7 Tips For A Better Elevator Pitch

by: Doug Michaelides

Ding!  The elevator door slides open.  You look up from your shoes (what else is there to look at when you’re waiting for an elevator?).  All of a sudden you’re standing face to face with . . . the guy.  The guy you’ve been trying to get to for weeks to pitch your services!

Instead of boarding the elevator you catch your prospect’s eye, smile winningly and extend your hand as he steps out.

“Excuse me, aren’t you Mr. Smith?”

Your quarry looks startled, perhaps even a little suspicious, as he shakes your hand.

“Err, why yes.  Do I know you?”

“Well”, you reply, “I’ve been trying to reach you because I think you’ll be very interested in what I have to say.”

The elevator doors close behind him and you have less than 2 minutes to make your pitch.

This scene plays out thousands of times a day and hundreds of time over a career.  Taking advantage of these pivotal “elevator pitch” moments can make a big difference to your business success.  That’s why it makes sense to get trained.

Recently I was an elevator pitch judge at one such training session, the “Global Sales Strategies for Ambitious Canadian Entrepreneurs” workshop let by Kenneth P. Morse, a Visiting Professor from ESADE Business School.   The students, entrepreneurs and start-up executives, had spent two days learning the finer points of developing a value proposition and pitching it.  The workshop was capped off by an intensive “speed pitching” reception during which the participants rotated through two-dozen senior executive judges who graded them and provided feedback.

Being on the receiving end of 20 or 30 elevator pitches in one evening makes you appreciate what works and what doesn’t.  I think I learned as much as the participants.  Here are some notes I jotted down:

  1. Make a connection.  Be genuine. Don’t go overboard with false bonhomie.  Mention a common acquaintance. Don’t just talk, ask questions.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of your prospect’s business.  Briefly confirm relevant facts to show that you’ve done your research.  Raise an industry issue that’s relevant.  Use the right terminology.
  3. Add credibility to your value proposition by quantifying it.  Make a concrete numeric statement about savings, revenues, profitability, growth, time to market, etc.
  4. Get confirmation that your value proposition has hit the mark.  “If I could do ‘X’, would that be of interest to you?”
  5. Demonstrate your company’s credibility by briefly describing its track record.  What relevant projects have you worked on?  What clients have you served?
  6. Ask for a meeting.  The objective of your elevator pitch is to get a follow-up meeting so you can go into greater depth.  When asking for the meeting, describe it’s purpose and what value you’ll provide.
  7. Offer something.  “Can I send you a whitepaper I think will interest you?”  “I will send you our video when I get back to the office”.

Of course there’s a lot more to a successful elevator pitch than these 7 points and it’s a lot to remember during a two-minute conversation.  But the participants who used these techniques with me were the ones that impressed me the most that evening – before I ran for the elevator to head home.

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