What is an elevator pitch? Why do you need one? It’s very simple, your elevator pitch is an easy-to-understand value proposition to someone you meet. In other words, it is not about what you have to sell, but more how you solve a problem for that person. The term comes from a rehearsed presentation of an idea or product or service in the limited time of an elevator ride in a building. So, the question remains…How far does your elevator pitch take you?
If you have been business networking for any length of time (and if you haven’t, you need to start now), you see a wide range of how people position or “pitch” their business. But what makes up a good value proposition to someone who doesn’t know you?
Here are 3 things an elevator pitch is not:
- It is not a monologue. It is an introduction to who you are and how you solve their problem. However, you have to know what problem they may have before you can approach solving it. It is not just stating your name, your company name and your product name. Again, it is more about how you make someone’s life easier or solve a problem for them.
- It is not selling. This is an introduction, not a high-pressure sale where you tell someone everything and expect them to pull out their wallet. They don’t know you, building a relationship is the goal here. People are more likely to do business with those they know, like and trust. Coming across as a pushy salesperson will not go far.
- It is not a hurried process. I have seen highly educated people literally push a business card into someone’s hand and then go on to the next person without even giving the other person to share their name. While this may get business cards “out there,” the cards are more likely going to end up in the trash using this method. Take the time you have to start rapport with the other person. More on time in a moment. It is more important to get cards than handing them out so you can follow up with them, instead of waiting by the phone.
How an Elevator Pitch is done
Think this doesn’t apply to you? Of course it does! Have you ever wanted more business, even if you work online? You will always need more clients, or present yourself for a promotion. Here is how you do it.
An elevator pitch should provide just enough detail so the other person has an idea of what you do and the perception you are the expert to solve their problem. Asking a probing question may help you adjust to their particular situation. The steps below will help you develop a comfort level in any situation where you will be able to do this quickly and easily.
The average person speaks about 120 words a minute. This varies greatly, depending on culture, region and individual preferences. The elevator pitch should never be hurried, it should come across naturally, comfortably and concise. To determine how fast you typically talk, just time yourself for a minute reading a magazine or newspaper. Read aloud at a natural pace for you and you will see how many words you can say in a minute.
You write down who you are, what you do and how you solve problems for someone else, these are the basic ideas going into your script. Your script is what you will rehearse before you “pitch” someone else.
If you talk at a rate of 120 words a minute, then you can estimate about 60 words for a 30-second elevator pitch. First, write down what you want to say in rough form, just get a flow down, you can edit it after the fact, but get the most important ideas down first.
Next, edit it down to roughly 60 words, give or take a couple of words. Don’t worry, it probably won’t be perfect the first time and it doesn’t have to. Read it over a few times to yourself, then time yourself saying it out loud. If it is roughly 30-seconds you have succeeded! Again, don’t rush when you speak, you will sound nervous. Just be yourself as you are the expert here.
Finally, repeat the exercise for a one-minute and a 15 second script. You never know how much time you will have, this will prepare you for any situation and provide you with the confidence to convey the most compelling presentation, even if you have limited time. Practice on a friend who will be objective and you will polish your pitch quickly and easily. It should sound conversational like you would talk to a friend, not too static or overly rehearsed.
By having several scripts you have rehearsed, you will be able to adjust your presentation depending on how long your “elevator ride” gives you to speak. The “elevator ride” is more figurative than literal, but you get the idea.
Summary Writing, editing and rehearsing your elevator pitch will be a valuable tool you will use countless times. The confidence you display will help someone else have confidence you are the person for the job. This only comes with practice, so start practicing your elevator pitch today for your success tomorrow. With a polished elevator pitch, it should take you far. Looking for other ideas? Check out our article on 10 Easiest Ways to be Successful this year.
William Wheeler is a consultant, storyteller, teacher and IT expert. He has been a national subject matter expert for several universities and has written dozens of college level courses and is a published author.
William R. Wheeler, CEO/Principle Consultant
Wheeler Management Group
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