I'm going to give it to you straight: Everyone in your organization should be prepared to explain what your company does, and the value of its product or service. That's why one of the first things salespeople and business owners should try to totally nail is their elevator pitch.
It might also be why I wasn't surprised to see that nailing your elevator pitch is the first tip in a book that recently graced my desk, It's Your Business: 183 Essential Tips That Will Transform Your Small Business, by host of MSNBC's Your Business, JJ Ramberg. In fact, that very first tip about giving a killer elevator pitch was provided by our very own CEO, Brian Halligan!
So it got us thinking -- crafting and delivering a fantastic elevator pitch is something every salesperson and marketer should know how to do, yet we've never written about it on this blog of ours. Tsk, tsk.
Well, we can come out of blogger time-out now, because this post is going to explain everything you need to know about how to craft the perfect elevator pitch. So whether you're starting from scratch or just want to brush up your current pitch, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Structuring the Pitch
Many people find it helpful to draft an outline before they write. Why not apply the same concept to your elevator pitch?
Start out by explaining -- in one line -- what your company, product, or service does. Make sure this is free of business babble and, particularly if you're talking to people who don't work in your industry, jargon terms that mean nothing outside of your office's four walls.
Come up with some concrete data that demonstrates why your idea is a good one, and why it's valuable for the listener. Data does two things that are really important for an elevator pitch: It says a lot in very few words, and it gives you credibility. If you can't find a data point that's relevant to what you're pitching, find an example that the listener can relate to that paints a picture of how your product or service would fit into their daily lives.
Say exactly what you're asking for, whether it's to check out your website, a product purchase, investment capital, a partnership ... whatever. Be as explicit and detailed -- yet still concise -- as possible. That means asking that they purchase your $26 acorn twine holder, not that they purchase a product from your inventory of cornucopia-themed kitchen supplies.
That also means, however, that you're not asking them to do something too grandiose. For instance, if your acorn twine holder is studded with diamonds recovered from a pirate shipwreck and is going to run them $260,000, a 20-second pitch isn't exactly enough time to build value. Maybe start with something a little less high-commitment if your business has a long buying cycle or high purchase price.
Try filling in these three sections for your company, and create a few different versions. The first version should be around 20 seconds or fewer; I know, not a lot of time, but we're in an elevator here, people! If you're in a scenario where you might receive some follow-up -- like at a networking event, for example -- feel free to also craft a version of your elevator pitch that's a little bit lengthier (say, a minute or 90 seconds). And of course, anticipate any follow-up questions you're likely to receive after delivering your pitch so you're not caught off guard, and can respond with some quality answers.
Targeting Your Pitch to Different Personas
Alright, you've got your basic elevator pitch down pat, and you even have a couple different versions ... the brief and the extended edition. Now, you might actually need to create a few more.
It's true, because your pitch, particularly the 'Value' section, might need to change a bit depending on which segment of your target audience you're speaking with. To get started, pull out your buyer personas; if you haven't created them yet, here's the template you need to complete them.
In the section of your persona documentation that explains what the value your organization, product, or service brings to that particular persona, see if that jibes with what you've drafted for the 'Value' section of your elevator pitch. If it doesn't, create a new variation of your elevator pitch that better addresses that target persona's value proposition. You might also want to tweak the 'Ask' section if your personas have very different purchasing habits.
Last but not least, it's a good idea to review the section of your persona documentation in which you figure out how to identify your target persona. I mean, if you can't figure out who you're talking to, how can you figure out which elevator pitch to use?
Nailing the Delivery
The final component to a great elevator pitch is great delivery. The key here is to get the right mix of passion and energy, without seeming so excited that you're distracting or off-putting. Or worse, desperate (gasp)! As Halligan puts it in Ramberg's book, "As small business owners, we often get so excited about our idea that we talk too long or give too much detail in an elevator pitch."
The remedy for this, he advises, is rehearsing your pitch multiple times in front of someone who knows nothing about your business. After you finish, ask them if they know what your company does, and what the value of your product or service is. Then finish by asking whether they'd act on your 'Ask,' or if they don't fall into your target buyer persona, whether you built the value sufficiently for your ask.
Once you've tried your elevator pitch out on a few people, gotten feedback, and refined, practice it a million more times in front of the mirror. The more times you practice, the easier it will be to speak confidently, concisely, and passionately.
Originally published Jul 15, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 19 2021