Sell to Win

How to craft an effective elevator pitch in 7 easy steps

Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
A happy person jumping out of an elevator after delivering a pitch.

An elevator pitch is a quick, 30-second statement that's designed to educate and spark interest in a specific organization.

This is how elevator pitches work: Imagine you’re dining at your favorite restaurant when a hand taps you on the shoulder. You turn to see a former colleague standing behind you, on their way to their own table. After you exchange pleasantries they ask, "So, what does your new company do?"

The restaurant's host is waiting to seat your former colleague, so this exchange needs to be short. The clock is ticking.

Unfortunately, the words just don't come out the way you want them to and you end up mumbling something vague and uninspired about your new sales job. "Oh neat," your former colleague says with a slightly confused look on their face. "Well, it was good to see you."

And just like that, they’re gone. 

Later that night, you remember that your former colleague now works for a big, important company downtown. If you had been prepared, you could have presented your organization in a better light and maybe even scored them as a client.

In this article, we'll show you how to craft an effective elevator pitch in five easy steps. That way you never miss an opportunity like the one depicted above. Let's dive in!

Step 1: Have Multiple Pitches

That's right, the first step towards crafting an effective elevator pitch is to have more than one

According to Glen Gould, CEO of Dry Cleaning Connection, "You need three elevator pitches that you have rehearsed, delivered, and edited based on responses you get to ensure you’re always using your best material."

The three pitches Glen recommends are:

  1. Chance Meeting: This elevator pitch works best when the person you're talking to has no frame of reference for what you do. It should casually introduce a problem, then speak to the way your company and/or product solves it.

  2. Prospect Meeting: Use this pitch when talking to an actual prospect, i.e. somebody who's already expressed interest in your company and the products it sells. This elevator pitch should ask a question that confirms an incorrect assumption for your prospect. Then it should go on to show how your product proves this assumption wrong.

  3. Presentation Pitch: The presentation pitch is an elevator pitch that tells the story of how your company and/or product helped another customer. It should present a problem, illustrate your company's solution, and then provide actual results.

Ryan Vet, entrepreneur and author, agrees with this approach: "Having key bullet points and adapting your pitch to the setting, the time you have, and the audience can make all the difference in the world to getting that follow-up call."

Step 2: Know Your Audience

An audience of cats and dogs with 3D glasses

Okay, you've taken the time to craft multiple pitches. But how do you know which one to use and when? This is a matter of understanding your audience.

Lauren Torregrossa, the Media Relations Manager at CareerPlug says: "Businesses need to remember who their audience is and make sure they're speaking to their needs. While it's great to talk your company up, it's even better to address how you solve your clients' problems and make their lives easier." 

How do you do this? Especially if you've just met the person you're delivering your elevator pitch to? One way is to start your pitch with a question. Based on the way your fellow conversationalist answers, you can tailor your pitch specifically to them.

For example, if you sell tax preparation software, you could ask "Do your taxes take you longer to complete than you'd like?" When your contact says "yes," you could launch into an elevator speech that speaks to how quickly users of your software are able to prepare their taxes.

Always remember this advice from Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing: "All the person listening cares about is how you can make their life better or easier, so focus your pitch on exactly how your product does just that."

Step 3: Answer the Main Questions

So far we've covered the need to have multiple elevator pitches and the importance of understanding your audience before choosing which pitch to use. Now, let's take a moment to discuss how to actually craft your own elevator pitch.

Kelly Bertog, a Marketing Manager at Future Founders, tells us that: "Unfortunately, too many people feel [the need] to fill their pitch with as many facts and details as they possibly can. This inevitably leads to a rushed, overstuffed pitch that does nothing."

Kelly encourages people to instead focus on three main things in their elevator pitches: the pain point, the value proposition, and the call-to-action. Let's take a closer look at each:

  1. The Pain Point: Show the listener that you have a deep understanding of the challenge/pain point that they're currently facing.

  2. The Value Proposition: Explain why your business is uniquely suited to solve that pain for the customer or help them overcome that specific challenge.

  3. Call to Action: Clearly articulate exactly what you want that individual to do (agree to a longer meeting, invest, sign up for your demo, visit your manufacturing center, etc.)

If you focus on these three things in your elevator pitches, you'll be able to quickly and succinctly convey information to your audience in a persuasive way.

Step 4: Practice Your Pitch

A baseball pitcher striking out multiple batters.

You've painstakingly crafted your elevator pitch. Congratulations! You now have the ammunition you need to quickly educate folks about your company and spark interest in the products and/or services it offers. But your work isn't quite done yet. You also need to practice your pitch until you're able to deliver it confidently in any situation.

Forgetting to practice is one of the main mistakes that Chris Ygay, the owner of Private Practice Dollars, sees people make. He says: "Too often people create the elevator pitch and don't take the time to practice their delivery. Much like an actor commits lines to memory, a business owner needs to practice their elevator pitch. Lack of practice often leads to wordy, long, and unfocused elevator pitches."

Once your pitch is committed to memory, try practicing it in front of the mirror to ensure your body language matches your words. This extra effort will ensure your elevator pitches are more effective, guaranteed.

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Step 5: Adjust your Pitch as Needed

Finally, always look for ways to improve your elevator pitch. JC Glancy, one of the founders of Zen Business, encourages people to: "Listen intently to feedback and responses every time you make your pitch - this is free info you can use to iterate!"

He goes on to say: "Even if their response is nothing—or negative!—that is feedback that lets you rapidly iterate the pitch and make it better. Use it! If you're constantly working on your pitch, you're constantly making it better."

In all likelihood, your elevator pitch won't be perfect right out of the gate. You'll need to use it a few times, see what works and what doesn't, and then adjust your approach based on the results you achieve, whether they’re positive or negative. By doing so, you'll ensure your elevator speech becomes the very best that it can be.

Bonus Tip!

After talking with numerous elevator pitch experts, one thing became very clear: the need for authenticity. If your pitch sounds phony or contrived, you'll have a really hard time getting anyone excited about your company or the products you sell.

That's why the founder of Crowned Fox Adventures, Steve Renard, says: "A good elevator pitch is only partly about the content, so while you can craft one, it will fall flat if it's not authentic or you don't believe it."

Ellen Mullarkey, the VP of Business Development at Messina Staffing agrees and adds: "Your elevator pitch doesn’t have to sound like a pitch. You shouldn’t sound like you’re trying to get funding from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. It should sound natural and conversational. You want to be able to deliver your pitch in casual situations, like at parties or conference lunches."

Make sure both your pitch and the way you deliver it come across as authentic and you'll have much more success. To do this, be passionate about your company and its products and convey that passion with natural, conversational language.

In Conclusion:

Your elevator pitch is important! A well-crafted statement will educate folks about your company and spark an interest in the products you sell. At the very least, you'll represent your company in the right way and help to ensure the general public perceives it properly.

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