ben-franklin-close“Draw a line down the center of the paper,” said Mr. Brown.

We were on the third hour of back and forth and Brown wasn’t ready to let go without pulling out all the stops.

“Now on the left side of the paper, write ‘Reasons For,’ and on the right side, write the word ‘Reasons Against,’” Brown said. This was the first time I had ever been sold anything in a one-on-one situation. But even I knew the “Ben Franklin” close.

I’ve seen a lot of pitches since then. It’s surprising how many make the same mistakes—especially because they’re so easily avoided.

We’ve all had bad days, or even found ourselves in a rut. So, do a quick self check on these common “salesy” pitch habits:

You’re way too eager.

Slow down, Sparky. We appreciate your enthusiasm, but we can’t understand what you’re talking about, no matter how wide you open your eyes or how broad make your gestures.


When you give your pitch, you’re going to get a shot of adrenaline. And that jolt can be your friend or your worst enemy.

Stay calm. You need to be enthusiastic about your business, but you also need to make good decisions (and stay coherent) during your pitch. A few deep breaths before your next pitch may do the trick. But if you’re really amped up, you may want to try a quick meditation.

Yes, meditation.

Even if you have only 2 minutes. Research has shown that you communicate better and make better decisions when you’re calm.  And meditation has been proven to decrease stress and maintain a calm, confident mindset.

You sound like a robot.

Have you ever had someone impress you with their industry vocabulary or clever sales phrases?

Yeah, me neither.

When you really know your industry and product, it’s easy to get carried away. But using big words or jargon makes it difficult to make a genuine connection.

At the same time, clichés and overused phrases are an easy (and did I mention, ineffective?) fallback strategy. Unless you’re making a joke, don’t ever use any of the following:

  • pitch-mistakes-on-stage“We’re world class…” << It’s great that your product is world-class. Instead of claiming this, tell your audience who said you’re “world class” or why they should believe this.
  • “This is cutting-edge.” << Oh snap! Cutting edge, you say? This idiom couldn’t be more ironic. If you actually utter the words “cutting edge,” you’re not cutting edge. Think of something original to say in a way that makes sense for your product.
  • “Can I be honest for a second?” << If you want to build rapport with your audience (hint: you do), you should just go ahead and be honest all the time.
  • “I will offer this only to you on a discount.” << Don’t resort to these kinds of “sales tactics.” They make you seem cheap and disingenuous, and they rarely work.
  • “It’s a paradigm shift.” << No. Just no. Please don’t say this.
  • “Value-added” or “Added-value” << How do you add value? Why does this matter? Talk about the benefit or the pain point you’re solving and you’ll hook the audience’s attention.

I could go on, but you get the point. Bottom line: People do business with people. Pitch accordingly.

startup pitch mistakes

You forget the “ask.”

You’ve hooked the audience’s attention. You built intrigue and demonstrated the value of your business. Now bring us home.

I’m sure you’ve done research on your audience (right?), so craft a concise, actionable ask for the end of your pitch. When you deliver your specific request—this could be a sale, funding, a referral, etc.—remind your audience why they will benefit.

pitch mistakes - when to stopThen, shut up.

If you keep talking, you’ll lose your audience. So, give your audience the opportunity to help you.

If you’re using slides, leave your contact information presented for all to see. If you’re presenting to a large audience, keep yourself extremely visible to the room and open to starting new conversations. Book a specific next step and make sure you have a way to contact your new friend (grab their business card).

Hopefully, I gave you some “Reasons Against” being too eager or robotic during your pitches. And when you nail your “Reasons For” during the ask of your next pitch, there is one thing of which I’m certain…

Ben Franklin would be proud.

Did you find these suggestions helpful? Learn what investors have to say about pitching mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching for Seed Funding.