The Modern Sales Pitch: Start a Conversation

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The sales pitch, or elevator pitch, may seem a little old school, but it isn’t dead—it’s reincarnated. Today’s pitches aren’t about selling; they’re about starting a meaningful conversation.

Instead of memorizing a canned pitch about your company or product, you engage in natural-flowing conversation in order to ascertain whether you can be of help or value to the listener.

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A pitch helps you advance the sales process both online and offline. And for inbound and outbound marketing campaigns. You should tailor each pitch to match the audience and goal. Yet, they should all maintain a clear and consistent message.

You could use a pitch when encouraging signups for your blog, writing sales materials, or crafting email campaigns. You can also use a pitch when cold-calling a potential client, meeting with investors, or convincing someone to download your ebook.

If the idea of selling makes you uncomfortable, you’ll like the modern pitch. It’s not designed to feel like you’re selling something. Instead, it feels like you’re trying to help.

The new agenda: Be helpful

Smart salespeople know the audience doesn’t care about your product or service. They care about what you can do for them.

That’s why your pitch’s job is to start the conversation. Then ask the right questions to uncover specific problems, and listen intently to see if your product or service can help resolve them.

The chart below summarizes the main differences between the traditional and modern pitch.

Table format infographic highlighting the differences between traditional and modern sales pitches

If you discover you can’t help them, that’s ok. You had a friendly conversation that didn’t make the other person feel like they were being sold to. As a result, they may be more willing to help you by referring someone who may need your services.

But if you can help them, the conversation’s natural flow encourages them to take the next steps. They’ll be more likely to schedule an appointment or ask you to send more information.

Pitching, with the intent to be helpful, works in every situation. You just need to tailor your approach to fit your audience and your goals. Get to know your audience, the problems they want solved, and be prepared to overcome their objections while showing how you can solve their problems. You can see an example of a great email pitch here.

Above all else, be ready to listen. When you truly listen and look for ways to help, you engage in an authentic, two-way conversation that allows you to talk about your company or product without sounding salesy.

How to start your pitch

Pitch coach Chris Westfall suggests starting the conversation by framing it to be all about the audience. That could be someone you just met at a networking event, an investor, or a potential new partner.

Instead of speaking in first person and using “I” speech, such as I help peopleor my company does, phrase your pitch in the second person. By doing this, your solution becomes more compelling to the listener because it’s more focused on them—not you. Westfall’s favorite openings include:

Have you ever noticed…?

You know how…?

Although not in second person, two more effective openings to try are:

Doesn’t it seem like…?

I’ll never forget when…

All four of these openers create a connection, are compelling, and make the listener want to learn more.

Picture yourself at a dinner party chatting casually with the person next to you. You tell her what you do and she says:

Have you ever been so passionate about something that what you do never feels like work? I’ll never forget when I visited that remote village in Ecuador for the first time. I was showing a little girl pictures of my tiny studio apartment. Unlike most people, she didn’t ask about the stuff she saw in the photos like the furniture, the stove, or my knickknacks. What fascinated her most was that I had four walls. She was awed by something I took for granted every day because she never had the luxury and protection of four simple walls. After I returned home, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. That’s when I vowed to go back to Ecuador and help build homes in villages like hers.

Doesn’t that story make you want to learn more? Aren’t you interested to know when she made it back, how she raised the money, and how many people she helped? As you keep talking to her, you’ll probably learn she has a nonprofit and is seeking donations. Maybe you donate to her charity, volunteer on their next trip, or you connect her to a company that may fund their next project.

The point is, you probably wouldn’t be as open to providing so much help if she just said, “I founded a nonprofit that builds houses for villagers in need in Ecuador. We’re always looking for volunteers and donors if you know any.”

Feel the difference? The first story creates a genuine connection. It’s authentic. It’s her real story and it pulls at your emotions. The second one doesn’t engage you. It’s all about her and what she wants from you.

If you want to engage, frame your pitch around the audience.


If the word “pitch” gives you cold sweats, there are options. In Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, he suggests these six alternatives to the traditional pitch.

  1. The one-word pitch

When you hear “coffee,” you probably think of Starbucks. When you think about buying “books,” you most likely think of Amazon. The one-word pitch gets the main point across through our busy minds and short attention spans. However, this only works when it’s backed by loads of credibility behind the idea and big branding bucks.

  1. The question pitch

People can respond passively to a statement, but a question requires a response. Question pitches are very effective, but only when the facts are stacked in your favor. Consider credit card company Capital One’s successful campaignWhat’s in your wallet? That question triggered the audience to wonder if they’re really getting the best deals from their current credit cards, so they looked into Capital One.

  1. The rhyming pitch

Rhymes make it easier for our minds to process the message. It’s what psychologists call “processing fluency.” When something’s easier to understand, we unconsciously believe it’s more accurate and the message sticks in our mind. From the 1940s to 1970s, rhymes were especially popular in ads. Classics include: “Oh thank heaven for 7-Eleven” and “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

  1. The subject line pitch

If you want someone to open your email, your subject line is your pitch. Research shows the most opened emails fall into two general categories: utility and curiosity. This means the most opened emails are either useful or relevant to the reader, or they invoke a lot of curiosity. Pink adds a third category, specificity. This includes being specific about a time, place, or result. For example, to a golfer, this subject line contains all three elements: “This pinky trick adds 20 yards to anyone’s drives.”

  1. The Twitter pitch

A Twitter pitch can be said in 140 characters or fewer. Pandora’s pitch is “Free personalized radio that plays the music you love.” Not only does this type of pitch engage conversation, it could also be the big idea behind your product. Pink said the Twitter pitch for his book is “We’re all in sales now, but sales isn’t what it used to be.”

  1. The Pixar pitch

According to Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar Animation Studios, every Pixar film follows the same, successful structure. It boils down to these six sentences and can be a unique way to present your story:

Once upon a time ____________. Every day, _________. One day _______________. Because of that, ____________. Because of that, __________________. Until finally ______________.

How to punch up your pitch’s credibility

Whichever pitch method you choose, these three tips can make them more credible and engaging:

  1. Avoid metaphors. Phrases like, “I’m the Babe Ruth of attorneys,” may invite confusion and misinterpretation. They also sound gimmicky. Instead of using metaphors, be clear, authentic, and relevant.
  2. Use real stories and facts to back up your claims. There’s a reason why the right use of testimonials and statistics often increase conversions. Facts and stories increase trust and the message’s believability.
  3. Be passionate. If you don’t passionately believe in your company, why should others? People support those who believe in what they’re doing.

Remember to make the ask

Don’t expect your pitch to do all the work. Close the conversation with a call to action. Most people are so worried about appearing pushy or aggressive, they don’t end the conversation with a call to action. The call to action should be the next logical step in the sales process, such as scheduling a meeting, signing up for a demo, or asking for a referral. If the other person appears interested and you can benefit them, help them take the next step.

Anticipate the “no”

Not every conversation will advance to the next phase of your sales cycle. Not every listener has a need for your product or service. When rejection happens, sales professionals advise we shake it off, not take it personally, and move onto the next person who may say “yes.”

The important thing is to try your pitch and never give up. As former professional ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

Although effective, the modern elevator pitch isn’t some Jedi mind trick to get people to say “yes.” It’s a genuine way to engage people in a mutually beneficial conversation.

Start by selecting a few pitches and alternatives that feel comfortable to you. And create a few variations for different situations and audiences. With practice, they’ll sound natural and engage the types of conversations that will help your company grow.

It’s ok to seek professional help

Sometimes, you’re so close to your business, it’s tough to stand back and see your pitch clearly. Rather than spend days figuring it out on your own, go to online resources like Upwork. There, you’ll find professional copywriters and other creatives who can help you craft a modern pitch for each of your audiences.

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Brenda Do

by - Copywriter

Brenda is a direct-response copywriter who loves sales. She is the president of BL Copywriting, LLC and enjoys helping companies increase revenue by communicating with… more