9 Steps to a Winning Elevator Pitch
Do you keep telling yourself that if the right person heard your business pitch, you'd be successful?
If so, join a line of others who feel the exact same way. How do you ensure the right decision maker hears your pitch and responds to it effectively? Unfortunately, there is no magic formula, but an elevator pitch is a great start.
An elevator pitch is a quick, but effective, sales pitch used to garner interest in your business or brand. The name comes from the quick conversations that happen in elevators, where often only have about 30 seconds to pique the other person’s interest in our story.
However, many people struggle with how to write and deliver an elevator pitch. How do you sum up a complicated product or passion project into a 30-second statement?
In this blog post, we'll go over a few tips to help you spark the interest of your next business or networking contact.
Step 0: Be tenacious
Tenacity is step 0 because you need it to even approach the first step. Before you even begin your elevator pitch, you’ll need the courage to approach someone new.
When giving an elevator pitch, you can't think about the person’s perception of you, and you can't let shyness overcome you. Whether you pitch at a meeting, networking event or even an elevator, you want to use the time to your advantage, so don’t waste it!
As such, before you even craft your elevator pitch, work on striking up a conversation with people who intimidate you. Sure, there’s the possibility of failure, but you could also triumph. Focus on the last part, and you'll be motivated to succeed.
If you need to work on your confidence, you could take a public speaking course or an amateur acting course. This will help you acclimate to speaking and being vulnerable with other people.
1. Be clear about the purpose of your pitch
Before you begin writing your pitch or crafting it in your head, you need to know your purpose and goals. Do you want a job offer from your dream company? Do you want to make a sale? Are you looking for investors?
Knowing your ideal outcome will help you clarify your ideas and communicate them succinctly. If you’re not sure what you want to convey, you run the risk of babbling and talking about unnecessary topics. Avoid that trap right at the beginning by being clear with what you want to convey.
2. Be upfront about your goals
Don't be cagey about your aim and goals for the conversation. For example, if you're looking for someone to fund your business and you're with a potential funder, make sure they know that's your goal. Simply telling them you have this fantastic new business idea isn't going to cut it. They aren't psychic, and they can't help you if you don't ask.
Similarly, if you're looking for a job, don't just go up to a potential employer and spill your entire resume without specifying that you're looking for a job. Be clear, concise and straightforward with your goals.
3. Write and edit your pitch
Take some time to think about what you want to convey in your 30 seconds. Our advice is to write it out to be longer and edit down to the essentials. The content of your pitch will vary depending on the goal, but you’ll want to focus on who you are, why your story is relevant to the person, how you can help them, and what you need them to do next. For more tips on writing, Hubspot has a great article on sales-focused pitches, and the Muse has tips for writing a pitch in only 15 minutes.
4. Allow your pitch to change as necessary
Your pitch will likely change depending on your target, and allow yourself that flexibility. If your elevator pitch is far too rigid and you don't switch it up, you're liable to pitch something that doesn't make much sense to the other person.
If you're seeking funding for a project or a potential partner, you can always change your pitch depending on your audience. Maybe your idea is an educational tool for science and math. If you're talking to a math professional, you'll need to alter your pitch for a science professional.
When making elevator pitches, it is necessary to think on your feet, so be prepared to change at a moment's notice.
You may wish to practice two or three versions of your elevator pitch so you have an idea of what to say in different situations.
5. Practice makes perfect
As with any skill in life, practice makes perfect, and practicing your elevator pitch will make it smoother over time. This means delivering it to professional connections, colleagues and friends to get a diverse perspective.
Before you do pitch to a contact with financial or strategic decision-making power, practice pitching to your colleagues. Allow them to give you feedback and determine what changes you should make.
You should also remember that you may mess up an elevator pitch or two when pitching to professionals. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us. Don't necessarily write that person off either, as you may be able to come to them later down the line with an even better pitch.
Just chalk it up to a learning experience.
6. Prepare for common questions
When you're making an elevator pitch, it's likely the person listening will ask follow-up questions. You need to be prepared to answer them without fumbling over your words or searching for the answers for too long.
When you practice with colleagues (or perhaps friends if you're pitching an independent idea), ask them to play the role of the person you’re pitching and quiz you with questions. This way, you'll have practice thinking on your feet and ideas for frequently asked questions.
7. Don't speak too quickly or ramble
When we're nervous, most of us tend to ramble and to speak quickly. While it's perfectly natural to talk quickly or meander when nervous, you’ll want to avoid these when making an elevator pitch.
You can avert these potential problems and gain confidence by practicing the speech out loud before you give it; otherwise, you may find yourself speaking too fast or too long, while the other party's eyes glaze over.
When practicing your speech for colleagues, or family and friends, make sure they give feedback on the pace and tone. They may also help you refine the content.
8. Try to be dynamic
After rehearsing the speech several times, you may be tempted to deliver it in a rote style. Yet, you want to appear natural and relaxed when speaking so you don’t lose the other party’s interest half way through.
Instead, you’ll come across as more dynamic if you speak as you would to a family member or friend. Act like this is the very first time you're giving the pitch or build on a conversation the two of you may have had earlier. Keep it light, simple and friendly.
Lastly, a few minutes before you give the pitch, take three deep breaths to relax and you’ll appear more natural.
9. Have a tangible follow-up
So, you've presented an amazing elevator pitch and the other party is interested, but they have no way of getting in touch with you. If that's the case, you may as well forget the pitch even happened.
Always carry around a business card or another tangible item for them to contact you later. At the very least, ask for their name so you can find them on LinkedIn.
You're ready to pitch!
You can’t control who you’ll meet or who will respond to your outreach. But if you have an elevator pitch ready, you won’t have to hesitate when you encounter the decision maker for your business.