Art of the Pitch: How to Tell and Sell Your Startup Story

By Ruthie Miller

What are the essentials of a good pitch — and what takes a pitch from good to great? We recently had the chance to find out. Scott Kitun, CEO of Technori, joined us at Salesforce’s Small Business Basecamp event in Chicago, and as someone who’s seen thousands (literally!) of new business pitches, he was happy to share some expert advice on pitching to win.

Q: As the CEO of Technori, a startup showcase, you’ve seen thousands of pitches. What would you say are the essentials of a good pitch?

A: In my mind there are three things. 1) If you’re not inspired by what you’re talking about, no one else will be. 2) Start with the why. Why am I doing this? Why should anyone listen to this? And 3) You have a captive audience in front of you, so make sure you have an ask. How can your audience help you? The most obvious answer is money, but also consider things like ideas, feedback, employment, and beta users. Define what you’re looking for as a result of the pitch.

Q: I’m sure you’ve seen some terrible pitches, too. Are there anything those have in common?

A: Definitely. There are two things every pitch should *not* have, and these are important. 1) Don’t waste time on financial projections. The world of startups is constantly pivoting, and every time you pivot, those projections change. Just put your model up in a simple equation. If your audience wants to learn the specifics, they’ll reach out. 2) Pitch decks shouldn’t have 500 slides. Your slides should guide the audience in a 5-minute journey. Give me a reason and keep me looped in. Don’t drag it out.

Q: What’s the secret nobody knows about making a great pitch?

A: Know your audience. Change your pitch per audience. Crunch into the guts based on who’s watching. Too many people create one pitch deck and pitch the exact same thing to every audience. Instead, do your research. Customize your deck per audience. It’s not a huge time commitment, and the results could pay dividends.

Q: Silicon Valley is well known for startups, but what makes other cities attractive for tech?

A: Silicon Valley is great, of course; they know what they’re doing. But it’s certainly not the only place to start a tech business. In Silicon Valley, for example, you might not have many opportunities if you don’t have the right background, while other cities are wide open. Let’s look at Chicago, for example. There are plenty of reasons to start a business here. The most obvious is that we have two of the best universities in the world, plus more Fortune 500 companies than most cities, so there’s a lot of power to fund new businesses. We’re also building proactively. We’ve got some of the most inclusive and diverse companies in the country, so whether you’re female or a minority — no matter who you are — you’ve got access.

Q: What’s your advice for companies just starting out?

A: The #1 thing for me is to distinguish the fakers from the makers. There’s a coolness factor that comes from being a tech entrepreneur, but if you don’t love the practice as much as the product, you won’t make it. You’ve got to love the grind. You’ve got to practice at what makes you good. You’ve got to be obsessed with the moving parts, the metrics, and the daily shuffle. Everyone’s all about end-products and revenue, but companies like Tesla and Spotify didn’t get where they are without thinking about funding and the finer points of running a business.

For more of Scott Kitun’s thoughts on startups, pitches, and entrepreneurs, check out his weekly radio show, The Startup Showcase, Saturdays from 1–2 p.m. on WGN-Chicago. Check out Scott’s interview with Jamie Domenici on growing small businesses.

Get help creating a winning sales pitch from our free Growth Kit — a guide full of tips and tools from the experts to chart your path to growth:

Salesforce can help you find customers, win their businesses, and keep them happy so you can grow your business faster than ever. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions or join the conversation with #SalesforceGROW.


Originally published at www.salesforce.com.

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