The Pitch | Part Art, Part Science

Javier Saade
3 min readAug 3, 2016

An actor’s version of a sales pitch is the audition. What makes auditions somewhat unique is what is being sold and to whom. The “product” being “sold” is the actor herself. Buyers are typically one or a combination of directors, producers and casting pros. The sting of rejection when a buy decision is not made, much more common than actors hearing “you got the part”, is typically amplified because what would-be-customers are deciding against is the thespian’s purchase. This proximity to self, personalizes rejection and is part of the reason why many people think of artistic folks as emotional. Rejection, by the way, is actually emotional, no matter what anyone says and no matter who you are.

The trick is getting up, brushing the dirt off your shoulders and doing it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next.

For entrepreneurs who embody their companies — think Zuckerberg | Facebook, Smith | FedEx, Gates | Microsoft, Jobs | Apple, all small startups early in their lives — rejection is almost as personal as it is for actors. One of the most important sales pitches entrepreneurs make are those to convince investors to part with their money. Shepherding someone to bet on a company its founders and their teams is not easy, in fact it is brutally hard.

If you are travelling down this path or thinking about it, you have to be extremely tight and bullet proof in any communication surrounding a pitch for capital investment. This is especially true when real or perceived risks are high. When you talk to investors or lenders, there are some things I have learned that work well and others not so well. Having sat on both sides of the table — as a capital investor and as an entrepreneur — here are some tips I’ve learned to be effective for pitches of any kind, especially those that involve raising money:

  • Simpler is better and clarity is your friend
  • Know what you need, then ask for it
  • Balance grounded practicality and boundless potential
  • Don’t be afraid to say “you don’t know”, really
  • Endurance is more important than brute force
  • Different investors have different needs, understand them
  • Under-promise and over-deliver, always
  • Humble and inquisitive is honey, slick and fast talking is vinegar

In my formative career years as a consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton and later, McKinsey & Company, I thought that my job was to give advice. I was wrong.

It turns out, my actual job was to ask questions then help guide clients towards solutions driven by thoughtful analysis. Hopefully they made decisions and when those yielded successful results, clients got promotions and raises.

So my actual job, as it turns out, was to help my VP clients get EVP jobs, EVP clients to get C-Level jobs, and C-Level clients to get CEO jobs. Happy clients, if we did our perceived and actual jobs right, became repeat customers. Achieving this was part art, part science. A professor of mine used to say that decisions are made up of “one-part technique and many parts judgment”.

That exact same thing goes double when you pitch investors. Go get em.