How to Write an Academy Award-Winning Sales Pitch

Did you know the key to structuring a movie was “starting a scene as late as possible”?

It’s true. At least according to William Goldman,  Academy Award-winning screenwriter (All the President’s Men).

Meaning, when the movie director yells “action,” something should be happening, not about to happen.

“You don’t want to begin with ‘Once Upon a Time…’ because the audience gets antsy.”

Moviegoers aren’t the only ones who get antsy. Concertgoers often skip the opening band. Readers will abandon a book after the first page if it’s slow.

Prospects and leads are the same way. Which makes it strange that so many sales pitches open with a BORING monologue about a product’s fine details, the company’s mission, or their history.

A winning sales pitch moves quickly

Many of the books we now consider “classic,” understood the importance of grabbing attention immediately. Consider the following:

  • Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Mother died today. —Albert Camus, The Stranger
  • Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Could you stop reading after an opening like that? I couldn’t. I had to find out what happened to Joseph K. I had to know who Mrs. Dalloway was talking to and why she buying flowers.

Today’s popular authors still use the first line to hook readers:

  • The senior partner studied the resume for the hundredth time and again found nothing he disliked about Mitchell Y. McDeere, at least not on paper. –John Grisham, The Firm
  • Emily Jansen sighed in relief. –Michael Crichton, AirFrame
  • Foley had never seen a prison where you could walk right up to the fence without getting shot. –Elmore Leonard, Out of Sight

So why would it be any different with a sales pitch? The truth is, it’s not.

A winning sales pitch grabs attention

bored prospectYou cannot sell anything — simple or complex — without attention. Or as David Ogilvy said, you can’t bore someone into buying.

Mind you, grabbing attention is not exactly a trade secret. It’s marketing 101 (although not necessarily easy).

Why do companies forget attention (the first letter in the AIDA formula)?

Three reasons come to mind: legal, ego, and ignorance. Note: the examples are all real, taken directly from each (unnamed) company’s landing page.

  • Legal — Company lawyers have marketing directors running scared. They warn that any flashy, abnormal, or stunning marketing claim might awaken the scary FTC. So, to preempt that threat, the marketing team tones it down. Way down. They wax eloquently about patents, process, and research. The one or two things prospects CARE about? Buried in legalese. is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice. The information provided through our site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider. The authors, editors, producers, sponsors, and contributors shall have no liability, obligation or responsibility to any person or entity for any loss, damage, or adverse consequences alleged to have happened directly or indirectly as a consequence of material on this site. If you believe you have a medical emergency, you should immediately call 911.

  • Ego — The product’s creators are so proud… so pleased… so awed by their work that that they can’t hold back. They blurt it out immediately. Problem is, what they LOVE often means NOTHING to the prospect. Self-praise in advertising is tricky. It can work but not in the hands of an amateur. It’s just too easy to come off as pompous, clueless, and pretentious.

We’re here to make you feel at home, safe and cared for. We work with your specific needs and wants in mind. From meals to medication management, every accommodation will be made to ensure your happiness. XYZ is one of the country’s leaders in senior living, with 30 communities in three states. We are a team of innovative, forward-thinking caregivers, dedicated to giving our residents the highest quality of care and service—and to ensuring their happiness.

  • Ignorance — The marketing team — if one exists — hasn’t done enough testing to know what resonates with their prospects. The copy that you see, hear, or watch is there because it’s… the best of the worst.

“We are XYZ Experts – We are proud to be serving the Tri-City area (Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco) with the best heating and cooling services. We can do it all from repairs, maintenance, to new installations.”

So what should be the first thing you talk about with a prospect? Is there some word sequence that works across all industries, at all times?

No, there’s not, unfortunately. Your first words or video scene will depend on who your prospect is and what you’re selling. But whatever you say, it has to move quickly without sounding rushed.

A winning sales pitch starts late

Announce your main benefit. Don’t explain it all in one sentence. Use the opening as a hook and circle back to the beginning, to flesh it out as needed.

Remember, the longer your copy or video, the more often you’ll have to repeat your main point. That’s OK. People learn by repetition.

Actually, they like to be reminded, if the main benefit is unpacked, like a good story.

Speaking of stories, today’s Hollywood produces very few of them. I guess the wisdom from old, Oscar-winning directors isn’t taken very seriously.

This post was first published on Business2Community.

Photo credit: artur84,

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