For as long as I’ve been in the sales universe, the importance of a strong elevator pitch has always been emphasized. Mentors, managers, and colleagues that I have encountered tend to agree that constructing the right elevator pitch can be an effective tool in forging new business relationships.
This post endeavors to provide key tips and strategies to help craft an effective and powerful elevator pitch to ensure that new opportunities aren’t missed.
But note - don’t confuse an elevator pitch with a sales pitch. Think of an effective elevator pitch as an ice breaker to get your counterpart to open up to you. Picture this as an example: Suppose you are at a cocktail reception during a trade show or a conference, and you run into someone who asks you the inevitable question, "So, what do you do for a living?"
The response might be to simply say, "I work in sales" or a somewhat vague, "I work for ABC company as an account executive." Generally, these are acceptable responses...but they not do much for driving the conversation forward into anything meaningful. Successful dialogue establishes a rapport, and with these responses, the conversation can at times, end up moving into chit-chat that doesn't quite hit the mark.
However, if you respond with a carefully crafted elevator pitch, the conversation could take a different direction and lead to a higher level of engagement. If deployed correctly, this could potentially lead the conversation towards a business relationship.
Generally, an elevator pitch consists of three crucial parts:
1) Position your statement in a way that benefits your counterpart
The most important thing to establish in this point is that you need to have clear benefits in mind when constructing an elevator pitch. The key is not the product or service you are selling but the impact and/or effect that your product is able to provide for the company - that is what makes you stand out. Honing on what the beneficial impacts customers will experience should be the driving force.
For example, let's suppose that you are selling cloud-based facilitation software for specific verticals. Its key benefit coult be that it streamlines the maintenance process for an owner of franchise restaurants or convenience stores. While the software is what you are selling, the benefits of it may not be apparent right off the bat.
Yes, it may save the owner time or money, but that point should be packaged differently. Instead of saying, "We sell facilitation software that saves our customers on average more than $35,000 per year." try something like, “franchisee owners use our software to streamline their maintenance requests that provides them with time savings, while reducing their spend on maintenance by more than $35,000 per year."
2) Set yourself apart from the competition
Without a real differentiator, you are essentially setting yourself up to commoditize your product or service, rather than sell the actual product. However, your pitch needs to address a fundamental point: Why should customers buy from you specifically. In this aspect, differentiators should include measurable facts and numbers - not unsubstantiated claims and opinions, or abstract points.
For example, rather than saying something generic like, “we provide excellent customer service to all our subscribers,” try, “we have been named a "best-in-class" provider 3 years in a row by Facilitation Times, who has evaluated our software solutions and compared it to other providers."
3) Sell the Meeting
A mistake that tends to occur is to try and close the sale while delivering the elevator pitch – it is much too early in the game. The elevator pitch is almost like a trailer to a movie, it delivers a clear message while providing an avenue to continue the conversation. You have not been selling the product or the service, at least not yet. This is an opportunity to assess a customer's need, and mutually decide if you are able to deliver on their pain points.
This also means that there is a certain degree of finesse required in order to advance the conversation. Instead of saying something along the lines of “Here’s my card, give me a call at your convenience,” you could say “I’d like to learn more about what you’re looking for and perhaps find out if ours is the right solution for you. What’s the best way to get on your calendar later this month?”
The ultimate goal is to have a meaningful conversation that can be picked up at a later time, during a more structured setting and venue. The general tone needs to be that of a colleague or a consultant, not that of the "typical salesperson."
In short, keep your elevator pitch simple and concise. Try to avoid fancy terms and technical jargon, which might only lead to confusion and disinterest. Keep practicing your elevator pitch, and with consistent effort, it can help win new customers wherever and whenever you might bump into them.