- A feature article by Amit Mishra, Eight India
You’re just about to catch a flight to attend a business meeting and you bump into the head of marketing you’ve been trying to connect with for months.
What do you do?
After exchanging greetings, he asks you why you’ve been trying to meet him.
This is your chance. Your mind goes fuzzy and you start making small-talk, complimenting him on his company. His flight is called. “Sorry,” he says. “I’m really in a hurry…” And he’s gone.
You missed your opportunity. You never got your words out and didn’t set up another meeting.
This is one of the many situations where a pre-prepared elevator pitch would have saved the day.
As a connector of people and as a continual promoter of Eight, I’ve got my elevator pitch down to a science. I use it many times every day all over India. Let me share my thoughts with you about this key topic.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch is a short, generally 30–45-second, precise business summary that describes and raises interest in you, your idea, or your company. It does this in a clear, memorable, and brief way. Everyone in business should have one and should have a number of variations of it for different contexts.
It’s called an elevator pitch because you should be able to deliver it in the time of an elevator ride.
A good pitch is designed to grab the listener’s attention so you can, at the least, get their contact and follow up. It should also show a little bit of your character.
To see an elevator pitch in action here’s an inspiring video.
This approach is the gold standard to communicate your expertise and credentials quickly and effectively with people who don’t know you.
Elevator pitches come in handy not just on elevators. You can use your pitch at chance meetings at airports, cocktail parties, in line at the grocery store, anywhere you have an encounter with limited time.
For me, it’s come in handiest at networking events and mixers.
How to Craft an Elevator Pitch
You’re bound to make several versions of your pitch before you get it right, and you should always be seeking to refine it. It should be compelling and detail-rich, yet sound conversational and spontaneous. The following points have worked wonders for me.
Know what you want to accomplish with your pitch. For instance, what do you intend to focus more on – your company or the great idea?
As with all good sales and marketing communications: know your audience. Think of what you have to offer but even more, think of how you can help them.
Still, know what you want to get out of our pitch: an investor? a buyer? a job?
Also consider situations such as time restraints, the other person’s culture, and whether they are the key person or connected to the key person you’re trying to reach.
Have a Conversation: Engage with your Audience
How would you feel if you were a CEO and some random nobody started blasting you with their amazing idea? I’d feel irritated, perhaps offended. Who is this person?
An elevator pitch is indeed a mini presentation, but it’s in the form of a dialogue, a conversation. Listening is as important as talking about yourself.
A simple question is a terrific opener and ice breaker. To promote a work productivity app, you can ask “How do you monitor your employees’ progress?” or “Does your company use a CRM?” or perhaps “You look like a busy person. Do have a favorite app for tracking your time?”
You can then segue into your pitch, and you once or twice check in with a simple, engaging question such as, “What’s your opinion on that?” or “How does that sound to you?”
Avoid making it sounds transactional; that you want to give something and get something back.
Explain Your Business or Idea’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The main part of your pitch is of course the central topic: you, your idea, your company. Describe it with clear and simple words that people can relate to. Focus on the problems it will solve and how it will help the person you’re talking to. Specify what makes it unique. Add some select and impressive statistics to support your case.
Know your unique selling proposition (USP); what sets your or your product apart. A USP is something you should be enthusiastic about. After all, it’s a solution to their problem.
For example, saying that you’ve come up with a “great new mobile app that’ll knock your socks off” is empty and paints no picture. But if you add details of how your mobile app is useful in remotely monitoring and tracking the activities of offshore staff members, and how that provides reassurance and boosts productivity, now you’re delivering a clear connection of features and benefits.
Add your USP, and you’ve quickly described both your core and your key attraction.
Keep it Tight
Compose your pitch and read it aloud, again and again. Record how long it takes, make adjustments. Keep it no longer than 30–45 seconds. Anything more than that will risk you losing the person’s interest or never given them the chance to respond.
Keep things that are absolutely necessary, with enough zing to make it compelling and spark interest. Always remember: the shorter it is, the better. Here’s a terrific example.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Like anything else, an elevator pitch can be perfected with practice. Vary your speed and tone a bit, so you don’t sound like a robot. I recommend practising either in front of the mirror or colleagues. Get honest feedback. Ask people if they’d be interested. Ask them where you lost their attention. Incorporate their valuable advice.
Take a Step Back and Don’t Push or Brag
A lot of us get so involved in the product or service, we start overselling to a point where it’s like in-person spamming. We can’t see the forest for the trees.
We may have been intensely working to develop our product for the last half-year, or 5 years, or more! But we forget that others don’t know anything about it. Take a step back. Keep it basic. Focus on benefits and tie them to features.
It’s also important to understand when to step out of the conversation if the person shows no interest or is deliberately ignoring you.
As long as they’re looking at you, even sideways, you’re still in it. Stick to your game, but adjust your tone, pace, and energy to better match who you’re talking to, and stay humble and confident. Don’t brag.
Never ask for investments or ask them to buy in the first meeting. It just exposes you as needy and pushy.
The goal is not to make a sale (yet). It’s to get to know the person, their problems, and align them with yourself and your solutions.
The Closing Note
Hopefully you’ve done a good job with the pitch. But whatever happens, it’s also important to close the conversation on a high note they’ll remember.
In most cases, the other person will ask you to mail them. This may be their way of getting rid of you, or they may want to stay in touch.
But think about it: if you really wanted to stay in touch, would you wait for the other person to get back to you? Probably not.
Ask the person for advice and try your hardest to arrange a time to meet them again to discuss it some more.
Most people like to honor what they say. So try and get them to commit to staying in touch and meeting again.
And Always Keep your Business Card Ready
Your calling card helps the other person remember you and your message after you’ve delivered your pitch. Always have extra cards on hand.
An elevator pitch is, by nature, hurried. At the least, you want them to get your card, and ideally you want to get their card as well. Then follow up. You must keep the dialogue going.
The Eight app comes in handy here. I just take their card, scan it using the phone’s camera, add some reference notes of the conversation and then follow up with them. I can even connect with them using inbuilt chat system.
And when they’re also on Eight, I can see how their career is advancing.
Good luck with your pitches!