The perfect sales pitch from Aristotle

Timo Sorri

Blog / The perfect sales pitch from Aristotle

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist once defined the elements of a good speech. As time progressed, these same elements came to inspire guides and handbooks on sales work, marketing and presentation skills that in turn offer tips and advice on how to build an effective speech or presentation today.

Structure of a good speech

Aristotle’s pattern of speech perfectly applies to sales presentations today because it gives us an esteemed standard from which we can analyse if a presentation was a success or failure. According to Aristotle’s definition, a good and persuasive speech consists of the following elements:


Virtuous character and credibility


Logical content, reasoning and arguments


Emotion and mental state

Which of the three elements is dominant?

Take the country of Finland for example. It can be unanimously said that we Finns have seen our fair share of dry and fact-filled presentations and speeches that mostly just put us to sleep. So we definitely don’t lack logos. Meaning logos can be logically ruled out as being the dominant element.

So could pathos, which affects the emotions and the mental state of the audience, be the most important element? Think about the motivational speakers you have seen in business seminars – their speeches are packed with emotional stories. A week after the event, no-one can remember what the speech was really about but everyone remembers the emotional roller-coaster of tears and laughter.

Nonetheless, pathos also is subordinate to the most important element.

Persuasion guru Jay Heinrichs says that the most significant of the three elements is ethos, meaning the virtuous character and credibility of the speaker in the eyes of the audience. Especially when considering sales encounters, he is spot on.

Whether you are speaking to a conference room full of seminar guests or a single customer in a meeting room, you have to be able to answer these questions for them:

  • Is this person a believable speaker?
  • Does this person want good things for me?

“In short – sell yourself before you sell anything else”

What can you do to enhance credibility?

When giving a sales presentation, why should the speaker establish credibility or trust? You already got a sales meeting. Doesn’t that mean that credibility and trust have already been established? And shouldn’t that be a job for the company brand, marketing and communications? Humans buy from humans. That is why you need to work to establish your own ethos.

With these three tips you can increase your ethos:

1. Show that you care

Show your customers that their interest is your priority. Do your homework well and be an active listener during the meeting. Adapt your sales presentation based on what you have learned about your customer before or during the meeting.

2. Demonstrate your knowledge

When making a sale, show your customers that you have knowledge and understanding of their business and that you can put that knowledge into practice. Choose the references based on what the customer has told you. When presenting the references, highlight the benefits that you believe the customer is seeking.

3. Speak of motivations more important than money

Tell the customer the higher motivation behind your actions. Emphasise the fact that you and your customer can gain more significant meaning and value than mere financial profit. Surprise your customers by letting them know just how important their success is to you.

“In order to be able to listen to the speaker, the audience needs to know the speaker, like the speaker, and trust the speaker”

Your ethos is affected by everything you do or don’t do

Often, ideas and advice we receive today suggest that you should place your knowledge and expertise at the customer’s disposal, and often free of charge. How can that contribute to sales work, where the primary objective is to get money from the customers?

Let’s go back to the basic definition of ethos, i.e. the credibility and virtue of the speaker. In order to be able to listen to the speaker, the audience needs to know the speaker, like the speaker, and trust the speaker.

Now, instead of giving away free knowledge and expertise, begin your meeting by giving away something that will hook your customer on and have them genuinly wanting more. Show them Ethos. Give them a reason to trust you, like you and know you. The most valulable thing you can give away free is to show that you care.

What’s stopping you from building your own virtue and credibility prior to customer encounters?

Here are some tips to begin demonstrating your Ethos:

1. Recognise the solution or customer segment that you are particularly interested in and enthusiastic about.

2. Collect information about where the future development of the solution or customer segment is heading and what the latest trends are.

3. Actively share information and knowledge with your networks.

Showell will boost your credibility

Showells’ tools can help you adopt the practices of a virtuous speaker in your sales encounters. A strong ethos will compensate for your slightly poorer arguments. A weak ethos will make the audience doubt the words of the speaker, no matter how brilliantly the thoughts are phrased.

Timo Sorri

Timo Sorri

Founder and CEO of Havain Oy

Timo Sorri is the founder and CEO of Havain Oyspecialized in effective digital sales presentations. Havain brings power to the digital sales market and sales meetings services. Havain organizes yearly the popular event, Master the Art of PresentingTimo is a certified civil engineer and has been a passionate believer in sales and marketing ever since 2008.