Don't lead with product knowledge, lead with business knowledge

Do you have a Succinct Elevator Pitch?

Imagine the scene – you walk into a lift and there facing you is that person you’ve been trying to get hold off to progress a business opportunity. What do you do? I’m guessing, as you are probably unprepared for this encounter, you bluster, waffle, get tongue tied or stand there in silence. What you don’t do is engage in a positive and valuable way. So consider that event now – before it happens.

Put this on your to do list now. Compile and practice your own elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is effectively an ice breaker. Something you know so well (because you’ve practiced) that you can instantly draw on it during chance meetings. Make sure your pitch is a powerful statement which succinctly describes you, your company, or your products. Don’t ramble, and don’t try to sell. It is not a sales pitch or an opportunity to make an on-the-spot sale. The skill lies in making the most of a social conversation (in a pub, airport lounge, conference or lift!) and converting it into an opportunity to promote your business whilst employing a conversational social style.

Your main objective to your pitch is to get your audience interested, to create a hook, to exchange business cards, to get agreement to arrange a meeting.

The pitch should start with your lead-in statement – a crisp, energetic, engaging 10 seconds sentence to spark interest. Make sure you make it memorable (make your listener think ‘wow, that could be useful’, active (what your company does) and include measurable financial benefits.

A good opener would be:

“The [name of hotel] chain uses our software and services to help train their employees, resulting in an average 10% increase in sales, compared to the performance of other hotel chains.”

“We help our clients with hiring, design, branding, marketing and digital development, typically producing bottom line savings of £500 per employee”

Once you have delivered your statement. Pause. Allow your listener to make a head nod, comment or ask a question. Generally, the response should give you encouragement; they may ask ‘how do you do that? If not, then your audience is probably not interested.

Make sure when you reply to their question you include your differentiator or your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Give one or two reasons why they should include your company (again, make sure you have a list of reasons you know inside out and can draw on but only include one or two reasons tailored to your audience).

The time available to you during a chance meeting is normally very short (hence the elevator reference which is normally the time it takes to get to the 12th floor), so at this stage ask an open question, but ask it in such a way that it is conversational rather than the unnatural ‘forced, false, chatty salesman speak’. You want your listener to respond in detail so avoid giving them the opportunity to answer with a yes/no answer. Questions along the lines of ‘I’m sure you have experienced this at one time or another, tell me how you overcome it?’ Or ‘how would something like this benefit your firm/you’ all help to progress the conversation and build rapport.

Finally, don’t forget the most important part of your elevator pitch – the call to action, the request to discuss the matter further, to get an appointment for a follow-on meeting. Keep it informal, your approach could be along the lines of:

“If we could deliver [something of value to the customer], what would your thoughts be on having a meeting with us to hear more?”

“I know you are busy, about to get out on the 10th floor, but I believe it would be really useful for both of us if we explored this opportunity further to find out how we can help. Here’s my business card – do you have one on you? If you are in agreement, I’ll give you/your secretary a ring to get an appointment in your diary.’

Don’t forget to practice your elevator pitch – say it out loud and rehearse your pitch so you can deliver it naturally and conversationally – for best effect rehearse with another person.

Remember – keep it short, keep it pertinent, and only include one or two key points. Your challenge is not to be able to talk for a whole minute non stop, so keep your sentences to a length of ten to twenty seconds. Remember your main objective is to create a ‘next steps’ opportunity – a meeting, a demonstration, a game of golf - whatever is needed to impress further.

Amanda Chandler


Published on: 4th Nov 2010


Return to news index