If you’re in business for yourself, you know how important it is to be able to effectively pitch your products and services. You’ve heard that you need to have a tight elevator speech, right? You probably know that you need to have different versions that you can deliver, depending on the client and the circumstances. BUT what many people don’t realize is that when you pitch a company, you’re not just pitching the people in that room.

My Pitching Mindset

I’ve always remembered a particular Head & Shoulders commercial from when I was a kid. It’s the one where the screen keeps filling up with more and more people’s faces. At the end, the voiceover artist says, “And they’ll tell two friends. And they’ll tell two friends.”

I remember this whenever I’m pitching companies. I think, “Even if I don’t get this contract, perhaps they’ll tell their colleagues about me. Or maybe they’ll keep me in mind the next time a project comes up.” Either way, I know that I’m not just pitching the people in that room. In a very real way, I’m pitching everyone they know. 


A recent experience reminded me of this lesson. Two companies pitched their services to a board on which I serve. The first company’s presentation was scattered, at best. The presenters were “creative” types, who do great work, but their laptop wasn’t compatible with our projector system; we waited 15 minutes for them to troubleshoot with one of our laptops. It was clear that they didn’t have a game plan for this presentation. They were just “winging it.” And while they ad-libbed well about their work and their creative process, they didn’t field questions very well.

The second company was more organized, but they delivered a “canned” presentation. It was clearly their “fill in the blank” presentation with a couple of minor tweaks. Three out of the four people presenting were reading off of the slides. Two of them never made eye contact with anyone in the room. One person – a founder of the company – was “phoning” it in. He looked like he’d much rather be somewhere else. To add insult to injury, he got the name of the organization wrong, even though it was written on the slide he was reading. (No, he didn’t correct himself.)

When the presentations were over I thought, “Even if you didn’t really want this group’s business, wouldn’t you have put forth more effort?” Every person on that board knows people. They will all tell their friends and colleagues about these companies and their lack of preparation and effort.

In contrast, had they delivered good presentations, both companies would have earned a ton of goodwill and possible referrals. Instead, they both did a lackluster job. And I can assure you that I’ve already told two friends, who will tell two friends… and so on and so on.


1. Go in with the right mindset. Say it with me in your best Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire “Show Me The Money” voice!I want this business. I realize that I may not walk out of here with a contract today, but I am going to give this my full attention.” If you aren’t prepared to give 100%, then you shouldn’t be pitching. You never know what might come from this meeting. Kill it and make them want you. 

2. Set yourself up for success. If you’re presenting slides, find out whether your laptop is compatible with their projector. If you’re using a MacBook Pro or an iPad, you’re really going to want to go the extra mile to test out the system ahead of time. If you can’t, be prepared with copies of your presentation. If all else fails, impress them with your ability to tap dance and make them think nothing is wrong. 

3. Do your homework! Research that company before you pitch them. Figure out what they need and how you can help them achieve their goals. Don’t forget to research any business relationships/partnerships that may be relevant to your pitch. After all of this preparation, you should be able to field any questions that they throw at you.

So, the next time you think about dismissing a less-than-exciting RFP because it might not be worth your time, remember that proposal may lead to a pitch and that pitch may lead to bigger and better things because your audience is larger than just the people sitting in front of you.

Have you had an experience like this? Have you been on the receiving end of a bad presentation or been referred as a result of a great one? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.