The elevator pitch is an invaluable tool for opening the door to opportunity. At the same time, it is a communication format that even experienced businesspeople struggle to master. I have seen sales reps, business owners, and CEOs, all of whom possessed a strong message in their company’s written material, fail to express their value proposition succinctly in verbal form. The elevator pitch is often your first chance to connect, and the words you say will impact the future of that connection.
So, what do you do?
A few years ago, I was meeting with a surgeon to discuss an upcoming sinus operation. As I sat down in his consulting room, the doctor made conversation, asking me, ‘So tell me, what do you do?’ I thought he was just being polite, but my elevator pitch was so ingrained in my brain that it came out without me even having to think about it. ‘I’m a business communication consultant’, I replied. ‘I specialise in helping technology companies win more business by clearly articulating the value of what they offer.’
What he said next blew me away.
‘That’s interesting’, he responded. ‘I’m an investor in a technology company, and we need someone who can help with exactly that.’
One week later I had a meeting with the company, and two weeks later I had a new client.
So, it is worth spending some time planning your response and having something ready to say. There are two versions of the elevator pitch: the 1-minute pitch and the 10-second intro.
The One-Minute Pitch
The first version is the ‘one-minute pitch’. This is no more than sixty seconds and is typically used when you have a formal opportunity to introduce yourself. For example, you can use the one-minute pitch when you are in a business meeting or a networking event where everyone gets a chance to present themselves and what they do. You’ll be given anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds, and generally you can expect that people will do you the courtesy of listening for the duration of your allotted time.
The 10-Second Intro
The 10-second intro is typically used in less formal situations, and is often in response to the question, ‘What do you do?’ There is no specific allotted time for your answer, but usually you’ll have around 10 seconds (maybe 15 max) before it’s time to pause and let the other person react.
The Role of an Elevator Pitch
The elevator pitch is invaluable for forming an initial connection with your audience. It is part of the first step of your prospect’s journey towards becoming a client, helping them discover you and learn what you do.
The sole job of an elevator pitch, whether it lasts 10 seconds or one minute, is to elicit curiosity. If you hear, ‘That’s interesting, tell me more’, or ‘How do you do that?’ or ‘I must introduce you to John, he’s interested in that’, then you know you’ve done a good job.
A good elevator pitch creates opportunity, but that doesn’t mean that it blows the door wide open. It may be just the tiniest chink. My surgeon didn’t sign up there and then for my services, but he was interested enough to introduce me to someone else. It was then up to me to continue the connection, and nurture it to the point where I had a new customer. Without that elevator pitch, I would have had beautifully straight sinuses, but no new client. I wouldn’t even have known that the opportunity was there. A door would have been firmly slammed shut.