Whether you’re starting a business or getting into sales, an elevator pitch is a must. You give this pitch when you meet prospects at any networking event, in passing or at meetings. Elevator pitches are also commonly used among people who are looking for a job. [Related: Networking Sites for Job Seekers]
An elevator pitch is a sales pitch that is typically 30 seconds long. Legend has it that it originated in Hollywood, where screenwriters would use an elevator ride to suggest stories to film executives.
Screenwriters, sales executives and others have limited time to get their unique selling proposition across, so a well-crafted and tested elevator pitch is critical.
There are three elements in a situation where a prepared elevator pitch is important:
In general, you can use an elevator pitch anytime someone asks you, “What do you do?” or “What does your company do?” It is a succinct and compelling summary that both answers the question and ideally intrigues the asker enough for them to ask more or to take some desired action.
Before you set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you should do your research. You need a full understanding of what you’re selling, who your company is and what you have to offer.
One thing that will set you apart from your competition is your knowledge. Study your products and services like you would review vocabulary for a school quiz.
It’s easy to say, “We’re a gardening company, and we sell pots and plants,” but so do all the other gardening companies. Before crafting your elevator pitch, dig into the details of your products and services. Consider what is unique about your product and what sets your business apart from the competition. Perhaps, for instance, you sell rare heirloom plants and handmade pots from local artists. It is these details that will make your prospects want to know more about your business.
As part of knowing your products and services, you should understand the problems they solve and your prospects’ pain points. The better you know your products and services and your target audience, the more confident you’ll be when giving your elevator pitch and answering follow-up questions. If you’ll be presenting to different types of audiences, you’ll want to customize your elevator pitches accordingly.
What you need to do is develop buyer personas – representations of your perfect customers – from market research. Once you’ve established your buyer personas, tailor your elevator pitch to address the pain points and needs of the buyer type you are discussing.
For example, when talking to a middle-income prospect about solar panels, you might say, “Our product can virtually eliminate your electricity bills,” while an elevator pitch to an engineer might be, “Our systems are made using the latest solar cell technology for the highest efficiency,” and an elevator pitch for someone interested in saving the planet could be, “We help you reduce your carbon footprint and create clean, sustainable energy for your family.”
There are many ways to conduct market research, but the easiest methods are interviews with your current customers and surveys of groups who meet certain criteria for your target audience. [Read related article: 6 Interview Skills That Will Get You Hired ]
Most businesses have a lot of moving parts, but there’s no time to tell a long story in an elevator pitch. Instead, pull out the key points of your business and top-selling offerings to engage your audience. Think about the big picture, and instead of just listing product benefits, show value. Consider the following.
Is your product unique and interesting because it is …
Is your company unique and credible because it …
Does your service …
The purpose of the elevator pitch is to motivate the listener to take some action. What that is depends on the role of the person you are pitching.
If the listener is a potential customer, you may want them to …
If the listener is a current customer, you may want them to …
If the listener is a potential mentor or employer, you may want them to …
Every good elevator pitch should be built on a standard foundation of these elements:
Use social proof to urge your listener to join the crowd by mentioning your company’s popularity, number of social media followers, awards or other recognition.
While elevator pitches can range from 20 to 60 seconds, 30 seconds is the goal. Before giving your pitch, present it to friends, family, and co-workers, and ask them to time it for you.
Practice your elevator pitch in the mirror. It may feel silly at first, but it can help you with facial expressions, timing and confidence.
Knowing that you don’t have a lot of time to give this pitch, you may be tempted to say it fast to get more content in. However, talking too fast is a big no-no when delivering an elevator pitch. If you speak too quickly, it can be difficult for your audience to understand what you’re saying.
4. Be conversational.
It’s also important to be conversational. A good salesperson never sounds like they’re selling something, but as if they’re having a conversation with good friends. The elevator pitch should be your tool for starting a more in-depth discussion.
People want to do business with people they like. When you deliver your elevator pitch, it’s important to smile and let your personality shine through. Your message should come across in a way that shows you’re passionate about what you’re selling and that you’re a trusted source.
As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Your elevator pitch may not lead to an extended conversation the first time or even the fourth time you give it. If you find that it’s not working, tweak it and continue to test it over and over again.
We asked several professionals to share their successful elevator pitches with us to give you some ideas.
“My name’s Mark Armstrong. I’m an illustrator. I do business as Mark Armstrong Illustration. Clever name, right? I help brands get noticed and connect with people. I specialize in humor, which helps humanize a brand and makes it easier to relate to. Humor also gets people to drop their shields long enough to hear what you have to say. I also illustrate books and do editorial work for magazines. Mark Armstrong Illustration, at your service! I’d love to send you a link to my portfolio. Do you have a business card?”
What makes it a good pitch: It’s clear and to the point, adding a bit of curiosity with the question he asked along with humor.
“I’m Megan Moran, and I’m a wardrobe stylist for busy businesswomen. I help them take the stress out of getting dressed by cleaning out their closets, mixing and matching what they own, and shopping for what they need, ultimately saving them time, easing frustration, and leaving them feeling confident in their clothes. You can find out more and make an appointment at CEOStyle.com.”
What makes it a good pitch: It clearly and concisely explains whom she helps, how she helps them and the results they get.
“Hi, my name is Jessi. It’s nice to meet you! I’m a speaker and personal development coach, specializing in helping my clients break free from expectations and discover their passions and purpose. Through my past struggles with mental health and familial expectations, I discovered key, actionable strategies that helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, craft a powerful motivational statement, and create an attention-focusing tool that immunized me from distractions. I also found that many of my peers were struggling with the same thing, so my mission is to help them navigate those issues and eventually live a life that’s passionate, purposeful and authentic. I love meeting other individuals with similar passions and missions. Follow me on Instagram so we can keep in touch!”
What makes it a good pitch: Along with following the foundation for writing a pitch, she includes a personal connection to the other person (“it’s nice to meet you”) and a sentence about what she does.
“The fact that you’re looking should be clearly stated without embarrassment,” Armstrong said. “New graduates should mention a project or study they were part of, either in school or during an internship. Older job seekers should state their specialty, then put it in context by mentioning a specific achievement at a particular company.”
Example: “I’m Jonathan Mendoza. I am originally from Alabama but recently moved to New York City, as it has always been my dream to live and work here. I graduated in December 2018 from the University of Montevallo, located in Alabama, with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies and a minor in public relations. With experience in content creation, I was lucky enough to quickly land a position as a content marketing specialist at Fueled, a technology consultancy, where I write copy for landing pages, create and publish blog content, and manage social media. I am seeking opportunities in the digital marketing industry. I would love to hear more about your company.”
“Interviewers are looking for candidates to be direct and to the point,” said Tom McGee, vice president and general manager of executive recruiting firm Lucas Group. “Candidates should have the knowledge of what the interviewer is looking for based on their recruiter or from the job description they were given or saw online. It is essential for candidates to point out examples of the work they have done that match what the client is looking for.
“Where candidates go wrong in an interview is answering the question and then continuing to talk, instead of stopping and waiting for the next question. You have to be concise and stay on message. Just talking for the sake of talking won’t help you. The key for a candidate is to point out how they have made their recent company money or saved them money.”
Example: The company is looking for a vice president of sales who has grown a sales team from 10 to 50 and increased revenue by 100%.
Elevator pitch: “My name is Joe Smith, and I was informed you were looking for a VP of sales. I recently left a VP position after the private equity partners sold the company. I was brought in to grow the sales team from 10 to 55 within two years, and I increased revenue by 150% over that time. Given my experience and proven track record of success in this field, I would love to meet and discuss this position.”
Dominic Lawson, co-founder of Owls LLC and host of the podcast “The Startup Life,” says the No. 1 thing to remember when giving a pitch as a job seeker is to be confident.
“Potential employers want to know that you are able to rise to the challenge and effectively do the job,” he said. “Also, remember that no one has the script to your pitch, so if you mess up a few words, the receiver of the pitch will never know it. Keep going. Research the company if you can, and add some of their words and phrases so they know you have bought into their culture and want to be an asset within it. Most importantly, be clear about what you want. You definitely do not want to appear all over the place.”
Jennifer Dublino contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.