The Truth About Elevator Pitches

What no one really tells you about elevator pitches is that they aren’t actually pitches. They are not even soft sales lobs. That’s right, no elevator pitch has ever sold a product, got someone hired, garnered angel funding or earned a new client. Is that surprising? Think about it, would you hire someone or spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on the basis of thirty-seconds of speech? It’s an elevator pitch, not a magic spell.

Your talents as a witch aside, elevator pitches do serve several useful purposes. First and foremost, they make you think about what you do. An elevator pitch makes you dig in and really understand what your unique offering is. More often than not, in addition to giving you more insight into what makes you unique in the marketplace, it also makes you appreciate that you have multiple unique offerings.

An elevator pitch also lets you do something that has become increasingly difficult since the introduction of social media. It teaches you how to deliver a proper introduction. An elevator pitch delivers information about you, or your product or your company neatly and succinctly. It tells your audience the things that you really want them to know in a way that is not weird or time-consuming.

That’s the third thing the elevator pitch does. It teaches you to boil down your message to the essentials. Your pitch answers the question, what exactly do I need this person to know? It gives them nothing more and nothing less. If you can capture their interest with an effective introduction you will earn the right to deliver your real pitch. That’s where the sale happens or the job offering shows up but first, you have to start with the elevator pitch or perhaps if we want to accurately describe what you are doing, the elevator introduction.

Tips for building great elevator pitches:

  • An elevator pitch is the briefest pitch you can give. It’s a quality introduction that takes about 20 seconds. You can take longer but the longer you keep talking without interaction with your audience, the more opportunity there is for things to go wrong.
  • An elevator pitch is generally a two or three sentence description. What goes into your pitch is a reflection of what you are trying to achieve.
    • New job or client: If you are looking for a job or a client your pitch will cover what you do, what you want to do and why you do it.
    • Product or service sales: If it’s a product you’re trying to share information on, your pitch will share the benefits, how people use it and what makes it unique.
  • Share what makes you unique in the market, what do you offer that others do not?
  • Describe what you do or what your product does well. Does it save money? If so, then be specific, who saved money and how much. Use explicit statistics that demonstrate that you know your stuff and have a clear understanding of how your product works.
  • There is no one pitch that fits all audiences. Create custom pitches to serve different purposes.
  • All pitches should have elements of the following:
    • Information: There’s little value to a pitch that is so abbreviated or clever that it becomes obtuse. You want to share something about yourself. The idea is to inform and relate to the person you are talking to.
    • Confidence: You should be comfortable delivering your pitch and while you should always be self-assured, you should never be arrogant or boastful. When you brag you’re a bore. No one wants to talk to a bore much less do business with one.
  • Pitches should be interesting enough to capture attention and make you memorable. Consider what makes you unique. What distinctive features, qualities or facts are part of your original idea or offering?

Once you’ve delivered your pitch, follow through.

  • Don’t forget that this is an exchange intended to build a relationship. Get to know the person you are speaking to better. The best way to do that is to get them talking. Hook them with questions about themselves. Ask them about their work. How did they get started? What do they like best?
  • Share your business card. Once you have engaged in an exchange, offer your business card. It’s a great way to create an opportunity for future communications. Generally speaking, don’t ask for their card. Once you offer yours, if they are interested, they will offer you their card.
  • Follow through, reach out through LinkedIn and get connected. Look for opportunities to provide assistance. Do you know of a book, blog or article that might help that person or that they might find interesting? Do you know someone they would like to meet?

Sample Elevator Pitch

I run a small communications shop called CommStorm that helps entrepreneurs and associations tell their stories. I use my years of political, corporate and association experience to build thoughtful communications strategies. And while I love developing strategies, the best part of what I do is getting in there and turning great ideas into reality.

If you understand what you have to offer, know how to introduce yourself effectively and can do it all succinctly and clearly, then you’ve accomplished more than most and that’s often the edge you need to succeed where others fail. So build your elevator pitch, work on it indefinitely, change it to reflect evolving needs and understand the value of a great pitch.

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12 responses to “The Truth About Elevator Pitches

  • I’m a certified English teacher who runs her own word-based business, Wording Well. I do freelance writing and editing, in addition to coaching/consulting and motivational speaking. I’m also an author who helps others become authors!

    How’s that for an elevator pitch? 😉

    Also, Debra, it’s been a long time… way too long! I hope you are doing well! (From the looks of your blog, you are!)

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 05:57 pm

      Hi Lorraine, welcome back, it has been a while! I like that you include your credentials as an English teacher, subconsciously I think most of us have a deep trust of teachers and it provides a nice friendly start.

  • “Don’t forget that this is an exchange intended to build a relationship.” Yes! If the other person perceives a lack of interest in them, that you’re just blowing your own horn, you may be sabotaging your intention. I like your idea of “Getting to know the person you are speaking to better.” Thanks for such a clearly expressed message.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 03:17 pm

      Thanks Ramona. I have been on the receiving end of pitches where I’m not given a chance to speak. Its the weirdest experience and I’m always left wondering what the person was thinking. It certainly didn’t make me keen to engage with them in the future.

  • Great post, Debra. I’m currently in the process of launching two new ventures so this is timely advice. I look forward to taking your comments on board and seeing my ventures flourish! I’m curious though as to why you advise to NOT ask for people’s business cards? I personally feel reticent handing cards over to those who haven’t asked for them… or perhaps that’s just me?!

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 03:13 pm

      Thanks, Monika. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I suggest not asking because there are times when you may really be interested in a person but the feeling isn’t mutual. In those situations, they may be reluctant to have you contact them. Having said that, sometimes people just don’t remember to provide a card, by offering yours, you give them a prompt to do the same.

  • Hi Debra. I agree with you that the elevator pitch must be an ever-developing organism. My business and focus is always evolving, and so what I said about myself or my business two years ago, is significantly different than what I might say today–even though I haven’t really changed my focus all that much.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 03:09 pm

      Considering how much we change to keep up with the market and the tools available, it would be incredible if your pitch could stay the same.

  • I like this, “Do you know of a book, blog or article that might help that person or that they might find interesting?” It’s a great way to truly make a business connection with someone–in a day when things can be very impersonal.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 03:07 pm

      Isn’t it amazing how impersonal we have become? Sending a link or article is such a simple and friendly thing to do, I know I’d appreciate it.

  • Catarina says:
    April 5, 2018 @ 06:03 am

    Absolutely. The best you can achieve with an elevator pitch is to meet/talk again and build up a relationship that leads to whatever you want to achieve.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      April 8, 2018 @ 03:18 pm

      It seems straightforward enough, so I’m always surprised when people expect to create a pitch that is somehow transformative, or in effect, do all the work.

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