We're Obsessed with the Sales Pitch, and it's Killing Our Sales Meetings

When we frame up a sales interaction as a “pitch” it implies that the lights dim, and the onus is on the salesperson to perform for their audience.  

We mistakenly think that we need to jump into teacher mode and start sharing all of our wisdom, and insights: information dumping on our prospects in an effort to impress them, or coerce them into buying.

We think that more information will lead to idea clarity, when research shows exactly the opposite:

The longer the pitch, the less clear it becomes.

The more we talk, the more confused our prospects get.

Streaming businesses like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are spending tens of billions on original content, and I became curious about the process by which these concepts come to reality. 

Most of these concepts start with a creator who has an original idea and has to build a pitch to then present to a selection committee.  

Professor William Goetzman and his team at Yale conducted an experiment to better understand how the information content of a sales pitch for a screenplay affected sales prices, and eventual success.  In other words, they wanted to uncover what we can learn about “pitching” from the shows that get picked up by networks and film studios versus the ones that don’t.

Goetzman and his team looked at both “soft” information (the number of words in a pitch, number of genres used in the description, whether the movie could be explained using references to other similar movies), and “hard” information (experience of the writer) in screenplay and movie pitches.  

What they found was that while both hard and soft information play a role in the successful sale and eventual success of the screenplays, short-and-sweet pitches sell better, and for higher prices, and are eventually more commercially successful (are watched by more people).

“Our analysis suggests that when one pitches a product, a short, concise, and simple description increases the sales prices, in particular for intangible products.  This may also be applicable for selling other products as well from a new drug to a new book or even a new public policy.”
In Hollywood, simple pitches are more successful

When it comes time to pitch, being concise and to the point makes the difference.

To do that, I recommend coming up with a single sentence that explains exactly what your are and what you do in a way that your grandma would understand it.  

I remember going through our first positioning exercise when I was the CRO at Intellitix and coming up with statements like:

“An event technology platform”
“The operating system for live events”

I’ll never forget sitting around the dining room table during Thanksgiving dinner and answering the question: “So Eric, what are you up to now?” with: 

“We’re creating an OS for live events…”

…blank stares all around.

Instead, my grandma pushed me and asked two great questions:

1) Who buys this?

2) Why?

Answering these two questions helped us arrive at: 

Digital ticketing and payments for large music festivals.  

- and the benefit - 

Increases on-site spend by up to 87%.

Thanks Grandma for the push to clarity!

Nailing the essence of the pitch, and explaining what you do as clearly as possible has proven, tangible benefits in sales meetings.

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