Three Keys to a Killer Elevator Pitch

elevator public domainAfter badly hitting a golf shot one day, comedian Tommy Smothers said, “I’m going to write a golf book: The 99 Things To Remember at the Point of Impact.”

Duffing your elevator pitch can put your head in a similar place. There were so many things you wanted to say, but you had so little time. Before you knew it, you were in the weeds, out of bounds.

Just like a good golf swing coach would do, let’s try to simplify the elevator pitch, because if you can do that you can achieve the single most important element of the pitch: confidence.

The first step is to understand the goal, which is clearly articulating what your company, product or service does and what sets it apart from its competition. You aren’t going to close a sale, or convince an investor. Your hope is to create enough understanding and interest to get to the next step in developing the relationship.

Let’s look at the essentials and point out a few stumbling blocks you need to avoid.

Express your most important benefits. This can be something like, “On average, we cut accounting costs in half for our clients.” Note that this is different than saying, “We offer an easy-to-use, web-based dashboard that anyone in the company can access 24-7.” As in sales, cast your “benefits” in the leading role. The “features” merely play supporting roles and in an elevator pitch, they are usually not mentioned at all.

The caveat I want to give you here is this: In some situations you may have to “set up” your benefits by first describing the problem you are solving. If your audience is somewhat unfamiliar with your industry, you might have to lay a little groundwork.

Set yourself apart from the crowd. Explain in one sentence why people should go with you instead of the competition. Are your benefits greater? Is your cost lower? Do you have offices in every major city? Do you hold a patent?

Avoid clichés like “we’re customer-centric,” “we’re the industry leaders,” or “we were the first to market.” No one cares.

The call to action. Despite the brevity of this encounter, you do want to get something from it. It could be a meeting or a planned phone conversation. Know what you need and have the confidence to ask for it and ask specifically, saying something like, “Is there sometime tomorrow we can talk?”

If you develop a strong elevator pitch, it might lead immediately to more dialog, so be prepared for questions. If there is serious interest from an investor or a prospective new buyer, the person will have specific concerns and you need to be ready to follow up with answers on the spot.

At the top I said that confidence is the most important element of an elevator pitch. This is doubly true when you are making a pitch to investors. Honestly, investors are putting their money on you even more than your idea for a business. In this podcast noted venture capitalist Chris Sacca expertly dissects an elevator pitch, exposing all its weaknesses, and demonstrates how it should be done.

While you may not have a Chris Sacca to lean on, test and hone your pitch to as many listeners as you can drum up. Going back to the illustration where I started this, these are your practice swings. You’re on the driving range and soon you are hitting the ball with enough accuracy to nail the guy in the little screened-in cart driving around and picking up the balls.

That should give you the confidence you need.

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