In an elevator pitch, you have approximately 60 seconds to get the recipient's attention. With an email pitch, even if you get someone to open your email, you have just 30. Here's what you need to include in those precious few seconds.

Research for attention

Attention is a scarce, expensive currency nowadays. Not everything grabs our attention anymore--what really hooks us are only those things that speak to our interest and appeal to our style/tone. 

Researching what the other side thinks and likes, and how they speak, is crucial to your pitch being successful. When pitching a business, learn its pain and goals. If you're pitching a VC firm, use the same language that businesses in your niche used during a successful funding round. Above all, study the voice of the customer. It's what keeps any business running, both B2B and B2C. In the end, it's really B2P -- business to people -- and each target audience is different.

I asked Drayton Bird, former vice chairman and global creative director at Ogilvy how he successfully pitched Bentley. His response:

I worked with more than eight brands in the car business, and everyone I knew started out by selling cars. So, I just asked Bentley if the language they use when selling a car to a prospect is the same language used in the meeting with me today.

They said yes, and I suggested that's the tone we should use in your copy, and that got me the business. I won Bentley by asking a question I already knew the answer to because I've done my research.

Be clear

A clear message will always triumph over a complex pitch filled with jargon.

  • Know what you want to say -- cover your agenda initially, and then the business overview, business opportunity, your vision, examples, proof; show you know your market, its size, its problems, your solution, your competition, the business model, and your finances -- all while being congruent with your culture, values, and brand voice.
  • Build an outline -- this applies to cold emails, business proposals, contracts, and presentations.
  • Use white space, bullet points, and visuals -- don't visually overwhelm the prospect. This applies to all written pitch formats seen by the prospect.
  • Be concise -- get to your point and avoid overcomplicated words.
  • Use analogies -- they are one of the best ways to make explanations simpler.
  • Be specific -- avoid being general. Specificity equals competency. 

Skill to work on: Communication

Communication is fundamental because the next three skills will have less impact without it. Warren Buffett said it best: "If you can't communicate, it's like winking at a girl in the dark, nothing happens."

Invoke emotions

Benefits alone (emotions like relief, status, or desire) can get the job done most of the time, as people buy (and accept pitches) for two reasons: to move away from pain, or get closer to desire. As humans, we justify emotional decisions with logic, and in general, emotions are stronger than logic in behavioral economics.

Pitching a content strategy promising great writing is a feature. The same pitch focusing on promising the buyer they'll become an authority in their space is a desire-driven-benefit (status).

Focus on selling the benefits, not the features, to increase desire. Also, to increase connection between seller and buyer in your pitches, use personal language like "you" and "you're," and avoid "I" and "we" as much as possible.

Skill to work on: Psychology

Educating yourself on human behavior, consumer psychology, and behavioral economics will maximize your ability to influence, persuade, and pitch successfully.

Here are three books that helped me:

  • Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

  • Influence by Robert Cialdini

Transfer certainty 

Emotion will help drive prospects to allocate mental bandwidth into calculating the deal logically. But logic is necessary for an air-tight pitch. You sell certainty in an uncertain world. People don't necessarily accept the best pitches. They say yes to those they deem least risky. 

People buy from people. You're pitching (selling) an idea, but what you're truly selling is "yourself." Even if the proposition is great, the pitch won't sell if the seller isn't trusted. To bypass the logical barrier, present a pitch with strong case studies, proven business models, and social proof like:

  • Celebrity endorsements

  • Media coverage

  • Loan approvals

  • Testimonials

  • LOI letters

Skill to work on: Sales

It shouldn't surprise you that the number one job billionaires and multimillionaires held before they accumulated wealth is in sales.

I've held a commission-only sales job for three years in my mid-20s, and I attest that it's the single most important skill I learned -- and it directly affected my copywriting business pitches.

Skill to work on: Negotiation

Improving this skill will make your pitches better, both verbally and in a written format. I recommend the book Getting to Yes by William Uri, and the wonderful Harvard Program On Negotiation.

Communication, sales, negotiation, and psychology are four pillars that helped me better implement attention, clarity, emotion, and logic in my pitches - landing nine-figure clients through cold emails and over Zoom. Use these tips to land your next big contract.