When you think of the word “pitch,” you may think of the TV show Shark Tank. There’s a carpet, a line of potential investors, and glaring lights as someone presents their idea in 90 seconds. However, pitching goes beyond seeking funding for your business—it also applies to communicating with potential customers, partners, and team members.
If figuring out how to connect your business to these audiences seems like a tall order, know there are fundamental tips that can help you pitch your business—and yourself—with confidence. Here are a few to get you started.
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What is a business pitch?
A business pitch is any opportunity for you to present, within a limited timeframe: who you are, what you do, and what problem your business solves. It can take place in person, over the phone, or even via digital channels such as your website or email.
At the end, include an effective call-to-action (CTA), which is the action you want listeners to take after your business pitch, depending on the specific audience to which you’re speaking. Common CTAs encourage someone to buy from a business or to join as an investor or employee.
What is the purpose of a business pitch?
The purpose of a general business pitch is to generate excitement and persuade your target audience to be involved with your endeavor. The perfect business pitch explains the problem your business can solve and the impact it will have on a market within an industry. From there, the hope is that your audience will want to join your business as an investor or employee, or become a loyal customer. Any relevant business information—such as the problem your product or service will solve and the business’s future financial outlook—included in your pitch may be the same across multiple audiences.
5 types of business pitches
Business pitches take various forms, depending on your goal and target audience. Regardless of the type, each typically includes similar strategies, such as incorporating stories and stats to sell your business idea. Some of the most common types of business pitches are:
1. Elevator pitches
An elevator pitch is a concise statement that can be the building block for other types of pitches. The idea behind an elevator pitch is that you can explain your business in the time it takes for a single elevator ride, or about 30 seconds. It’s considered a short sales pitch that is one to three sentences, including the value statement summarizing the value of your business and unique selling proposition.
2. Employment pitches
If seeking to employ top talent, you want to show that your company has promise. A business pitch that highlights the value of your business can persuade others to want to join your team.
3. Sales pitches
A sales pitch happens when you’re speaking to a potential customer about a problem they have with their own life or business. An effective sales pitch convinces a potential client that your business could help fix their unique problem.
4. Partnership pitches
A partnership pitch highlights to another company how your business can benefit theirs, and vice versa. It usually occurs between businesses with shared markets or products. For example, if your business sells direct-to-consumer coffee, a partnership with a company that sells sugar or cream would be a good pairing.
5. Investor pitches
This is one of the most common types of pitches for small businesses because it combines an elevator pitch, employment pitch, sales pitch, and partnership pitch. Investor pitches sell the value proposition of your company and explain its financial future through a successful pitch deck. If successful, they help you secure investors or venture capitalists who inject funds into your business in exchange for an ownership stake, and they become part owners in your company and can impact business operations.
17 tips for a successful business pitch
- Know your numbers
- Tout your experience
- Customize your pitch
- Tailor your call to action (CTA)
- Consider a pitch partner
- Know your competition
- Share your personal story
- Make eye contact
- Prepare a pitch deck
- Interact with your audience
- Focus on the problem
- Don’t overwhelm your audience
- Build in time for questions
- Be enthusiastic
- Practice your pitch
- Know when to close
- Be an active listener
Pitching skills are an art, not a science. They most often start with a personal anecdote, but there are other core skills that go into an effective pitch. These tips are some of the best methods to create a pitch that can clinch the deal:
1. Know your numbers
At the core of any business or product pitch are a variety of numbers that tell the financial story of your business: your customer base, cost of goods sold, annual sales, monthly website traffic, profit margin, previous investments, and start-up capital.
Depending on your business model, you may need other supporting figures. For example, as an ecommerce business, you need to know what your customer acquisition cost is between your advertising budget and sales so you can better assess what type of financing you might need.
2. Tout your experience
A 2020 survey by Harvard Business Review found senior investors aren’t solely focused on the numbers behind your business—they’re also interested in whether you have the right experience. For example, if you’re trying to sell a new hose to fire departments, having some type of experience in the firefighting industry (and highlighting that in your pitch) can be more important to investors than how cheap you price your water hose.
3. Customize your pitch
The talking points and messaging for your pitch may vary depending on the audience. For instance, angel investors may be more concerned that you have passion for your product or service when proceeding your business pitch, while a potential customer might be focused on how you address customer pain points.
4. Tailor your call to action (CTA)
Just as you would customize your business pitch, you too must tailor your CTA for your respective audience. The more targeted your pitch, the more persuasive.
- Learn more. Any CTA that urges the listener to “ Learn more” about your business, services, or products can encourage action by investors, whether they’re angel investors, family, or friends to fund the initial startup seed round.
- Buy now. This CTA is usually directed to customers and potential customers, which are the main entities who are urged to “Buy now.” For this audience, part of your CTA might include urging them to buy a specific amount of product now at a discounted price, or a new product that has a limited supply for a better price than they would normally receive.
- Join our team. This CTA is a common phrase used to recruit new and potential employees and can be used on your careers webpage or section of your email newsletter. Oftentimes, it’s used to underscore the opportunities an employee may have by being a part of your company. For example, a CTA for an organic ecommerce clothing business may be: “Join our team to change the face of fast fashion today.”
5. Consider a pitch partner
Part of the pitch process is selling your team and emphasizing each person’s expertise. That’s why having multiple voices—instead of one—doing the pitch can make for a well-rounded presentation. If you have a partner, customer, or spokesperson who can amplify your message, try to include them in the pitch itself. Keep in mind: Any partner should uplift your brand.
6. Know your competition
Conduct a competitive analysis to understand your competitors, the target market they serve, and key differences between their business and your own—so you’ll know what makes your offering unique. By understanding your competitors, you are better prepared to underscore what makes your offering unique in case this comment and question come up, “Your business sounds great, but this product already exists. Why do I need yours?”
7. Share your personal story
Many pitches open with a simple, basic problem told through a personal story that’s easily relatable. Using storytelling to pitch your business can make it easier to connect with your audience and keep them engaged throughout—increasing the likelihood they will follow through on your CTA.
8. Make eye contact
Making eye contact with every person present during the pitch makes a positive impression and facilitates a stronger sense of connection. Practice by looking someone in the eye—whether it’s your partner, a friend, family member—even a pet, or watch yourself in the mirror.
9. Prepare a pitch deck
Many businesses, as part of their pitches, prepare a pitch deck with key statistics and information about their company, especially if they’re pitching to potential investors. That way, an audience member can glance up and see key data points throughout your entire presentation instead of trying to jot down information as you speak.
10. Interact with your audience
Interacting with your audience, for example, by distributing your product to everyone in attendance to let them try it, can make the presentation more engaging. You could also act out a problem your product solves with an audience member, or include an interactive quiz or poll in the pitch deck’s slides and videos.
11. Focus on the problem
It’s easy to focus your entire pitch on why your innovative solution is the best in the market. However, if a listener doesn’t understand why your product is needed, you’re less likely to have success. Instead, try focusing on the problem you solve. Answer questions such as, “How pressing is this problem?” or “How many people encounter it?”
12. Don’t overwhelm your audience
It may be tempting to explain every detail you know about your business’s market competitors, demographics, history, goals, and more. Know this information if questions arise, but be mindful of what to share about your business. If listeners feel overwhelmed, they may be more likely to tune out, back out, and say no to your pitch.
13. Build in time for questions
After your initial pitch, open up the floor for questions, which can give you a chance to show how well-informed and prepared you are. This is also an opportunity to receive comments and feedback, which you can use to improve future pitches.
14. Be enthusiastic
During a pitch, your voice should be warm, exciting, and welcoming, with enthusiasm that engages listeners. According to a 2022 Harvard Business Review article, increasing the volume on your voice during a presentation “supercharges” the message you’re trying to send—and what accompanies that is knowing when to accentuate certain words.
15. Practice your pitch
Presentation skills come naturally to some. For others, it takes practice to be able to deliver the most effective message smoothly and confidently. Practicing limits the chance that you’ll blow it on the big day. Practice explaining your business in a brief, straightforward way and start getting comfortable asking for what you want—whether it’s an investment or a sale. You can practice pitching to a friend or family member, or record yourself in order to give yourself feedback.
16. Know when to close
When you’re in the middle of your pitch, you may observe a change in your audience’s body language signaling your presentation is going well—or that you may be losing their attention. If you notice nonverbal cues such as shifting in their seats or glancing around the room, it may be time to bring your pitch to a close with an inspiring CTA. Otherwise,you risk boring and alienating your audience.
17. Be an active listener
Actively listen to your audience during the pitch process to give thoughtful, value-added (instead of canned) responses to their questions. Doing so can show that you have prepared and that you respect the unique differences of the group to which you are speaking.
Tips for pitches FAQ
What should you do to prepare for a pitch?
Prepare for the pitch by memorizing facts and figures about your company, including its cost of goods sold, gross profit margin, price point, market research, and competitors. If possible, fine-tune your pitch by practicing on another person. Alternatively, practice in the mirror or record yourself.
Should you practice your pitch in advance?
Yes, you should practice your pitch in advance. You could even consider a dress rehearsal the day before a big pitch to test the technology, ensure your clothing suits the type of pitch meeting, and confirm you have all your pitch information and materials.
How important is follow-up after a pitch?
Follow-up is crucial after pitching your business ideas, especially if potential investors have an interest in your business and want to move forward. Typically, email or contact potential investors within one to two days after your presentation to maintain momentum. Thank them for their time, and address any outstanding questions.
Should a business pitch end with a call to action?
Every business pitch should end with a call-to-action, or CTA, that states what action you want your target audience to take. Make the CTA inspiring and concrete so your audience knows exactly what you’re asking of them. Common CTA variations include: “Join our team,” “Buy now,” or “Learn more.”
Can visuals, such as slides or videos, be used to support a business pitch?
Yes, visuals like a slide deck, video, or PowerPoint slides can summarize helpful details about your business during a business pitch. You can provide figures on your company’s history, operations, financials, and growth in ways that are easy to digest. Be cautious, however, about sharing visuals that are too busy. Instead, focus on making all information clean, straightforward, and to the point.