The following is a guest post by Inside Sales trainer, Danna Zakai.

Sales is such a rich and exciting profession these days, especially in the world of startups where sophisticated products require sales people to educate their clients and provide them with special attention. There are many layers to the sales process, starting with research and qualification of a prospect, and leading (hopefully) to the all-important sales pitch.

The sales pitch is essentially an explanation of what your company does, who you are, what you do, why you do it, and why your audience needs you. In other words, it’s an opportunity to sell not only your company, but also yourself, and it’s often the only opportunity you get as a salesperson, which is why making a great first impression is so crucial. In fact, it can potentially ‘make or break’ both the sale and the relationship, so you absolutely must make the most of it by making sure you have an amazing sales pitch.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re actually all pitching ourselves all the time, whether it’s at a job interview, a social gathering or a date. So in a way, we’re all sales people even in our everyday lives, because by presenting ourselves and what we do in a certain way, we’re hoping to convince the people we meet to ‘buy’ the impression we’re hoping to make.

In business, there are several types of pitches used for a variety of purposes; for investors, tradeshows, cold calling, etc. so it’s a good idea for people who represent their company to always have a polished, short (around 60 seconds) and clear Elevator Pitch designed to ‘wow’ their audience and leave them intrigued, and in the case of sales pitches in particular – also wanting more (as soon as possible).

Here are 6 elements to consider when crafting your sales pitch:

1. The one-liner description (or tagline)
Although you probably know enough about your company and product to ramble on about it for hours, you need to be able to convey the gist of it in no more than a sentence (or two, max). This one-liner summary should describe what you do as simply as possible, to help your audience understand instantly which “box” your business falls into and establish the relevance of your offering.

If you don’t start off with a clear one-liner definition of exactly what you’re offering, there’s a strong chance that by the time you’re well into delivering your pitch, your potential customer will still be trying to figure out what it is that you do.

2. What problem are you solving?
A sale is a solution to a problem, an answer to a need. Your audience must understand (or be reminded) of the problem – their problem – the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Once you present this need in a way that piques their interest, you will have captured their attention. Just be mindful that you should present this need ‘gently’, since we don’t always like to be reminded of our problems.

3. What solution are you offering?
The initial sales pitch is not the ideal time to list all of the product features in detail and outline the full process of “how it works”. The best way to explain what we do is through the VALUE we offer. How will our solution lead to a favorable end result? What is our potential customer going to achieve by using our services and what is their personal and company gain?

Obviously the entire pitch should be delivered with clarity and the right intonation, but this part of the pitch must also be delivered with undeniable passion, so if you need some help finding that passion, just remind yourself why your solution was created in the first place, why your company was founded and what is so great about its vision.

4. Why should they choose you?
Whether or not you think you have competitors, the fact is that you always have competitors, even if they’re not ‘direct competitors’. Obviously it’s important to be highly knowledgeable about your market and know who your main competitors are, but you don’t want – nor do you have the time – to push this point too much in your pitch, because the idea is to keep your potential customers focused on YOU. Help them favor you over your competitors by telling them what is unique about your solution, your company, and your service, and reinforce the value of these unique qualities.

5. Create urgency.
You have already outlines the ‘problem’ earlier in your pitch, so now you have to stress the benefits of solving that problem as soon as possible. Your audience needs to understand why they should start using your service right away and what they’d be missing by not using it right away. If you don’t stress the urgency, you may risk creating the impression that your solution is a “nice to have”, but not absolutely necessary. Creating urgency helps to establish your product or service as a must-have solution, not a ‘nice to have’.

6. Know the goal of your pitch before you start
As a sales person, you need to know what you’re hoping to achieve with your pitch before you even start. Are you hoping to make a sale? Secure a meeting? An order? A phone call? A demo? A lead for yourself or for your sales team? If your goal is clear from the start, you will be in a much better position to steer the pitch in a way that will deliver the result you want.

The sales process doesn’t end when your pitch does. Here are 4 more bonus tips:

1. Once you have crafted your sales pitch, it’s a good idea to get some kind of feedback on it from someone you can count on to give you an honest opinion, and who is qualified to challenge your pitch if necessary. You never know what questions people may throw at you, so don’t be afraid to get this type of feedback; on the contrary! Make a point of finding a few willing subjects to practice it on, and allow them to point out any weaknesses in your pitch so that you can iron them out before delivering it to actual potential customers.

2. A pitch isn’t only relevant to professional salespeople (and baseball players ;), because every single one of us can potentially be a lead source. So if you’ve read this far into the post and you’re NOT actually a professional salesperson, then first of all – thank you! And secondly, just imagine the love you’d receive from the sales team at your company if you sent a promising lead their way every now and then, by mastering some (or all) of the pitch elements I mentioned above.

3. It might be worth your while to teach your sales pitch to colleagues from other departments. Selling might not come as naturally to them as it does to you, but at least they will be better able to secure some leads for you. Your company will surely benefit from any employee who can converse passionately about the value of your solution.

4. Make sure that you make the pitch “your own”, so you can deliver it “your” way, as naturally and smoothly as possible. The last thing you want is to sound like a machine, programmed to deliver a scripted message, impersonal and detached from the person you’re speaking to (or from the solution itself!).

5. This next one’s a biggie:

Whether you’re delivering your pitch face-to-face or on the phone, your audience must feel your enthusiasm and passion for the product and your company, and it will be easier for them to believe your pitch if they can tell that YOU believe in what you’re selling.

And always remember – no matter what you’re selling, you’re a human selling to another human, so let your personality be a part of your pitch.

Happy pitching!

More posts by Danna Zakai:
8 Tips that ANYONE can use to boost their Salesmanship
How to hire a Sales shark for your startup
Why TRUST is the ultimate key to making a sale (plus 9 tips on how to create and maintain it)
Why Salespeople MUST understand prospective clients (and how to structure a winning Sales call)