in what you have to say next. Through the characteristic that you will choose to present as key descriptor in the beginning of the speech, be it CEO of your own company, expert developer for 7 years, a great lover of medieval reading, whichever of these you might choose or any other, the key characteristic needs to be in line with your project and your area of expertise and it will determine the audience to fully listen to you.

Afterwards, in the second part of your pitch, or in the second phrase of it, you will have to say what is it that you actually do in your project and how you will bring added value through that. There is a very good example from Phil Libin, which I would recommend to you too: "[I am Phil LIbin, the CEO of Evernote.] Evernote is your external brain." Phil creates an excellent method of delivering in a pitch the crisp idea of added value through a metaphor which is very powerful. The pure advertising objective of any pitch can be found here, in the second part of it and, also, in the end, in the call to action. Therefore, the preparation and the creative effort from your side should be mostly focused in these two critical parts of the speech.

  1. Who I am and a key characteristic
  2. What I do and how I bring added value through my product.
  3. How I differentiate myself from the competition.
  4. What my objectives are on short or medium term. Why do I deliver this pitch? Call to action.

Furthermore, in the third part of the speech, you need to say how you are different from your competition. There are high chances that what you offer on the market through your product or service, as a professional, through the competencies or through your services, is already being offered by someone else or by some other organization. Therefore, you need to highlight in a subtle manner, shortly, how you are different. Depending on the duration of your speech, this part can be more concise than other parts, in order to get adapted to the rhythm and conciseness of your presentation. Many times, it is not even needed to name the organizations, the startups or the experts that you split your market with, but you only need to express powerfully what it is that you do best: we are not only offering an online data storage "cloud" platform, but it"s also "your external brain".

Finally, I recommend you to name the objectives that you have on short term (no more than 1-2 of them), which will actually give the flavour to your pitch, directing the audience into the specifics of it and into the reason for which you have decided to interact with them. For example, at the startup competition that you will be attending, there will be pre-selection and selection stages that will determine you to pitch your idea over and over again. The goals of the repeated pitches might be different, like, for example, to get new members in your team, depending on their abilities and expertise (online marketing, programming, copywriting, programming etc.), to get new investments for your business, to promote the team or the business idea and to include your team in an accelerator or business incubator.

Actually, through the conclusion of your pitch, you will show others how they can help you, what you want to get from them and also what is the stage you are with your business. Out of the unwritten rules of persuasive speaking, that you can excellently practice in any Toastmasters Club, I can recommend the use of powerful words, like verbs, who will call to action. "This is who we are, come join our team!", "If you are a iOS developer and you want to become famous, come join us!", "Let"s make the world a better place through an online platform meant to improve the quality of your relationships, so please support our crowdfunding campaign."

If I already convinced you that absolutely everyone needs pitching, if you are used to the reason for which you would need that yourself, if you realized that you have already used a pitch formally or informally several times now, but you did not know that it"s called this way, the only step left for you to complete is to expect and prepare for pitching opportunities. This type of business speech should be spontaneous, but practiced, nevertheless. If you are looking for partners to implement your business idea, for a new job and you are getting ready for interviews, it"s definitely worth investing one hour of your time to identify the basis of a great customized pitch for yourself.

You can write it on a paper, tape it with a video camera or a smartphone or ask a friend to watch you, in order for you to be able to identify the best words, the tone, the content that best promotes you. Afterwards, you only need to look for advertising opportunities, for networking events, for job fairs or celebration times in your life or job, you enjoy the atmosphere and you answer to a very simple question: "What is it that you do?"

Every one of us can need several pitches, according to every project which he is involved in, to every role or project that he is a part of. This way, the speech can be easily adapted to the audience, through a change in perspective and in language. Technically speaking, what changes is the key role, the name of activity and added value, the way you differentiate and the call to action. If you speak of the same business or project, instead, and the only thing that is different is the stage you are in at the moment, then you will only change the call to action. At Startup Weekend, you might be looking for teammates, while at Le Web, you might be already looking for angel investors or new investment rounds, after you had launched the minimum valuable product of your business.

It was a real challenge for me to create my first pitch. In the beginning, I did not feel myself, writing down and rehearsing just like for a school contest who I am and what I want from the others. It was a psychological and motivational challenge. Nevertheless, the benefits of such an effort have been higher than the costs. So, I learned to sell my ideas with enthusiasm and determination. Set your own goal to answer in an excellent manner, one that would make you proud, to the question "What is it that you do?" from now on in the following 3 months, and you will see pitching as you second nature. It will become a habit that will bring you money, friends, results, partners or, at least, plenty of exciting conversations.


1. blogs.wsj.com

2. Use-Case 2.0 The Guide to Succeeding with Use Cases, Ivar Jacobson, Ian Spence, Kurt Bittner

3. www.avocatnet.ro




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