Elevator Pitch

How to Write an Elevator Pitch that will Blast You Past the Competition

Lauren Bonk

How to Write an Elevator Pitch…

It’s a classic scenario: you, a refreshingly savvy and knowledgeable small business owner, find yourself in an elevator with an influential higher-up or potential business connection.Try, “After a brief, friendly introduction with a complete stranger in such a tight space, that inevitable and all-too-familiar question comes your way”

“What do you do?”

It’s alright if your palms get a little sweaty; this is an urgent situation!

Regardless of whether this person is in a business suit or a Pac-man T-Shirt, you’ve got less than a minute to persuasively explain the heart of your business before the doors open and this opportunity gets off at the 12th floor.

Who knows what kind of jobs you could be missing out on, simply because you weren’t prepared to highlight your abilities?

Since many entrepreneurs don’t think of this scenario until after they push the “door close” button, learning how to write an elevator pitch is a fantastic way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Start with Them

Let’s be realistic here. The two of you are stuck in a box where the air is stale and the dominant sound is either your breathing or some late-80s light rock. You’re about to pitch yourself to the only other person in the room… you’ve got to give them a reason to listen.

When you sit down to write your pitch, start by thinking about what kind of problems your business or product solves.

Let’s say, for the sake of a few elevator pitch examples, it’s the year 2056 and you’re in the jet-pack business. At this point, personal jet-packs have been available for a while, but you’ve been busy making improvements. Start with a relatable (but relevant to your business) segue into the pitch.

“You could say I’m in the ‘protection’ business, actually. Have you ever tried packing a jet-pack in your luggage without getting fuel all over your favorite pants?”

“My new product, JetSkin, streamlines the way we travel with jet-packs. Don’t you hate how bulky those protective cases are? Not to mention how much they cost?”

Identify a common need in your new acquaintance and show that you care about that need, too. When a person feels understood, there’s a better chance that they’ll want to understand you.

Speaking of you

This is your time to really sell it… without sounding like you’re selling something. Yes, being persuasive is one of the goals of an elevator pitch, but connecting with your fellow elevator resident is a big one, too. Very few people are interested in having a sales pitch thrown at them, and even fewer want that to happen when they’re short on time.

Be specific as you tell them how you can solve that common problem, but remember to stay relatable. You can’t bank on the hope that they’ll understand all of your industry jargon, so you’re better off sticking to the facts.

“My team and I have created a skin that protects your jet-pack and your belongings when traveling, so you can easily put it in your luggage or back-pack and blast out the door. When you’re not using it, it rolls into a nice, sleek cylinder.”

If you’ve got any information or testimonials on performance, adding them to the pitch (as naturally as possible) can provide a nice (and convincing) touch.

“The prototypes have gone over really well with our investors, and I’m excited to move into the
production phase.”

Where do you go from here?

If you don’t finish your pitch with some kind of call to action, you’ll have put a lot of effort into an elevator ride’s-worth of fruitless small talk. You’ve got to give this potential business connection something to work with, other than a nice little description of your newest venture. What exactly do you want out of this pitch?

When you’re adding a call to action to your elevator pitch, you’ve got to keep in mind who you’re talking to, and how they’re feeling about the conversation, so that you can help them help you.

This is why a hard-and-fast elevator pitch template isn’t usually ideal… it eliminates the human element. Taking a moment to assess the other human in this interaction will help make it a memorable interaction for your potential client…

Who are you talking to?

A talented young PR graduate probably won’t be able to financially back your endeavors, but she might be interested in joining your marketing team. Similarly, the CEO of the city’s largest jet-pack manufacturing company might not care at all about social media or branding, but may be deeply interested in debuting a hot new accessory that no one else currently produces.

How are they feeling about the conversation?

The lucky part about this whole interaction is that, at a very basic level, it is simply a conversation. Use your conversational judgement to help determine the tone of your call to action. Do they seem interested? Bored? Ready to throw a handful of cash at you? Usually, if the person is smiling, nodding, or asking you questions, it’s a good indicator that they’re interested in what you have to say. Now would be a great time to go for the gold:

“I think JetSkin would give you an edge that your competitors won’t see coming. Would it be possible to talk about this at a more convenient time… in some place other than an elevator?”

What if they clearly aren’t interested in your pitch?

This can be a little soul-crushing, but is always a possibility. Even if you find yourself in this situation, don’t let your hard work go to waste. Look at it as an opportunity to leave an impression and give this person a way to contact you, should you ever become relevant to their needs.

“Ah, looks like your floor. Thanks for listening, and here’s my card if you ever want to chat about JetSkin and jet-pack protection, or know someone who does.”

It may not be ideal, but it’s better than standing awkwardly for the remaining seven seconds of that elevator ride. An awkward encounter may be memorable, but not in a way that’s favorable for you.

Write, practice, perfect.

Preparing an elevator pitch could be the difference between another low-paying Craigslist gig and the $20,000 project that will change the course of your entire career.

Just write. Sit down for 30 minutes and write yourself an elevator pitch. It probably won’t be perfect the first time, but after less than an hour of writing, you’ll have already soared miles above your competitors. Take as many opportunities as you can to practice your pitch, whether it’s in the mirror or to your pet fish, or to an imaginary audience the next time you’re in the elevator alone- so that you feel comfortable enough to customize it to any potential situation.

The opportunity to use your pitch can show up at the most unexpected times, like when you’re at a conference or even the checkout line at the grocery store. So, what will you do? Write a pitch “later” and wait for the elevator… or write it now and buy a shiny new jet-pack that blasts you past the competition?

When you’re finished reading this article, grab a pen or your laptop and give it a shot. Not tomorrow… not when you can fit it into your schedule next week. Now.

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