Pitch solutions instead of selling

Pitches that win customers, investors and partners solve problems

Your small business pitch is about being relevant

You may not realize it, but you have been pitching since you were a child.  When you first asked your parents to stay up to watch a late show or have that candy in the store, you were pitching. But when you pitched as a child, your parents cared and your well-being and happiness mattered. That buy in makes all the difference in the world.

Most small businesses pitches fail for a simple reason: they don’t matter to their audience. When you pitch yourself or your business, assume that the person you are pitching to doesn’t care about you, has no time to listen or interest in your success. There may also be ten people standing behind you who are offering something similar. For less money.

It’s about providing solutions

Understanding your clients’ or customers’ perspectives enables you to explain your product or service’s unique benefits.  It’s easier for someone to understand the value and relevance of an offering when they see how and what it can do to make a difference. This perceived value can sometimes matter more than its relative price.

As you shift from selling to helping, you start assuming the role of a problem solver, someone who partners and offers solutions. When you become a fixer, your value proposition increases along with the likelihood of your being hired to do a job.

Point out the purpose of your product or service

You have to convince customers and clients that you or your business can make their lives better or help them make more money. Find out what’s holding them back and what their pain points may be. It’s not enough for you to believe something is a problem or opportunity- they have to see things the same way for the message to resonate. Having insight into what the listener is lacking will increase your pitch’s chances for success.

Getting back to basics: What’s in a pitch

Before you start pitching and offering solutions, make sure your pitch has substance and “legs.” Does your pitch answer these fundamental questions?

  • Who is your product or service for – do you really know who your customer is or should be? No point pitching to someone who has no use for you.
  • What do you do or make – what product or service are you offering? Something that already exists or is it new to the world? If the latter, can you describe simply so anyone can understand?
  • What problem you are solving – why does your business exist? What need or want does it speak to? What are you promising to do for your customer or client?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors – what makes you stand out or how are you better than your competitor? Don’t ever let this be a cheaper price because this is a game you can never win in the long haul.
  • Why anyone should believe you can deliver on your promise – what is your secret sauce or special capability?

Test and then be consistent

Pitches don’t always land. Consider testing alternative ways of saying the same thing to find out whether one way is clearer or connects better.  But be sure to keep the essence the same each time so you don’t start promising what you can’t deliver.

Being consistent in what you tell people about your business matters, whether you do it face-to-face, on your website, on social media or in emails. Your pitch shapes the impression you create and raises expectations for your product and service. People don’t like being surprised.

Pitching is the first step in building customer relationships. Customer loyalty is based on trust and consistency of performance. And it begins with what you initially promised and delivered consistently afterward.

Make it memorable 

With these basic elements in place, think about ways to make your pitch better and more memorable. Storytelling is a technique that is scientifically proven to capture listeners’ attention and linger in the memory. Research shows that people may forget facts, but never how something made them feel.

There are many ways to use storytelling to lend credibility to your business. Your story could be about many things:

  • How or why you started your business
  • What influenced you and your decision to get into this business
  • The challenges or experiences getting to where you are today.
  • People you partnered on your mission or are on your team
  • The sources for your products, the special way you deliver your services.

Being seen as more human and relatable helps you connect emotionally and increases the reasons why someone may pick you over a competitor

Avoid acronyms and expert-speak that create an “us” shield around you and doesn’t allow others to easily connect with you and your message. People want authenticity today and want to know as much as they can about the person they are doing business with.

Make it concrete

Successful pitches are more than just emotion. Facts help prove your effectiveness and authority. Including factual comparisons, expert quotes, testimonials and quantifiable results is reassuring. Most everyone wants to avoid risk but if the opportunity to buy or invest sounds solid and backed by numbers, you can overcome that hurdle.

The advantage of the face-to-face pitch

Pitching in person has higher stakes because you can’t hide behind a presentation. On the other hand, it allows you to meet your customer and create a personal connection.

Talking about your purpose and mission will make your pitch come alive. The more confidence, passion and dedication you show, the more likely others will believe that you have what it takes to go the distance.

Avoid throwaway words like “like”, qualifiers, long set-ups and filler. Avoid saying “it’s my goal” or “we hope.” Instead, start of by saying “I will” or “we expect”.

Be disciplined, set strict timelines for your pitch, and don’t run on. More importantly, stop and check-in to make sure your client or customer is following you. Engage them with questions. If your pitch is not connecting, pivot and try another tack. “Reading an audience” and knowing where they are is critical to the success of any pitch.

Pitch length

You’ll need several versions of your pitch for different situations, environments and listeners. Know in advance the time constraints you are under and your audience’s expectations, tailor your pitch accordingly and know when to stop.

A typical elevator pitch given face-to-face is around 30 seconds or 75 words, which should be ample time to describe what you do and hook your audience. Written pitches can be twice as long. The most useful pitch to practice maybe your Bullet Pitch, a 8-10 second pitch that introduces yourself before you get to know your listener.  Perfect for times when someone says, “Tell me about your business.”

Perfecting with practice

Write out your pitch, practice and record yourself on video. To speak with conviction, you’ll need to be very comfortable and that takes repetition. Reviewing yourself on video playback will also help you to improve eye contact and your overall performance.

It’s helpful to get feedback from trusted colleagues and professional mentors like those at SCORE who can point out your blind spots or help you to point up something that can be said differently. (Check out the Request a Mentor page  on this site to find out about professional mentorship services.)

Document your pitch in the notes on your phone. You’ll always have it on hand and being able to check the important points to cover is reassuring.

Finally, practicing your pitch allows you to fine-tune it. Tweak your key message and your delivery, use feedback from your friends, until you’re completely comfortable. Your confidence will show through and you will shine.


Mary Tan, NYWIB Founder, SCORE Mentor
Amanda Bullock, NYWIB Copywriter
Macollie J. Neel, Senior Editor

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