What’s an elevator pitch and why do you need one?

September 15, 2020

I’d like you to imagine that you meet your dream buyer who is about to rush off to catch a plane, or these days to join another Zoom call, or I suppose literally get into a lift or elevator, and you have a few brief moments to let them know what you could do for them.

Will you get flustered and blurt out the first thing that comes into your head or will you have a well-rehearsed, ready-made pitch up your sleeve for just such an occasion?
That’s where your elevator pitch comes in.

The definition of an elevator pitch

According to Wikipedia the definition of an Elevator pitch is as follows:

“An elevator pitch is a short description of an idea, product or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time. This description typically explains who the thing is for, what it does, why it is needed, and how it will get done…. An elevator pitch does not have to include all of these components, but it usually does at least explain what the idea, product, company, or person is and their value.

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”

Here’s an example…

I used to work with a data analytics business. One of the directors there had a phrase he wheeled out at any such opportunity.

We’re a data analytics business. We can help you unlock the value of your data – we’ll either make you money, save you money or keep you out of jail.

Now even though I ended up hearing that phrase quite a lot I must admit that anyone hearing it for the first time would remember it and be intrigued enough to ask for more information.

Have you got a great elevator pitch, or is it just elevator music?

There’s a number of aspects that make an elevator pitch stand out. It should be:

    • 1. Attention-grabbing

When the founders of juice drinks brand Innocent went to meet a major UK retail buyer early in their history one of the founders Richard Reed is reputed to have dressed as a nun. That’s one way to be remembered and grab people’s attention but you can’t go around dressed as a nun all the time (unless you are a nun) so think of something else.

    • 2. Clear

For example, the Google elevator pitch is short and sweet. “Google organizes the world’s information and makes it universally accessible.

    • 3. Memorable

What do you remember about the elevator pitch example I used in the introduction? I’m guessing it was the bit about ‘keeping you out of jail’ because it was surprising. When you think about it you realise he was talking about helping companies use data for regulatory compliance, which let’s face it is quite a boring thing, but the way he expressed it was memorable and intriguing.

    • 4. Snappy

The answer to the challenge of how to fit your pitch into a 30 second slot is not to talk fast. If you do that you’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The trick is to condense it all down to something punchy and concise that does the job of conveying your proposition.

    • 5. Relevant & Beneficial

If you can boil down the impact that your business has on the bottom line of the listener you are sure to get their attention because it frames the benefit of working with you in their terms.
“we doubled category growth by lifting rate of sale”
“we can halve your secondary packaging costs”
“our products will attract younger more affluent consumers into the market”

    • 6. Single-minded

In the hit Hollywood musical movie La La Land, Ryan Gosling plays a frustrated jazz musician, Sebastien who is down on his luck and furious that his favourite old jazz club has been turned into a Samba-Tapas place.
Sebastian: … you won’t believe that they turned it into a samba-tapas place.
Laura: Oh, my god, Sebastian!
Sebastien: Samba. Tapas. Pick one, you know? Do one right.
My advice would be when it comes to elevator pitches it pays to pick one and do it right too!

    • 7. Different

In the increasingly busy, fragmenting world of communication where everyone is exposed to hundreds of selling messages everyday it pays to stand out. Ask yourself what is different about your proposition?
If you have something that pulls you apart from the pack it needs to be obvious in your elevator pitch otherwise it becomes elevator music and washes over everyone like background noise.

Five more tips for making your elevator pitch count

1. A great elevator pitch needs some kind of follow up even if it’s a just business card, or a LinkedIn connection request, to help cement the recall of the encounter.

2. Become a black belt at video call technology. Work out how to share your screen with confidence on the main video call platforms Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Skype. You never know when you might need it. Don’t do what I heard about one person doing which was to hold his paper sales presenter up to the camera!

3. Try using metaphors to explain unfamiliar new concepts. It’s like a cross between a …and a……It is said that the Sci-fi TV series Star Trek was originally pitched as a “space western” to make a way-out idea seem more familiar and acceptable.

4. Avoid business jargon. It assumes too much on the part of your audience and it makes you sound less human if you rely on it.

5. Finally, there’re three more things you need to do to get your pitch down and that’s practice, practice, practice.

At Wabel we help to facilitate hundreds of buyer-supplier meetings every year across multiple categories at our Wabel online summits. We match buyers with the best suppliers in their category using B2B Smart Meetings technology.

The suppliers that stand out at these encounters are the ones that are well prepared and have figured out their elevator pitch.