Crafting a Winning Elevator Pitch

By Martin Livingston of Breakthrough Communications

When I’m media training an executive, the first questions I ask are fairly straightforward: “What do you do for a living?” or “Tell me about your company and what it does?”

I’m always surprised when I get a long winded, convoluted answer when what I’m really looking for is a concise, focused elevator pitch.

A good elevator pitch shouldn’t be limited to media encounters. A networking situation can happen anytime, anywhere and with anyone. No matter what industry you’re working in or what position you hold in a company, you should be able to deliver a compelling, thought-provoking elevator pitch to promote yourself and your company.

An elevator pitch is a concise, easy-to-understand description of what you do and why someone should work with you. It’s so named because you should be able to make your pitch in the 30 to 60 seconds it would typically would take for an elevator ride.

Sounds simple, but most elevator pitches are too long, miss the mark or focus on products and services rather than business benefits.

An effective elevator pitch should immediately grab your listener’s attention and draw them in so they’re eager to hear more about you and your company. It’s not a blatant sales pitch. Rather, it’s a carefully crafted high-level introduction that can be used as a preface to a formal business presentation or for any spontaneous encounters to open doors.

Following are six tips for developing a winning elevator pitch:

Size up your audience. Tailor your pitch to your audience. Your approach when talking to a prospective client or business partner should be very different than when you’re talking to a prospective employee.

Keep it short. Be succinct. The average adult’s attention span is about 8 seconds. Grab your listeners’ attention at the outset so that after hearing a sentence or two, they’ll know what you do, how you can help them and want to hear more. Your overall pitch should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds.

Have an appealing hook. Far too many elevator pitches in the high tech sector run along the lines of “We’re a solutions provider operating in the enterprise space,” which means absolutely nothing to the majority of the population. A good elevator pitch should be easy to understand, containing words or phrases that appeals to a listener’s interest. The objective of the first ten to 15 seconds is to have the listener want to listen to the next 45 to 50 seconds more intently. To achieve this, you have to stand in the listener’s shoes by answering the question: “What’s in it for me?” Nobody really cares about your products and services. What they care about is how you can help them save time, money, improve efficiencies or help build their business. Focus on the benefits you can provide rather than features that will appeal to your audience.

Identify your competitive advantage. To be memorable, you have to stand out by differentiating yourself from your competitors. You need to effectively communicate how your company is different, specifying what you do better than everyone else that is what gives you an advantage over the competition. Is it proprietary technology? A better distribution channel? Key partners? Ask yourself: What attracts customers to my company? What do we really excel at and how do we provide added value to our clients? Answers to these questions can serve as a magnet for audience interest.

Package your pitch. Write down your elevator pitch focusing on the key attributes of your business and/or how your products or services benefit customers. Read it out loud and then pare it down to the essential messages. Run it by your friends and colleagues to get their feedback and revise your pitch accordingly.

Practice. Rehearse your elevator pitch so when the opportunity arrives, you can deliver it smoothly.

An elevator pitch is all about making a good first impression, which is why it’s important to take the time to craft a concise and compelling story that’s relevant to your audience rather than winging it. You get one chance to make a good first impression, so make sure it’s memorable for all the right reasons.