Oct 012011
 

elevator pitch

Every Entrepreneur Needs An Elevator Pitch

Are you familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch (a/k/a elevator speech)?  If you’re an entrepreneur, you really need to understand the idea of an elevator pitch and you need to formulate your own.

The name elevator pitch (or elevator speech) comes from the idea that when you get on an elevator and want to say something to someone you just met there, you don’t have very long to do it!  How long you have depends on how many floors you’re going, how fast the elevator goes, and how soon after entering the elevator you start speaking to the other person.

It’s a great metaphor and a great idea, as it forces you to boil down your “pitch” to its very essence, so you can get your point across “before the elevator opens”.  The concept of elevator pitches has been around for a long time.  If you’ve not already formulated yours, I recommend you do so as soon as possible and begin using and refining it as you meet new people.  Before you take it “prime time” with potentially important prospects, partners, investors, etc, I strongly advise you to try it out on several people you know.

So, how should you think about constructing your elevator pitch?  How long should it be?  What should it include?  Think about the scenario of just entering an elevator and realizing that, by chance, a potential investor you had wanted to get in touch with is on the same elevator.  You literally have an opportunity to give an elevator speech!   Unless you were in a very tall building with lots of stops, you would likely have less than thirty seconds, potentially far less, to deliver your elevator speech.  What would you want to get across to this very important prospect in such a short period of time?  Let’s look at an example.

In this example, we’ll think along the lines of being the founder and CEO an early stage technology company, getting into the elevator with an important potential investor.  We’ll look at a couple of elevator pitch examples for the same scenario, so you can see the good and the bad.

Elevator Pitch To Potential Investor – Example #1

Hello Mr. Investor.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.  I have been wanting to get in touch with you to tell you about the amazing technology we’ve developed.  I think it may be a great investment for your venture capital fund.  It’s based on nanotechnology and has the potential to help a lot of people and keep them from getting sicker.  I’d love to be able to get some of your time and tell you more about it.

Elevator Pitch To Potential Investor – Example #2

Hello Mr. Investor.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.  I have been wanting to meet you to tell you about the amazing technology and business model we have created, which I think is very well aligned with the types of investments your fund focuses on.  It’s based on our patented nanotechnology, which has been proven to reduce repeat heart attacks by 65%.  The addressable market is $10 billion and our team of veteran entrepreneurs and award-winning physicians has been at the forefront of many advances in this market.  Could we meet next week, so we can provide you with more details?

Ok, so which elevator pitch above do you believe is more likely to get the desired result – a meeting with the potential investor?  I’d have to say it’s pitch #2.  Do you agree?  Why?  Elevator speech #1 focuses on the entrepreneur and does not provide any specifics, particularly those specifics that would be of greatest interest to the potential investor.  Elevator speech #2 immediately shows the investor that you are thinking about their needs and what they’re looking for.  It says, “… which I think is very well aligned with the types of investments your fund focuses on…,” immediately proving to the prospective investor that you’ve done some research and are not just throwing out the same canned elevator pitch to everyone you run into.  Elevator pitch #2 also quickly gets into key points that are very relevant to most every venture capitalist, such as: “patented technology,” “proven to reduce,” “addressable market,” and “team of veteran entrepreneurs”.  With this second pitch, you are “talking their language,” as the saying goes.  Such an approach greatly increases the odds that they will listen and grant you the meeting you are seeking.

You can see how this concept of “talking their language” is relevant for any kind of elevator pitch, whether it’s to a potential customer, partner, investor, or any other important constituent.  Everyone is busy.  Everyone has a natural filter to help them ignore or “pay lip service” to those things that really are not relevant to them.  In order to get through this filter, you must be able to put your elevator speech in terms that really matter to the person with whom you are speaking.  If you do not take the time and effort to do this, you probably shouldn’t bother giving the elevator pitch, as you’ll only end up sounding irrelevant and confused.

When you are thinking about how to construct your elevator pitch, think about it the same way you would think about any marketing or sales pitch; it must be focused on the benefits you offer that solve specific problems the target is facing.  Elsewhere I’ve written about why most marketing does not work because it is focused on features and not benefits.  Every prospect with whom you have a “conversation,” regardless of the medium through which that communication occurs, has one thing first and foremost on their mind.  What is that one thing?  It is solving their issues and problems, particularly the most pressing ones.  That’s what we as human beings focus on all day long.  If you show up on the scene with your marketing message or elevator pitch and it is not relevant to me, my problems and issues, or my future aspirations, you get filtered out.  Period.  End of story.

Make sure your elevator pitch quickly gets to the point, which should be how what you have to offer is highly relevant to helping the person with whom you’re speaking solve their issues, problems and aspirations.  Keep it under thirty seconds.  Have a couple of versions prepared, so you can change it up a bit, based on relevancy to the particular person with whom you’re speaking.  Keep refining your pitch based on feedback you receive and results you achieve.  Remember, you’re not giving your whole pitch in the elevator; you’re just trying to “open the door,” so they’ll be intrigued enough to be willing to listen to a more detailed version of your pitch.  If you do those few things, you should end up with an elevator pitch, or really, a repertoire of elevator pitches, that allow you get your message across to key constituencies quickly and effectively.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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  75 Responses to “Every Entrepreneur Needs An Elevator Pitch”

  1. Hi Paul, I heartily agree, and this does not apply only to entrepreneurs. Anyone who finds themselves tongue-tied when introduced at a party, networking event or meeting should read these tips. One marketer I follow calls it the “first-date script,” where you are trying to make yourself attractive by establishing rapport and alignment with their needs, desires and values. Thanks for sharing this great info!
    Laurie recently posted..How to Use the Power of Conscious Intention to Attract Your Ideal TribeMy Profile

  2. This article was extremely timely as I’m in the midst of dialing in our elevator pitch for our latest company. You’d think an elevator pitch would come easy for someone like me, my last venture was an elevator company….Great article, first time on your site, just subscribed. Thanks!

  3. The 2nd pitch definitely gets straight to the point and tells the investor exactly how they can benefit. People don’t realize they only have a few seconds before their “prospects” lose interest or even worse they lose their “captured audience”. You covered some great points on successful elevator pitches and why entrepreneurs need them. Good job Paul!
    Knikkolette recently posted..Top Posts of the DayMy Profile

  4. Thanks, Knikkolette. I think it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of a good, effective elevator pitch! Even for those who are not in capital raising mode, there are several important constituencies, including prospective partners and customers, who want to hear what you do stated concisely in “their language”.

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Drue. I love your line “You’d think an elevator pitch would come easy for someone like me, my last venture was an elevator company” …. how ironic! I’m happy to hear this article was timely for you. I wish you the best in getting your elevator pitch dialed in.

  6. Hi, Laur. I’m with you that the elevator pitch does not apply only to entrepreneurs. In almost any situation where you are going to be meeting strangers and telling them about what you do, it’s very much worthwhile to have an elevator speech, or a few alternatives, worked out in advance. You have to adapt to each situation, of course, but it’s helpful to have a “punch list” of key benefits you like to get on the table. Paul

  7. [...] an article from Paul Morin from CompanyFounder.com, Every Entrepreneur Needs an Elevator Pitch, he creates scenarios that explain the concept. It’s a good [...]

  8. I feel that this article is very insightful and gives good examples of what an elevator should and should not contain. The second example allows the entrepreneur to express what their technology/idea is and at the same time gives fiscal amounts and market sizes to the investor (what their interested about). It is crucial to cut the fat out of the pitch and to fill it with substance and attention drawing words or phrases.

    Great read

  9. I agree with your assessment that every entrepreneur needs an elevator pitch, but so does any other person who is interacting with someone that they are interested in. If you attracted to someone, then you must provide a strong first-impression in order for them to want you to contact them any further. In a greater sense, venture capitalist(s) or any prospects which you are interesting in pursuing have too many things in a digitized, instant-gratification focused society commanding their attention. For that reason alone, you first impression must be succinct, concise, relevant, and has some follow-through (you could say almost after sales) action plan involved towards the end. In other words, your thoughts and interactions must result in a tangible, feasible action that has this person wanting to build a stronger partnership/friendship/relationship with you.

  10. Hi Paul, great article. I’m a student at ryerson university and the information here is very relevant to what we’re learning. I hope I can use this towards improving my own elevator pitch. Thanks for the info!

  11. This article was really helpful!

  12. Great Article. Helps grasp the point/ objective of these concise pitches.

  13. As a student learning about entrepreneurship, this was a great article and review of what an elevator pitch is. Really good tips and advice on how to forming an elevator pitch. First time on this page and will continue subscribe!

  14. Hi Paul, I am currently learning about elevator pitches in an entrepreneurship course and our professor referred us to your article. My question is, does this advice apply to pitching in other countries? For example, is an elevator pitch to an investor in Korea the same as pitching to a Canadian or American investor? Cory

  15. I do agree that the second pitch is more direct which comes straight to the point. Me being a business student, I know often and most of the time investors want the benefits directly and to keep interested the elevator pitch is a great tool to master.

  16. I would definitely vote for the 2nd pitch, as it is to the point, addressing the issues that the investor is mostly concerned about or in other words “what the potential investor is looking for”. Soon after the CEO captures the investor’s interest, he impresses the investor by proving quantifiable results, and opens doors for future conversations. This technique will not only turn good for entrepreneurs but also for a marketer/advertiser who wants to capture its audience attention, a salesperson who wants to sell a product to a customer and an individual looking for potential employment.

  17. I agree that it is very important and necessary for every entrepreneur to have an elevator pitch. There is only a set amount of time available to get someones attention on an idea or concept that is wanted to be appointed. If the pitch is not straight to the point and detailed in terms of statistical data, it may not be a successful one. Many successful entrepreneurs have elevator pitches that are very short and simple because they provide information that is surprising and interesting. It is all about the opportunity and confidence. If you are confident in your speech and provide the right information, the opportunity will be greater. Everyone has an opportunity through their elevator pitch, they just have to know what to say and how to say it.

  18. Very informative article, focusing on what you can provide to the investor is definitely the best strategy for an elevator pitch without having to get into specifics.

  19. Very insightful. I’ve always been an intrapreneur at companies I’ved work at and developing a good pitch is the first step to get your idea out in the open to higher management.

  20. What a useful article for an entrepreneur student! I think what stuck out the most while reading this was the need to base your elevator pitch on the investor, and not make it about yourself, the budding entrepreneur. I feel that when trying to pitch an idea, particularly if it is the first idea you have pitched to an investor, you would feel completely wrapped up in what YOU are bringing to the table; it is so easy to forget that an elevator pitch is actually an attempt to charm the investor into hearing more about what you may have to offer. A very helpful article for the self-centered entrepreneur.

  21. Great article, highly agree with your decision. It takes time to perfect a great elevator pitch, and one should always keep in mind certain ideas just incase the opportunity arises

  22. Hi Paul,

    Great Article!!! I definitely agree with you that the 2nd elevator pitch will grab a potential investors attention. As an entrepreneur, it is crucial that you have your ‘elevator pitch’ prepared, because you never know who you will meet that can present an opportunity of a lifetime. Yesterday, I was watching a short clip on the thestar.com presented by Kevin O’Leary (billionaire investor) from the CBC show Dragons Den. He explains what makes a successful Dragons Den pitch and this video shows you exactly on what a potential investor looks for. If you get the chance, click on the link below to watch the two-minute clip:

    http://www.thestar.com/videozone/1063042–how-to-pitch-a-deal

  23. I agree with Laurie, everyone needs an elevator pitch not just entrepreneurs. I have been using a customized elevator pitch to land interviews with prospective employers. What I believe an investor – or an employer in my case – looks for is, what makes you unique and how you would add value to their business. The second pitch highlights those two parts, reduce repeat heart attacks by 65% and a market of $10 billion. Great article, Paul!

  24. Hi Paul, thanks for sharing these great tips! Pitch #2 is much better than pitch #1. Pitch #2 is personalized and reflects the investors interests. Pitch #1 is quite mediocre and boring. It is imperative to grab the investor’s attention within the first few seconds if you want them to invest in you.

  25. Great article Paul, and the examples definitely help get the idea across. Elevator pitches are great tools for entrepreneurs, but even for someone working an office job they can certainly get you noticed. Meeting a senior manager in an elevator, and explaining how you and your team are progressing on the latest project will ensure that you don’t become just another employee among hundreds.

  26. A great supplement to what I learned in Ent 526 with Professor Wise

  27. I agree 100% that the second elevator pitch is more influential than the previous one. I feel that some people who try to improve their elevator pitch focus too much on numbers and statistics, and this is where they lose their ‘investor’s’ interest. That is why I think focusing too much on just numbers could be detrimental to the person who is pitching.
    The second elevator pitch is nice and balanced when it comes to using numbers and statistics. It is articulated well so that it quickly grabs the investor’s interest.

  28. This article was very informative. Getting an investor interested in your proposal within a time span of a minute can be a daunting task. This article gives key information of what to include and how to approach the investor. Including key bits of information like the market size and expected returns can make or break the elevator pitch

  29. Great article and a great example of how unattractive certain elevator pitches can be if they dont get to the point within the first few seconds. Good Job.

    Alex Saloomi from Sean Wise’s Class-Ryerson University.

  30. Thank you professor Wise for providing a link to this article and thank you Paul Morin. It was very helpful.

  31. My pleasure, Harmik. I’m glad you found the article helpful!

  32. Agreed, Alex. Elevator speeches can be very unattractive if they’re not well-thought-out and concise. Thanks for stopping by. Good luck in your entrepreneurship class.

  33. Thanks, Damian. The key is to pique your audience’s interest in the first 30-60 seconds, so that they’ll want to learn more. Whether it’s called an elevator pitch, or something else, doesn’t really matter. Where these “speeches” go wrong is when they try to impart too much (and often irrelevant) information in a short period of time, just leaving the listener confused and uninterested.

  34. Elevator pitch 2 is the better pitch. This is because the entrepreneur tells the details right down to a “t” of what product/innovative product he/she is selling and it can further create a meeting with more investors. Elevator pitch 1 really doesn’t say anything about the product and it only explains the entrepreneur. It doesn’t list the benefits of why people would want to buy this product. The second elevator pitch gives the details and most importantly the benefits which is what a good elevator pitch does! As it says in the above article elevator pitch 2 you are speaking the language of the venture capitalists and that is what vcs care about

  35. I agree with succeeding comments, the elevator pitch doesn’t only go for entrepreneurs but anybody trying to get funding for a cause. Say one was raising money for charity or for a conference, elevator pitches can be very helpful on showing the marketing or PR team how they can have one up on other companies. One must know EXACTLY what they’re talking about though because as you said before, they are very unattractive if not well thought out.

  36. Some really great tips here. Much like an elevator pitch is to the point and its purpose is to intrigue the investor, this article had the same effect for me. I agree Paul in that having a few elevator pitches memorized is beneficial not just for an entrepreneur, as Laurie stated, but to many other individuals as well. Anybody who is trying to sell themselves, their products or their services must be able to communicate clearly and effectively the benefits and their plans to sort out the essentials (for example, a potential investor’s problems or issues). Doing background research and familiarizing yourself with the potential investor and “their language” is key. As a student, I appreciate your tips, thank you Paul!

  37. Thanks, Danielle. Agreed — elevator pitches are useful not just for talking to investors, but for many other purposes as well. I’d caution a bit on memorizing the pitches, then sounding a bit too rehearsed when you deliver them. Just as when you’re giving a “regular speech,” you don’t want to read it or have it sound like it’s completely memorized, the same holds true for an elevator speech. The key is to think through the key points that you’ll want to get across to various constituencies, then when the time comes, make sure that you deliver the message concisely and naturally, in your own words. Paul

  38. I agree, Pitch 2 is more effective because it quickly defines the product and it’s value proposition. A helpful article to understand how to prepare an effective elevator pitch.

    ENT526 – Professor Sean Wise

  39. Well said, Harjas. As some like to say, “know the words before you start singing the song”. Make it concise. Make it natural, not robotic. Make sure it is relevant to the person whom you are “pitching”. Some people are actually against the idea of elevator pitches, as they think they come off as insincere or contrived. In some instance, that may be the case, but it does not have to be that way.

  40. That’s exactly right, Rajat. In an elevator pitch, just as in any other type of marketing/sales/persuasion, if you make it all about you and don’t take into consideration the needs of your audience, you’re not likely to get very far.

  41. Happy you found it helpful, Harpreet.

  42. Agreed, Justin — elevator pitch #2 is far more effective.

  43. I think you’re correct, Jonathan; using too many numbers and statistics may be a “turn off” for some audiences. On the other hand, other audiences wouldn’t be interested unless the pitch, regardless of the length, was filled with numbers and statistics. With an elevator pitch, as with any other persuasive speech, you must adapt quickly on your feet and make sure your persuasive content is presented in their “language”. Paul

  44. Absolutely, Ilya. Elevator pitches are not just useful for entrepreneurs! Being able to state what you offer, or what you’re doing, concisely and in terms that are relevant to your audience, is critical to being persuasive in almost any scenario. Paul

  45. Agreed, Wendy. Elevator Pitch #2 is better because it is more specific and it concisely presents information that is relevant to the investor, in language that the investor understands.

  46. Great article here Paul! This really boils things down to the very basic that someone should have when making the pitch. I agree with the article that pitch #2 is much more effective. Although, this is mainly talking about a potential investor, I believe that it is applicable to all conversations because it allows you to build rapport much more effectively. Thanks so much for the article!

    Justus from Prof. Wise ENT526 class

  47. The second pitch is definitely much better than the first one. The main reason is because it uses facts to grab your attention. Using actual figures lets the potential investor know that you are well-informed. It immediately gets to the point, and it speaks the language the investor understands ( ie. $$) Very helpful thank you :)

    Brigitte Doucet

    ENT526 – Professor Sean Wise

  48. This article is very helpful in preparing for an Elevator Pitch. Elevator Pitch #2 is 10x better than #1 because it is quick yet intriguing which will leave the investor wanting more.

    ENT526

  49. It is interesting that Elevator Pitch #2 is the right one. I understand how it is the right one but from what I had understood of an Elevator Pitch before reading this article was that it was like the first few sentence on a thesis paper that grabs the attention of the reader. However, now I see that an Elevator Pitch needs to be more like the last sentence of the first paragraph of a thesis paper which states all the main points in a few sentences.

  50. Agreed, Silvio. Pitch #2 is much more likely to leave the investor wanting to hear more about your business, which is the main objective when you have a very short time to get your point across.

  51. That’s correct, Brigitte. The objective is to leave the investor wanting more, by speaking to them in “their language,” with sufficient detail that they know that you “know your stuff”. Whether it’s called elevator pitch, elevator speech, or something else, the objective in these brief encounters is the same.

  52. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your entrepreneurship class, Justus. I agree that an elevator pitch, regardless of what you call it, is applicable in many scenarios, not just in entrepreneurship. Paul

  53. The key, Sarrah, is that it must grab the attention of the listener and make them want to hear more about your business, or whatever it is you’re pitching. For most applications, it must not only be intriguing (like the opening of any good story or thesis), but must also include sufficient detail that it shows the listener you know what’s important to them and you “talk their language”.

  54. That’s exactly right, Muhammad. Well said. Based on the comments on this article and my experience, most people understand that an elevator pitch has many uses beyond entrepreneurship. Some are concerned that such a short “pitch” will come off as contrived and insincere, but that does not have to be the case. The key is that there is a recognition that the elevator speech is just a potential bridge to a longer, more in-depth conversation regarding how you can help your prospect solve their issues.

  55. Thanks, Sen. Excellent video by Kevin O’Leary. I’m in full agreement with what he says there, as it is consistent with my experience in entrepreneurship, particularly as it relates to successful early-stage venture pitches. If you take a look around the Company Founder site, you’ll see that my beliefs and writings about entrepreneurship are fully consistent with the ideas expressed in Kevin’s video. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for bringing Kevin’s video to my attention. Paul

  56. That’s right, Christian. As another person commented, you never know when you’ll run into just the right person to help you move toward your objectives. When that time comes, you need to be prepared with a concisely stated, relevant pitch that will make them want to hear more.

  57. Well said, Ellie. I like the close of your comment: “A very helpful article for the self-centered entrepreneur”. In my experience, you are correct that most entrepreneurs suffer from the “me me me syndrome,” but we can’t hold that against them too much, as that’s more of a human affliction than something just present in entrepreneurs. The key in all persuasive communications, then, is to make sure that you are presenting your ideas in terms of the needs and desires of your audience. As long as you’re sincere and you can truly help them get what they want, it’s a true win-win.

  58. Thanks, David. Yes, I’d have to agree that an elevator pitch is at least as relevant for intrapreneurs as for entrepreneurs. The constituencies with whom you are communicating may be a bit different, but the idea is the same: put your pitch in their language.

  59. Thanks, Boris. Agreed — the less “fat” the better in an elevator pitch. It must be concise and highly relevant to the audience you are “pitching,” leaving them wanting to hear more.

  60. I’m happy you found this article useful, Kevin. Good luck with your entrepreneurship class!

  61. Well said, Jamie. I think you bring up an excellent point that part of the reason an elevator pitch is so important is that there are so many distractions in our world. We live in what I like to call a “short attention span theatre” world. Everyone, including investors and any other constituency you’d like to influence, is very busy and further, is accustomed to having their questions answered and their needs met almost instantly. You can not “beat around the bush” or you will lose their attention, quickly. Paul

  62. Thanks, Alan. I’m happy you found this article helpful. Good luck in your class and I look forward to seeing you around on Company Founder. Paul

  63. Hi, Cory. As I’m sure you are aware, there are significant cultural differences in how you present ideas, particularly from “East to West”. So, you must, of course, be sensitive to any nuances in Korea or any other country regarding politeness, propriety, position, etc. That being said though, in my experience in a bunch of countries around the world, it’s always important to put your ideas in terms of what’s important to your prospect, in a “language” that will resonate with them and show them that you know what you’re talking about.

  64. Thanks, Mohammed. Agreed — in my experience the elevator pitch, or at least the mindset of presenting your ideas concisely in terms that are relevant to your audience, is an important “tool” to have in your repertoire.

  65. Agreed, Andrew. It’s important to always put your elevator pitch in terms that are relevant to your audience, including sufficient detail to pique their interest and make them want to hear more.

  66. Well said, Eraj. I agree completely — the utility of elevator pitches goes far beyond presenting your ideas to investors.

  67. Agreed, Thai. The main point of an elevator pitch is to open the door to another conversation or series of conversations, where you are able to provide much greater detail to your prospect, whether it be an investor or some other important constituent. If you’re unable to open that door, no further conversations will happen.

  68. Great post here! Love your insights on the Elevator Pitch. Definitely something good to know about. You’ve shared some pretty good tips here. Thanks for that and keep it up! :D
    Pj Zafra recently posted..Sean’s Thoughts For the Week Ahead-5My Profile

  69. Hi, this is actually the first time I have heard of the elevator pitch. And it is so true that if we start talking to others, we need to talk about benefits of something instead of features. Especially if it is about your business. However that just applies to everything. You heard of a good play that is on stage around the corner. What is so good about it? Tell people what is great about it, especially if they have never heard of it. What will compell them to go? Good post.
    Miriam Slozberg recently posted..What is it that you are REALLY Trying to Hide with that “Holier than Thou” Attitude?My Profile

  70. Thanks, Miriam. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Agree — a good elevator pitch can be useful in almost any context. Paul

  71. Thanks! I’m happy you enjoyed the elevator pitch article. I appreciate your stopping by! Paul

  72. Here is an outline for an elevator pitch that I have used in the past when talking to a potential investor:

    Grab – Venture capitalists and angel investors are pitched every day. Your grab must be unique and compelling enough to capture their attention and imagination.

    Problem – As with any pitch your audience needs to feel the problem, feel the pain.

    Unique Solution – Investors look to invest in businesses that can be protected. If you solution can easily be copied, that is a risk many investors are unwilling to take, so explain what makes your company special.

    Traction – Traction trumps all else when it comes to investors. You will have VCs jumping in line to invest in businesses with great traction. Take Groupon for example, investors poured 100s of millions of dollars into the company despite the fact that there are literally 100’s of copycat companies.

    Stage – What stage are you at? Do you need funding? How much? Or have you already received investment?

    Next Step – Ask for a business card, or ask for a chance to meet with the investor individually.

  73. Thanks for your thoughts, Adam.

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