By Kathleen Veth, IPPW Director of Positive Communication
An elevator pitch. Those dreaded 45-second commercials that really, really do come in handy, especially if you’re ever actually in an elevator and have a captive audience!
A great elevator pitch effectively introduces you to potential clients. It should convey a value-oriented, compelling, and memorable message that encourages listeners to take action.
The goal is not to sell a service on the spot, but to begin an active dialogue that could lead to business in the future.
What is an elevator pitch?
Also known as a commercial, an elevator pitch should not be confused with a biography. Or a resume. An elevator pitch is an overview of who you are, what you do and how you can help the listener. It’s you, selling yourself, in a concise manner, in a format with which most people are familiar.
Although the elevator pitch is similar to a mini-biography, it’s delivered verbally and therefore should have slightly different wording. It should be punchy and memorable.
Who needs one?
Service providers who promote themselves on a regular basis should create several polished pitches, one per target audience, as an integral part of a clever and complete marketing tool box.
In fact, anyone who might ever meet new business contacts needs an elevator pitch. Attending an industry conference, a networking event, a seminar, in the grocery check-out line, or just enjoying coffee with a friend – there are always opportunities to make a connection. A smooth elevator pitch can transform chance encounters into scheduled follow-up appointments that lead to business.
Just the right size!
The perfect commercial should be 45 seconds, or about 150 words. Imagine you are entering an elevator at street level, and must deliver your pitch before you exit at the third floor. Remember, the goal is not to make a sale on the spot, it’s to create interest that leads to more questions . . . and eventually to a scheduled meeting to close the deal!
Most professionals can – and do – offer multiple services. That’s why many folks have several different elevator pitches to use in various situations. Some should be really quick – 30 seconds or less.
Did you hook ‘em?
Like every good speech, an elevator pitch should open with a ‘hook’ to capture your target’s attention. You could try a joke, a question or a statement that entices the listener to stay focused on you for the full 45 seconds. The hook is critical when you are at a networking function and the person you’ve just met is already looking over your shoulder for the next connection. Seize their full attention with a powerful statement.
A sample process to craft an elevator pitch
Not all elevator pitches need to start with your name. An effective commercial begins with a clear understanding of your own value and target audience. To create an effective pitch . . .
- Begin with an action phrase or question. Some folks start with a testimonial they’ve received that describes their service.
- Next add a one or two-sentence statement about what you do for your clients, not what you do! These generally begin with, “I help (insert target audience) and then “(insert one or two results, i.e. save time, lower costs, optimize health, relax, increase sales . . .)”
- Add a statement of the specific impact, such as, “My clients (insert one or two results, i.e. saved money or time, lost weight, from the perspective of your potential client.)”
- Include a call to action. (“If you book my services today, you’ll get a free . . . or the more passive “If you’d like to learn more about . . .”)
- Conclude with a clever tagline and/or by repeating your name and business.
Keep it simple!
Envision a speed networking event, where listeners hear 30 or more commercials in an hour. What makes you uniquely qualified?
An effective pitch uses basic language to ensure everyone can understand your message. If you use too much industry jargon, you could confuse your audience. Pretend your target is Great-Grandma.
Is it memorable?
There’s only one chance to make a first impression, so use visual language, be witty, or just plain unique.
Let’s say a moving business, with target audiences that include probate attorneys, adult children, and social agencies,would be difficult to describe using traditional methods, so painting a picture of the chaos – the problem – and describing the solution, works best.
Include a call to action!
At the end of the pitch, listeners should realize, “I’ve got to learn more” or, better yet, “How can we do business?” Encourage them to visit your Web site, contact you, or, ideally, ask them for permission to contact them! Simply asking for someone’s business card is not nearly as effective as scheduling a meeting.
Don’t have a special offer? Leave them with a memorable phrase . . .
Practice makes perfect!
Now that you have put together an elevator pitch or three, it’s time to rehearse. Stop-watch in hand, practice your speech in front of a mirror, present it to your dog or cat, on your webcam, via Skype to Grandma – then cut, cut, cut until your message is comfortable and fits not only your mouth, but the time limit.
Often, networking events limit and even shut down speakers with a buzzer, so it’s vital to rehearse and refine ahead of time to ensure you don’t get the hook! Practice speaking your written commercial in the allotted time frame and see how it feels as you deliver. Chances are, you’ll make some revisions.
Limiting your pitch to a specified time forces you to cut everything that really isn’t needed. Your goal is to entice listeners to ask questions – that’s when you can add all the rest of your wonderfulness!
Presenting . . .
Now that you’ve crafted an elevator pitch or two, you’re ready to use versions in many situations.