True Story!  A couple of decades ago when I was the sales manager of a technology line of business that was part of a much larger organization, an excited young sales representative rushed into my office.  He just had to tell me that he just rode up the elevator and an older gentleman wearing a suit who had asked him about his business.

He explained in the short time it took to get to our floor he had essentially ‘cored dumped’ everything he knew to this stranger.  When asked if he got his name, the answer was no.  Turns out the individual was the CEO of our division.

While this was a discussion in an elevator, it was far from an elevator pitch.  Talking fast to get as much as you can in a short period is usually not an effective sales pitch.

Plus, as always qualify who you are talking to and why they have a need to know.  Could have been a competitor!

Unfortunately, we see this all the time.  Individuals try to jam in as much as they can in funding Pitch Competitions and political pundits in the media feel the same pressure to talk fast and then talk all over each other.

However, and perhaps the worst of all selling transgressions.  We had attained a long-coveted meeting with a senior decision maker at a process plant.  We completed the pitch for our solution.  The customer team asked a couple of good questions which we apparently answered satisfactory.

Then the senior director said words to the effect, “I can see how this can help my problem. . .” but did get a chance to complete his statement before one of our technical people ‘talked over him’ to explain blah blah blah.

The classic, don’t wait for the customer to complete his/her question before answering it.  This usually means that it will be answered incorrectly.

The subject changed, and the meeting ended shortly afterwards.  We never did discover how our solution could have helped in the mind of that individual.

In our zest to close deals, we often are our own worst enemy.  When presented with an opportunity to state your case to a buyer, state it succinctly and quickly.  Then shut up and let the individual respond!

Elevator Pitch

According to Wikipedia, “An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.  The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator.  If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business card or a scheduled meeting.”[i]

Mark Twain famously quipped, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”  It takes time and thought to succinctly and quickly state something that is very important to its writer.

The tendency is to say as much and as fast as we can.  Surely, everyone will want to know what I know and in detail.  This is such an important subject!

However, if a deal is on the line what is the Return on Investment (ROI) of the time it takes to develop and refine an elevator pitch?  Like any business deal, if it will be profitable then do it.  If not, then why do we have the product/service!

The ‘I didn’t have time’ comment is insulting to those who you explain it to in this regard.  The sales representative’s livelihood and firm’ profitability depend on you the rep’s team’s time.

How Do I Develop an Elevator Pitch?

To develop an effective elevator pitch, one must understand the product/service they are selling and have a ‘compelling value proposition’ already developed.  Write down every major item you want to get across and then continue to refine it until it meets the criteria above.

What are the three most important points a customer would care about?

Pitch it internally and then to outsiders such as mentors.  Update it as you receive additional input, both positive and critical.  Then Practice, Practice, Practice.

It must come across effectively, not stilted nor leave the listener with the feeling they have been the subject of a ‘core dump.’  Let them respond, answer questions and ask them, “What’s the Next Step” sort of closing question.

One caveat, since you do not know who you are talking to be careful about providing any proprietary information.  So, unless you have publicly available market or financial figures leave them out.  They can come later at follow up meetings.

However, in the appropriate setting such as a Pitch Competition non-proprietary market and financial information will most likely be required in the elevator pitch.  Use your good judgement.

For most of us the so called ‘blank sheet of paper’ can be intimidating.  It helps to have precedents.

An Example

The following is an actual elevator pitched developed a few years ago—targeting 20-30 seconds in a public setting.  It has been redacted as noted within it.

_______ is an __________ “Enterprise Platform” that addresses _________-issues in sectors with complex ______ and ______ requiring many ____ parties and their _____.

It seamlessly incorporates _____ and ______ enabling a _______, efficiency and effectiveness in operations—including an automatic and comprehensive ______ process.

This cloud-based collaborative ____ solution provides ____ engineers, technicians and ______ personnel with the data and information necessary to perform their tasks in compliance with all __________________.

There are also several examples available on line that address different requirements, i.e. sales, investor, etc. and industry sectors.  A good pitch will pay significant dividends and is well worth the time and energy necessary to develop.

How Effective is Your Elevator Pitch?