Sales Pitch
April Dunford

Dunford's done it again with a clear and compelling approach to selling.

If you haven't read her first book, Obviously Awesome, it's worth a look.

Buying is hard, so it's worth helping customers buy.

"Considered" purchases, where considerably more effort goes into a decision, bring a greater fear of messing up than they do of missing out.

Buyers are often nervous and bewildered by choice; they've likely never bought your specific type of software before. So, in plenty of ways, "doing nothing" is often a great option in this scenario. Why rock the boat at all? This is why 40-60% of purchasing processes end in "no decision."

"Buyers are drowning in information but starved for market insight. Prospects who can't confidently make a choice between options will generally take the lowest risk option, which is to simply do nothing and keep using the status quo." (Page 21)

Most B2B websites only talk about the software on its own in isolation. But B2B companies know the most about the market, and the possible approaches that different parts of the market take, far more than buyers do.

That's why, if you fire a barrage of features at a prospect, just remember that everyone else is likely doing the same. How do they know which features are going to be most important to them?

Therefore: companies must help customers buy.

Key elements of the sales process

  1. Qualification: is your product even right for this customer? This is where an SDR or BDR would disqualify or qualify a customer early on in a sales process.
  2. Discovery: what does the problem, or set of problems, really look like for the buyer?
  3. Demo: often in the first sales call, but sometimes in a second. Multiple ways to do this (see below)
  4. Differentiation: this is the "so what?" value that only you can deliver, and no-one else

Depending on the complexity of the industry, customer, product, and transaction, much of this can be done in a single, initial call.

Other types of pitch (and why they don't work)

These are the most common types of pitch that most use, but are different to the one Dunford goes on to describe in detail. Each one has its own weakness.

  1. Walkthrough: best when the buyer knows what they're doing and is already educated on options in the space. They can see the value (or lack thereof) for themselves because they're likely comparing it to something they already use. Leaves little room for discovery, or to discuss the market, or differentiation within it.
  2. Problem/solution: similar to the walkthrough, but with more setup at the beginning. The thing is, your competitors probably define the problem in a very similar way. Again, very little room for discussing differentiated value or the market.
  3. Vision narrative: this is the "old way vs the new way" sales pitch. While the "old way" is easy to agree on, there may be multiple different "new" ways. How does the customer know which is the best new way? What's more, "visions" don't usually exist yet—let us know when you've built it, etc, and newness isn't always valuable. (Dunford is absolutely subtweeting Andy Raskin's "strategic narrative" here)
  4. Hero's journey: this is what we see in Building a Storybrand. It's engaging, but it doesn't focus on making a decision, or alternatives.

In short, none of them work that well. They also leave plenty of room for things to get disjointed between marketing and sales. How does the story flow through from one to the other?

Dunford gives an example of how things worked in an early job of hers at IBM:

"It always started with a discussion about IBM's point of view on the market. Reps would talk about what IBM perceived to be important considerations for companies looking at any solution in the market. They would then discuss how different approaches to providing a solution stacked up. Reps were doing discovery at this step, but also giving the customers a big picture of the entire market and teaching them how to make informed choices. The sales reps were skillfully positioning our product in the minds of customers, relative to the competition, and that was winning us deals." (Page 61)

The sales pitch structure

"The goal of a great sales pitch is to help customers understand all their choices, the trade-offs between each, and when to pick your solution." (Page 67)

There are two main parts to every good sales pitch:

  1. The setup: the market, your insight into it, and discovery
  2. The follow-through: your solution and its differentiated value

Overview of the setup

  1. Insight: into the market and what's really going on here
  2. Alternatives: a survey of other approaches and the wider market, informal discovery
  3. Perfect world: given above, describe the perfect solution

Overview of the follow-through

  1. Introduction: overview of product, company, and category
  2. Value: specifically differentiated value, usually as part of a demo.
  3. Proof: case studies, quotes, and statistics can all go here where relevant
  4. Objections (optional): price, adoption, integration
  5. The Ask: securing the next step in the process (if not disqualified)


Dunford includes an entire section on positioning here. In short, garbage in garbage out: good positioning means a solid sales pitch.

Solid positioning means you'll know your differentiated value already, and have a good foundation for knowing your insight and alternative approaches already.

For more detail on this, read my notes for her previous book Obviously Awesome.


There are multiple buyers in any buying process:

  • Economic buyer: owns the budget and has sign-off responsibility
  • Champion: often the person who has been tasked with the buying project/process. Makes recommendations and handles objections within the company.
  • End users: consulted on the deal, but can kill it. Important to keep them happy after the sale for the sake of recurring revenue.
  • IT: can kill a deal based on security and compliance factors, but so long as that's handled and the software isn't too cumbersome to implement, they're normally happy.
  • Legal and Purchasing: found at larger companies and appear in the later stages. Can, again, kill deals if you don't meet certain criteria that they might have.

Bottom line: sell to your champion.

Creating a sales pitch structure - the setup

Create the 8 parts to your pitch at a high level before diving into and making your deck. Gather a team around to make sure what you flesh out here is correct: sales, marketing, product, customer success, and the CEO/founders.

All of the different parts of the setup—for most—should be brief, single slides, with the conversation moving along swiftly.

1. Insight

Start with your main insight. This is different to a simple problem because it gives room for differentiation against competitors and allows for discovery. The insight should point toward/hint at your differentiated value. It needs to frame the conversation that will come after it.

"One way of thinking about your unique market insight is to ask this question: "What do your best-fit prospects need to know to understand why your unique value is important to them?"" (Page 112)

2. Alternatives

This is about alternative approaches, not competing companies. Alternatives can often look like Excel, doing things manually, getting an intern to do it, or nothing at all. It does not have to be a competing company. Nine times out of ten, though, it's best not to name competitors unless you are completely sure the prospect will have heard of them. Otherwise it risks sending them off to have a look.

The best thing is to group different types of competitors into different approaches. List the pros and cons of each. Objectivity is vital here; they'll smell any bullshit a mile off.

"You don't need to position against anything a customer does not currently consider. There is also a real danger associated with giving prospects new approaches to think about. They might feel they need to go back and research these newly introduced options, further delaying a purchase decision. Companies that orient their marketing and sales stories too closely around a future vision of the market are only giving buyers more reasons to do what they are most inclined to do-delay making any purchase at all." (Page 122)

3. The "perfect world"

This is the "and therefore..." step. Build on the previous two slides/sections by outlining the ideal software to solve for the insight, be better than the alternatives, and point towards your differentiated value.

"The purpose of this step in the sales pitch is to clearly state what you believe the purchase criteria should be for a solution, assuming the buyer is a best-fit customer and they agree with your point of view." (Page 135)

Creating a sales pitch structure - the follow-through

4. The introduction

Introduce the company, your product, and the category you're in. This is where you'll typically have one of three slides:

  • Family of products (for larger companies)
  • Platform (including different "components", and different packages available)
  • Marketecture (the ecosystem that the product fits into and how it interfaces with others)

5. Differentiated value

Some features are different but don't deliver value. Some deliver value but aren't different. Here, we focus on the features that are both different and deliver value. It must have both! There are three ways to do this:

  1. Demo + slides: show the features with your demo but make sure it's the value they remember afterwards by using your slides
  2. Demo only: this is should NOT be a walkthrough but should focus only on the values you have. If you’ve got only three, focus only on highlighting those.
  3. Slides only: usually for more complex enterprise-scale software where a demo wouldn't actually demonstrate much.

6. Proof

This is where you can pull out the case studies, quotes/testimonials, and statistics. They need to highlight your differentiated value and, ideally, be similar to the company/client on the other side of the sales call.

7. Objections (optional)

"Imagine your customer has arrived at this step in the meeting and likes what you say. They agree with your view of the market, are excited by the value you could bring to their company, and believe you can do what you say you can but they are still skeptical. I recommend you simply address the specific concerns head-on, even if the prospect hasn't raised them." (Page 169)

8. The Ask

What happens next? For a customer who's a good fit, this is where you need to commit them to the next action. It could be planning for a proof of concept, a wider more customised demo to a larger team, or getting NDAs signed and security reviews completed.

Testing and launching the pitch

Test the pitch with a small number of reps and a limited number of calls. Review those calls afterward and iterate and refine the pitch within reason. You'll know it's ready to roll out when:

  1. The rep doesn't want to make any more changes, AND
  2. They want to use it instead of their old deck
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