The elevator pitch

The elevator pitch

Sometimes we are in a situation where we can grab an opportunity to give a sales pitch. It’s called an elevator pitch,these are invariably very small windows of opportunity and we need to know how to make the most of them.

Do you know what an elevator pitch is? It’s a short presentation you make to someone you wish to impress, either because you’d like to work for them or tell them about your product or service.

You shouldn’t use it on social occasions unless specifically asked. Most people prefer not to be pitched when they’re outside a work environment.

It’s called an elevator pitch because it’s meant to last no longer than the length of an average elevator ride. So 30-45 seconds is about the ideal length.

Use a natural approach.

Imagine you’ve stepped into the elevator on the ground floor and intend travelling to the top of the building. As the doors are about the close, you’re joined by the vice president of procurement from a company you’re keen to do business with. Now’s your chance.

There are plenty of articles on the internet and courses you can take to learn how to create an elevator pitch. Most of them share a couple of common weaknesses: the pitch scripts are often too wooden – in fact some are ludicrous – and the person you’re pitching to has heard them all before.

We suggest a much more natural approach. Assuming you recognize the other person, introduce yourself.

“Aren’t you Bill Morrison from ABC Inc?”

“I’m Nathan Shapiro from DEF Abrasives.”

If there’s no negative feedback, continue:

“I was planning to call you later about our new high carbon products.  Customers are getting better than 20% more durability than average, at a keener price.

I know you and your engineering division would benefit from hearing the full story. Is it okay for me to call you to set up a proper presentation? Shall I contact you later today or tomorrow?”

At that point, hand over your business card or a brochure. But don’t fumble for them in your bag or brief case, you should have them easily accessible.

An elevator pitch step by step.

Now let’s analyse your presentation which ideally should be between 60 and 90 words.

  1. Your aim in this scenario was to secure a date for a full sales presentation. Make sure you clearly understand your objective before starting your pitch.
  2. Your language was relaxed and natural. Avoid sounding like you’re reading from a script by practicing in front of a mirror. Vary your words and phrases from time to time and remember to pause when necessary, especially if your prospect has something to say.
  3. Offer a good business reason why the prospect’s company would benefit from a full presentation. A new product that outperforms competitors at a lower cost is very persuasive, but you may not always have such a powerful and unique proposition. Find the most attractive proposition you can from the prospect’s point of view.
  4. Ask for a response before you close. In this case you merely asked if you could call him which is about the most you can expect from such a brief encounter. Unless, of course, he’d been meaning to call you!
  5. The second part of your question is important. When asking if it’s okay to call or visit, give options rather than inviting a yes/no answer.
  6. Always have at least a business card handy. Keep them in a slim metal or leather business card holder in your pocket or bag.

If you don’t recognize the person who joins you in the elevator it would, of course, be inappropriate to try to deliver your pitch.

Outside the elevator, at networking events, trade shows, interviews and presentations you’ll craft your pitch to suit each occasion.

Sometimes it’s necessary just to introduce yourself without angling for any specific objective. Even then, your pitch should be properly worded. For example:

“Hi, pleased to meet you. I’m Nathan Shapiro, key account manager at DEF Abrasives. We make cutting and shaping tools for the construction industry. Originally for the German market, but we’re global now. Who are you with?”

Create elevator pitches for the formal and informal business occasions – including phone calls – when you need to introduce yourself as a professional and competent individual.

Practice them in front of a mirror or with a family member or colleague.

Your objective is to make them sound natural, not as though your’re reading a script.

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