Jun 032017

How To Create A Compelling 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 describe your business (rather than staring at the floor or the wall) 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. But regardless of the number of floors, the speed of the elevator, and how soon you start speaking, unless the elevator gets stuck for some reason, you don’t have much time!

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 and get feedback.

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 have an opportunity to give an elevator speech to a very important audience!   Unless you’re 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? Remember, the idea is to pique their interest and increase the probability that you can take the conversation to the next step.  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 extraordinary 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 or have a call 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, and written in the language of, the seller, rather than focusing on the needs and language of the prospect.  Every prospect with which 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 is 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 about 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 the 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 several audience-customized elevator pitches, that allow you get your message across to key constituencies quickly and effectively.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.

Paul Morin