Pitch and sales

Entrepreneurship = sales

The life of an entrepreneur revolves around the sales process. Doing sales all day is not what most entrepreneurs sign up for, but no sales, no orders. No orders, no money. No money, no business. So you better get used to the idea that you'll be doing a lot of selling. It's safe to say that entrepreneurs spend about 80% of their time awake on selling stuff. It's not just getting orders from customers, but also getting good conditions from your suppliers, getting commitment from your employees, getting engagement from your partners and getting money from your investors. You'll be selling ideas and concepts on a daily basis. Unfortunately the sales task can not be outsourced to hired hands. Hired sales managers are the No.2* cause of death for start-ups. Good sales managers are very expensive and very good in "selling themselves" and "selling you excuses" why they aren't selling your stuff. 

*spending money you don't have is the No.1 cause of death for start-ups

Getting things done from other people

When we see the basic task of an entrepreneur as "making a plan and making sure others cary it out", your main task as an entrepreneneur is getting things done from other people. Lets say that's true, then the next question is: "How to get things done from other people". Luckily for you, I have thought about this. What it boils down to is that you can choose from four basic convincing strategies, based on your availability of means (or power) and your emphatic capacities.

You can Force people to do something for you, but you need a strong power base to do so and forcing people will not build a lasting relationship. You can Pay people to do things for you. It's nicer than forcing but it still doesn't build loyalty and you'll run out of money in no time. You can Beg or Nag people to do things for you but you can guess what that will do for your reputation and I wonder if is actually is a strategy. The last strategy is Charm. It's the only real option for starting entrepreneurs and as long as you keep your promises, charming is good for your reputation and gets things done. 

What are you selling?

Example of Basic Needs and Wants














  easy to use


  to give love

  to be loved

Peace of Mind




When you have chosen your convincing strategy, you need to ask four basic questions (based on the Abell Analysis):
  • Who am I selling to? (target audience, customers in Abell)
  • What needs and wants will I cater for? (function in Abell)
  • How will I cater for those needs and wants? (technology in Abell) 
  • Why will they buy from me and not from my competitors?
Especially the needs and wants (filtered by anxieties and desires) are important. What does your customer really want? You can take Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or the Uses and Gratification Theory, but more likely you can reduce the needs and wants of your customers to one of the five basic wants, Gain, Joy, Ease, Love and Peace of mind.

Set Targets!

Before you contact people or reach out to them in a public pitch you need to have a plan and set realistic targets. Ask yourself the following questions. Of course you set out with the who, what, how and why (see above), but you also need to set targets for the meeting. Answer the following questions:
  • how much time do you have for interaction
  • how much can you achieve in so a time
  • what is the most important message that you want to get across (target)
    • getting one message across is already quite an achievement
  • what image do you want to portray (target)
  • what can you do (or not do) to build trust (target)
  • what do you want to have achieved at the end of the meeting (target)
    • either interest, desire or transaction
  • what is your call to action at the and of the meeting (target)
  • how do you believe that you will achieve those targets

Confidence and Desire

The two conditions for any transaction to take place between two people are confidence (trust) and desire. Nobody is going to buy anything they don't want or buy anything from someone they don't trust (have no confidence in). I know that you think that is not true, but I can assure you that if you were free to choose and you bought something you didn't want from someone you didn't trust there was a short moment in the sales cycle that you did trust the seller and you did desire the service or product.

So sales and pitching (both are aimed at realizing a transaction) are about creating confidence in you and desire for your product or service with the customer. Think back to the last time you bought something substantial from a sales person. Has the organisation or the salesperson outdone themselves to create  confidence and desire with you? How did they do that? Would you do it like that? Or would you do it differently?

The sales cycle aims to create a satisfied customer. A satisfied customer is someone that achieved maximum customer value, meaning that the ratio between value of the (perceived) benefits they received and the value of the costs they incurred is at its highest. The sales cycle leading to a satisfied customer starts with getting the Attention of the customer (Attention for your solution or Awareness for the problem you are solving), followed by raising Interest in you and your value proposition, followed by the most important and slightly magical part of the sales cycle i.e. raising Desire to do business with you, finalized by and Action or a transaction, while building a relation based on trust and respect. All pitches and sales follow the A.I.D.A steps (or when adding Confidence and Satisfaction to the equation A.I.D.C.A.S)

Attention (or awareness)

  • website or commercial - 1 sec.
  • (sales)pitch - 5 sec
  • presentation - 15 sec.
Getting the attention of an target audience is the easiest part part of the sales cycle. Make a lot of noise! Be it with advertising, Guerrilla Marketing, a graphic website or literally making lots of noise. On a customer landing page you can raise attention by using a nice nice picture that incites emotion. When you want to raise attention is a pitch or presentation you have exactly 5 seconds. That's very short. It's a good idea to bring an object or to show a picture and say max. 10 words. In those 5 seconds you need to give your audience an impression of what your proposition is all about. Use Framing techniques to set the stage for what's to come. A sure, but boring way to start you pitch or presentation is to start with the problem you want to solve, especially when your audience might have experience with that problem. Your pitch would start like this:

"Do your feet also hurt when you have spend a whole day shopping or site seeing? Well, my name is Bill and I created a shoe that will keep your feet happy after spending a whole day or your feet

The above opening is better than just starting a whole story about your company without any framing. The problem is though that:
  • the audience has no experience with the problem and does not recognize the value of your proposition 
  • you start your pitch with something negative
  • this opening is much used 
  • it has to many words 
A better start would be: 

Bring your product (like a really big shoe) and say: "Hi, my name is Bill and I fix sore feet.........." (pauze for dramatic affect)

In just a few words your audience knows you'r Bill, you'r a nice guy (you don't waste their time) you make shoes that fix sore feet and these shoes look nice! You'r just one step away from creating desire.

Of course these are just silly examples and you should not copy them exactly. You need to find your own way to get the right attention or to create awareness op the problem you are solving. It's no use raising attention when there is no follow-up, like raising interest.


  • website or commercial - 5 sec.
  • (sales)pitch - 10 sec
  • presentation - 30 sec.
When you have the attention of your audience, you follow-up by raising interest. In the interest phase you provide your audience with either explicit or implicit (Framing) answers to their following questions:
  • is this for me? (customer group)
  • do I have a problem? (job to be done)
  • do I understand my problem?
  • do I like the solution? (customer experience)
  • do I understand the solution? (benefits & features)
  • do I have confidence in the presenter? (confidence)
  • what can go wrong? (anxieties)
  • website or commercial - 15 sec.
  • (sales)pitch - 30 sec
  • presentation - 1 min.
When your audience is interested, you can take them to the next level, which is creating desire. This is a slightly mystical phase whereby your targeted customers loose their minds and decide they want to buy into your value proposition. To create desire, you have to create confidence, overcome all kinds of anxieties and objections and in a comparison of competitors and alternative, you have to come out on top. Your customer has desires already, now you just need to make sure that your customers desire YOU! It helps when your customers have the impression they are missing an unique opportunity when they don't go into business with you.

You can take away anxieties and create confidence by:
  • referring to happy customers
  • extensive warranties
  • trusted partners you are affiliated with
  • referrals by friends 
  • using celebrity endorsement.


Closing is the hardest part in the sales cycle. Always Be Closing (ABC) is the battle cry in boiler rooms. You can do a lot of selling, but if you can't close the deal, it's all been a waste of time. Closing is near to impossible when your customer has not reached the desire phase yet. 

Any confrontation with customers should end with a Call to Action and that should not be "Do you have a question"? No you should have a question! But be aware, if you place a Call to Action and there is no desire with your audience to take action, you will loose that customer. A much made mistake is asking investors for money when they have no desire to invest in you (or not yet anyway). It's like asking your date on a first date to marry you. The only answer can be NO (at least at this point in time) and once you have a NO, its hard to turn that into a YES. Usually the door is closed and will stay closed once you have a definite no.

So plan for the action you want to call upon carefully. On a first date, you can ask for a second date, but not for marriage. Actions you can call upon could be:
  • Soft Call to Action:
    • can I have your business card?
    • can I call you an other time?
    • can I come by and get your advice on ....?
    • could you share that information with me?
    • do you know anybody that ....?
    • could you introduce me to ....?
  • Hard Call to Action
    • will you do business with me?
    • will you become my partner?
    • can I take your order?
    • will you invest in me?
ndw 2015 - 2018