To Memorize . . . or Not to Memorize?

Follow the actor’s way to learning your pitch.

By Julie Hansen

It’s quite likely you will occasionally use other people’s words when making a sales pitch to prospective customers. This can take the form of a script or talking points around things like: how you differ from the competition; how you provide value; what other customers have said.

Now you’re faced with a choice: To memorize . . . or not to memorize?

While not quite the magnitude of the “to be or not to be” choice pondered by Hamlet, it can be a difficult one for salespeople to make. There is a common misconception that memorization leads to sounding “canned” or phony.

But memorization is not the cause of a canned or inauthentic delivery. If it were, audiences wouldn’t shell out millions of dollars to watch incredibly believable performances in films and plays every year!

That phony delivery you may fear has more to do with memorizing your pitch before understanding what you’re saying. Or practicing it in a way that reinforces your pitch sounding wooden or stilted.

The truth about memorizing your pitch is this: The better you know your script, the better you will be going “off script.”

Knowing your pitch so well you don’t have to struggle for the words or meaning gives you confidence. It frees you up to place your energy on being present and responsive to your customer. It also allows you to flow in and out of the conversation, when and if necessary, while still maintaining enough control to get back on track to your key points.

Improvising or “winging it” may work for a few lucky people, but for most of us, the results tend to be wildly inconsistent. That’s a lot to risk when the stakes are high.

Follow Four Keys

Fortunately, you don’t have to memorize your entire pitch. It’s really a personal choice. Some people are more comfortable learning their pitch verbatim, or word for word. Some are better off memorizing a few bullet points. But regardless of your preference, I recommend committing to memory four easy-to-remember tips.

  1. Your first line
    Your first line is much too important to leave to chance. As any actor will confirm, nerves are always at their height when you first step in the spotlight.

So why pressure yourself to think of something brilliant to say on the spot? Having the first line of your pitch down cold will give you welcome confidence until your natural rhythm and practice kick in.

  1. Your last line
    If you don’t know what your last line is, it’s very easy to keep on talking—long after you’ve made your point. Some salespeople have been known to talk themselves right out of a sale this way.

So know your last line, and when you reach it—stop! Let the impact of what you’ve just said sink in and resonate with your listener and allow them a chance to think about it and respond or wrap it up.

  1. Your transition lines
    Transitions between topics or a change in direction in the course of the conversation can be tricky for salespeople to maneuver. Having a prepared line that gets you from point A to point B can be especially helpful.

Here’s an example: “We’ve talked about some of the problems you’re experiencing with your current system. Would you like to see how some of our customers have been able to solve those same problems?”

A little preparation allows for a smooth transition and keeps the conversation flowing.

  1. Your key lines
    Key lines are typically lines that (a) you don’t want to forget or (b) you want to make sure you get right. This would include things like your value proposition, benefits, and metrics.

Struggling to get your value proposition out or transposing important numbers can cause your prospect to doubt your credibility. You can avoid that by having those key lines committed to heart.

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Memorizing just these four lines of your pitch will give you greater confidence and more consistent results. And it will allow you to focus your attention on your prospective customer and engage in a meaningful conversation with that person—which is the hallmark of a great pitch!


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.