The best conversations take place when time is limited.
Whether you have a 20-minute meeting, a five-minute walk-and-talk, or the few seconds before your prospect decides to hang up the phone, you need a pitch for every occasion.
Successful sales representatives pair memorable elevator pitches with valuable technology like sales engagement software to streamline the sales process and manage sales messaging and material. This makes it easy to report on tactics and reduces administrative work for reps.
What is an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is a brief, catchy summary of your offering. At somewhere between 30 to 60 seconds, an elevator pitch is meant to be about the length of a ride in an elevator.
Though elevator pitches are most popularly known for being a sales tool, they can be used for various use cases, such as during job interviews and social introductions at networking events.
Elevator pitches are powerful selling tools as they are a way to share your expertise and communicate it effectively with potential investors or customers who don't know you.
When executed properly, an elevator pitch equips you to make a stellar introduction and form business connections through persuasion. These short monologues can improve your professional network, get a new job position, or even make new friends!
What to say in an elevator pitch
An elevator pitch comes in handy in hundreds of situations, and you may need more than one, depending on what you’re selling. Whether you pitch a product, your company, or even yourself, the goal is always to front-load the most important information, like the opening paragraph of a news story.
The idea is to convey enough information to get an invite to a full meeting without overwhelming the prospect with an information overload. It’s about presenting an idea that intrigues your prospect in a package they like.
So, as well as crafting the perfect elevator pitch, you also have to ensure you:
- Speak clearly and concisely
- Have a friendly and respectful demeanor
- Convey enthusiasm with your tone and body language for a positive prospect interaction
Then if your prospect has time, you can expand on the details, which is how you grow an elevator pitch into a longer presentation.
Getting started with an opening
Imagine you’re quite literally in an elevator with someone you’ve never met before but who you think might be a good prospect. No one is saying anything. Your carefully memorized elevator pitch feels out of place. The key is to establish a connection with your prospect very quickly.
Consider the following conversation starters:
- For prospects at networking events:
"How'd you enjoy the speaking event? What were your main takeaways?"
- For prospects you know through a common connection:
"XYZ told me about your recent job change. How do you like it?"
- For prospects that are industry thought leaders:
"I loved your insights on the new research trend the company published. Those sales statistics were very interesting."
Hard as it may be, it’s important to make your opening gambit as natural as possible, so your prospect isn’t immediately on the defensive.
Ask them about themselves. For example, What do you do? Have you visited here before? How was your journey? or something similar. People are naturally inclined to reciprocate and will likely give you the opening you need to begin your pitch with a question as planned.
If you know them, but they don’t know you, then introduce yourself. Tell them how you know of them (as long as it’s good stuff!) and say that you’ve been hoping to speak to them.
Check out this TEDx talk, including ideas on how to start a conversation with a prospect that is valuable for both parties.
How to write an elevator pitch
When I think about drafting an elevator pitch, I'm reminded of the golden sales lesson where new reps are asked by hiring managers to sell a pen next to them.
When you’re put on the spot, it can be hard to distill your offer into one great soundbite. That’s why we recommend you write your elevator pitch before you need it – and learn it by heart.
Your elevator pitch must be clever, succinct, and have a high recall value to ensure your audience has a clear overview of who you are, what you're selling, and how they can benefit once the interaction is complete.
Focus on details
When time is short, it is essential to focus on the big picture and not get bogged down by trivial information.
It is easier to eliminate surplus information once you write a detailed introduction rather than picking what to say when making the pitch. With that in mind, try writing down a long-form introduction to yourself and your offering by including the following information:
- Your name and where you work
- What good/service you're offering
- The primary problem your offering solves
While it can seem that all three points from this introduction are extremely important, memorizing your name and getting carried away with what you're offering is not where you should ever begin your elevator pitch. People tend to focus on their problems, so begin at the end of the list - what pain points your product solves for the listener.
Identify what your problem solves
A good pitch, whether in an elevator or not, always conveys information about a value proposition. To identify your unique selling proposition, write down the problem (s) your offering can solve. Can it be summarized in a single sentence? Write that down. Now, can that sentence be turned into a question?
Questions that engage your prospect’s imagination are the best for an elevator pitch. For example, by asking a prospect, "You know how people always argue over the office air conditioning?", you are simultaneously describing the problem that no one is happy with the office temperature – and asking them to reflect on their own experiences, helping them to relate to the problem being described.
Depending on your prospect's imagination, you might need more than one line to make this work. A variation of the previous example could be: "You know how people always argue over the office air conditioning? You have many people sweating in the heat, and then there’s Betty in the corner wearing a blanket and mittens."
The extra detail helps your prospect put themself into that situation. It's also an opportunity for you to express a little more of your personality and begin to build a rapport with your future customer.
Talk yourself up, relevantly
First, you drown them, then you save them. Now that you’ve established the problem that your offer solves, you can describe the solution. You have mere seconds, so focus on benefits, not features. Don't emphasize how your product works – tell them how it will work for them.
Following our previous example, reference your product as a solution after asking them about the air conditioner. Mention the benefits of an air conditioning vent allowing every office member to control the air's temperature. Too hot? Open your vent to the max, and direct it on your face. Too cold? Close it down. Everyone gets a remote control, the vents react instantly – and there are no more hassles about the temperature.
Notice that there is no technical jargon in my fictional air conditioning vent pitch description. It’s entirely focused on solving the problem at hand. This is critical to the success of your elevator pitch. Technical jargon is fine when talking to vendors, but with prospects and customers, always aim for clarity and accessibility.
Once you’ve wowed them with your solution, it's a good time to drop in the product/company name – kind of like the way James Bond introduces himself after he’s done something heroic.
Elevator pitch best practices
An elevator pitch can either earn you a new customer or lead to an awkward interaction, depending on how well-prepared you are. As with any selling strategy, it is a good idea to maintain some best practices to ensure your pitch gets you a full-blown presentation.
- Do your research. Every elevator pitch is unique and must be based on deep research. Conduct a deep dive on your prospect if you know they will be in the same room as you. Review your sales enablement material if the prospect has questions on product and service specifics.
- Practice makes perfect. You only have a few seconds to say your piece, and making introductions in a rushed setting can be awkward. Thus, it is best to practice your spiel a few times to move past any awkwardness on the day of the pitch.
- Have an ask. Know what you want to achieve from the interaction once the pitch is complete. Are you looking to onboard them as a client? Was the pitch a way to get them interested in funding your business? An overall idea of what you want to gain from the interaction is helpful before you go in.
- Follow-up right away. Elevator pitches are not a done-and-dusted situation. If you've got the prospect's contact information, follow up via email or LinkedIn. Remind them of the context of your meeting, thank them for their time, and find a way to continue building on the acquaintance.
Elevator pitch examples
There are a million different directions you can take with your elevator pitch. From keeping it to the point to expressing your proposition creatively, here are some examples to inspire you to write your own.
- Straight shot: "I'm sure you've heard about ChatGPT and all the other AI tools evolving rapidly. Studies show it will become imperative for smart companies to invest in AI and Machine learning operationalization software to monitor models integrated into business operations. If you’re interested to know more about the tech and how to pick the best tool for your needs, give me a call, and I'll be happy to walk you through specifics."
- I feel your pain: "I enjoyed your talk on marketing through a down economy. Our customers have faced similar issues for the past two years and have maximized existing resources. They use our high-quality buyer intent data for targeted marketing to avoid churn and excess money spent. I'm happy to walk you through our solution and connect further."
- Numbers game: We recently conducted a data survey and found that 86% of businesses have seen an increase in productivity with the rise in hybrid cloud storage solutions. Modern business processing systems integrated with this technology experience cost savings and are better equipped to scale faster. Get in touch with our team for more insights and compelling statistics.
No awkward silences zone
Elevator pitches will intrigue a potential client, employer, or investor in 30 seconds. To gain the maximum benefits from your elevator pitch, focus your pitch on your target audience and what problem of theirs you can solve.
When building your elevator pitch into a longer presentation, remember that the customer should remain at the core of your story.
Want to boost your customer communication skills to ensure your elevator pitch is second to none? Explore the top 8 tips to get more out of every prospective business conversation.
This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated with new information.