Five Outside-the-Box Ways to Start Your Pitch

Opening with something personal makes your customers take notice right away.

By Julie Hansen

Like the first few seconds of a movie, the opening of your pitch or presentation should grab your customer’s attention, introduce the plot, and create anticipation for what’s to come.

Most pitches unfortunately fail to deliver on all those accounts because salespeople typically start off talking about their own company.

This is a boring and ineffective way to start a pitch for two reasons: (1) Your prospect has heard too many pitches that sound like yours. (2) Your starting pitch has little to do with your customer’s situation.

An outside-the-box opening considers what’s of most interest to your prospect. And it’s rarely if ever how long you’ve been in business or how many employees you have!

Your customer is interested in something much more personal and closer to home like: “Here’s how I can reduce your heating and cooling costs.” and “Here’s how I’m going to complete this job on time and under budget for you.”

Here are five outside-the-box openings that will have your customers on the edge of their seat waiting to hear more!

1. Customer success story Whose experience is more meaningful to a prospect? Yours? Or that of a peer facing a similar challenge? The answer is obvious, so instead of telling your prospect how great your company is, why not let a satisfied customer say it for you?

Here’s a professional tip: Most sellers save the customer success story or testimonial for later at the end of their pitch—and end up rushing through it for lack of time or having to cut it out altogether! Instead, put your customer success story right up front in your pitch for an instant boost of grabbing attention and credibility.

2. Shock and awe No, not a military campaign, but this technique is attention-getting nonetheless. A shock-and-awe opening is a startling statement or a fascinating fact that is relevant to the customer or customer’s business and it’s designed to stimulate conversation.

Here’s an example: “Research shows the average worker has 50 interruptions a day. Can you imagine how much more productive your team could be if you eliminated some of the avoidable ones?”

3. Pose an intriguing question Successful pitches feel like a conversation, and there’s no better way to foster a conversation than to start out by asking a question.

Instead of asking the same unimaginative questions other salespeople ask—“Can you tell me a little bit about your business?” or worse yet

“So what keeps you up at night?”—think of a unique question that requires thought and imagination.

For example: “What would the ideal review say about your business?” or “What would happen if one of your rigs went down this week?”

Not only do these questions set you apart, they get your customer thinking and talking about where they want to be—or where they don’t want to be. And the answers to these questions provide valuable insight so you can further tailor your pitch to your customer’s interests.

4. Use discovery Likely you’ve learned some things about your customer before you meet by doing research or through a prior conversation. Reflecting back what you learned is a great customer-focused way to start your pitch.

Here’s an example: “From our initial conversation, I took away that your biggest concern was eliminating downtime in the field and that you’ve previously had problems getting parts delivered in a timely manner. Is that correct?”

Relaying what you discovered accomplishes several important things: It confirms if you’re right or if anything has changed. It shows you’re listening. It reminds your customer of why they need to talk to you.

5. Tell a story A customer success story is just one type of story. Great salespeople have several types of stories ready to go. Personal stories are a powerful way to set yourself apart and connect with customers on a more emotional basis. For example:

“Your situation reminded me of when I bought a house. During the inspection period I turned down the sewer scope to save some money since the house was in a new development. Unfortunately, six months later I started having major sewer problems and it ended up costing me more than $10,000 to fix.

“It’s important to look for ways to save money, but I learned that a small investment up front can often avoid a bigger expense down the road.”

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Replace the typical boring pitch opening with an outside-the-box opening that intrigues your customers and makes them sit up and pay attention. It will definitely pay off for you.


Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at julie@actingforsales.com and www.actingforsales.com.