Sales Pitching Techniques: 6 Pitches for Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "To Sell Is Human" by Daniel H. Pink. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is the elevator pitch no longer useful in the modern day? What are the best, modern sales pitching techniques?

In his book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink explains that the elevator pitch is obsolete in today’s world of hierarchies and ease of information. Luckily, there are six sales pitch techniques that are perfect for today which Pink describes in detail.

Here are Pink’s six pitches for success along with some extra pitch tips and tricks.

Throw Your Best Pitch

In this article, you’ll learn about the “pitch” and how it has evolved for modern selling. Pitching is the ability to make a quick, persuasive appeal for an idea or product. 

Origin of the Elevator Pitch

The Elevator Pitch was created as a method for moving others with a complex statement communicated in a quick, simple way.

Why Has the Elevator Pitch Lost Relevance?

Reason #1: The elevator pitch was designed for a more closed-off environment, where it was necessary to catch people in elevators or break rooms if you wanted to connect. There were hierarchies, as well. It was uncommon to get a chance to talk to the higher-ups. The modern world of business is much more democratic than the traditional world was. There is a focus on openness and collaboration in the workplace. It’s not as difficult to get a conversation started with the right people, so the elevator pitch is no longer a critical skill.    

Reason #2: There is an overabundance of information and access to information. People are constantly overwhelmed and distracted (especially people in positions of power). Meeting someone at random, and pitching them quickly doesn’t inspire movement anymore, it adds to the overwhelm.

The Solution: Six Pitches for Success

We need to clarify our pitches for this new age of over-information. We also need to gear them towards caveat venditor (being of service to the receiver). There are 6 types of sales pitching techniques that can be used successfully in place of the elevator pitch.

Pitch #1: The One-Word Pitch

Brutally simplify your ideas down to one single word. Doing this creates clarity, and develops discipline. It also gets right to the heart of an idea, inspiring movement.

For example, during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, his one-word pitch was “change.”

Pitch #2: The Question Pitch

Take your idea, and pose a question that makes a statement. For example, instead of making the statement, “You will benefit from therapy,” you can ask the question, “How do you want to feel about yourself a year from now?” Research in the 1980s found that questions are more effective than statements when it comes to movement. Statements are ultimately passive and don’t allow for collaboration. Questions invite connection, contemplation, and collaboration, which creates movement.

Pitch #3: The Rhyming Pitch

Create a rhyming statement or question that gets to the core of your idea. A 2000 study at Lafayette College showed that rhyming facilitates reason because from a linguistic standpoint rhymes are more easily received and processed in comparison to non-rhyming sentences.  

Examples: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” or, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” (from the OJ Simpson trial).

Pitch #4: The Subject-Line Pitch

If you’re sending a pitch through email, place the core pitch in the subject line. Make it intriguing, make it useful, and make it specific. 

Example: “3 Ways to Heal Your Childhood Wounds”

Pitch #5: The Twitter Pitch

Use Twitter and the character count limit on posts to make a pitch for your idea. Successful tweet pitches are engaging and actionable. A 2011 study on tweets showed that tweets with the lowest engagement are tweets complaining, self-interested tweets, and tweets that solely communicate presence with no substance. Tweets with the highest engagement are tweets with good questions, informative tweets, and self-promotion tweets (a sales pitch tweet that provides useful info or service).

Pitch #6: The Pixar Pitch

This is your standard Hollywood film pitch that uses engaging narrative to inspire movement. It’s concise, persuasive, and disciplined. This type of pitch is effective if the person receiving it feels like a creative collaborator. This requires the pitcher to come across as both creative and engaging enough that those receiving the pitch feel like contributing to their ideas.

The template for the pitch is generally, “Once upon a time… day…..because of that…..because of that….until finally.”

Here’s a fully fleshed out example. “Once upon a time there was a young man who had no shoes. One day, he met a shoemaker. The shoemaker had an apprentice, but the apprentice quit. Because of that, the shoemaker was sad. The young man said he would love to learn how to make shoes. Because of that, the shoemaker offered him the apprentice job. He worked with the shoemaker all week until finally, he had a pair of shoes of his very own.”

Additional Tips and Tricks

Prepare for a pitch by answering these questions beforehand.

  • What do you want pitch receivers to know?
  • How do you want pitch receivers to feel?
  • What action do you want pitch receivers to take?

Collect and Record

Make a notebook of pitches you’ve heard from others that resonate with you. Record and write down your own pitches, as well. Keeping track of pitches from others will keep you tuned in to key insights and strategies, and also help you see what kinds of pitches are most effective. Recording your own pitches will help you improve clarity and performance.

The Invisible Pitch

Use yourself as a walking pitch. A particularly useful tool is to ask coworkers, friends, and family to answer a few questions about you with a single word:

  • What is my project about?
  • What am I selling? What is that about?
  • Who am I?

This is valuable because there can be a discrepancy between how we think we’re coming across, and how others actually perceive us. The answers you receive will give you clarity on external perception, which you can use to improve your pitching skills.

(Shortform note: To learn more about creating a successful pitch, check out our summary of Pitch Anything.)

Sales Pitching Techniques: 6 Pitches for Success

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Here's what you'll find in our full To Sell Is Human summary :

  • Why we are all salespeople in the modern world
  • The history, evolution, and significance of sales
  • How you can effectively harness sales skills to create purpose, growth, or “movement” in your life

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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