The notion of an elevator pitch is simple, straightforward, and applicable to many situations.  The absolute base component is clarity – knowing what you want, knowing what you offer.  This works in business, in a job search and in personal relations.

There are many definitions of the components of an effective pitch, and they are all reasonably similar.  The concept is based on what you would say to a prospect if you had a one floor ride on an elevator with them.  About 15 to 30 seconds.  All definitions mention some form of brevity, explain what you do, your unique value proposition, give examples.

Let’s reconsider some of this advice.  Most of the articles stress highlighting value.  But they all view value from the perspective of the seller.  In reality, too many responses to the question, “What do you do”, are based on the role of the individual, “I am an accountant” or “I sell life insurance”.  These are seller-oriented statements and do not convey any value to the receiver.

Go back to the core concept that people buy for their reasons and it’s corollary that people listen to WIIFM: what’s in it for me.  Your message has to resonate with their needs.

There are 3 keys to crafting an effective message:

  • Resonate with something they care about whether it’s business or personal
  • Strike an emotional chord.  It could be based on gain or on loss or the fear of loss.
  • Get the prospect to say, “Tell me more”.  Which means the are receptive to engaging in discussion.

Let’s look at some examples.  When you think about buying a car, what messaging comes to mind?  Some manufacturers leverage the Gain notion better than others.  And this isn’t even in their elevator pitch.  Its in their branding.  The branding evokes emotion which stirs desire.   So that when a potential buyer actually engages with sales, there is a better than average potential they are predisposed to buy.

Look at the emotion invoked in the following major brands:

  • Mercedes Benz – “The best or nothing”
  • Lexus – “Experience Amazing”
  • BMW – “The Ultimate Driving Machine”

There’s the line in “Batman Begins” where Katie Holmes, playing Rachel Dawes, encounters Bruce Wayne when he’s walking through the lobby of the hotel with a couple of beautiful women on each arm. She turns to him and says, “It’s what you do, that defines you”.  Now, we know how he responds as that’s the premise of the movie but consider how he could have answered it.

  • “I wear funny costumes and fly around Gotham”
  • “I catch bad guys”
  • “I make Gotham safer for you.”

Batman has a market or constituency.  It includes law enforcement, elected officials and the public.  Which statement conveys more value to his constituency?  Is that value a function of gain or of avoiding loss?

How does this play out in a company’s ability to differentiate itself?  Understanding your core capabilities allows you to shift with changing market conditions

A software development organization produced and sold financial risk analysis models to the property and casualty insurance provider market.  These models typically sold in the mid to high 6 figures.  When the market took a downturn, their business was dramatically slowed. 

Upon a closer analysis of their core capabilities, it became apparent that their core skills were not the development of the model but the understanding and ability to conduct specialized risk analysis.  This allowed them to expand their prospective customers to include those organizations requiring that specialized analysis.  The deal size was reduced but the number of deals increased, and the selling time was greatly shorter.  The company was able to survive the downturn.  And they emerged with a stronger product line.

Their positioning went from “We build the best models for the insurance industry” to “Our insights and expertise will allow you to manage your property risks more accurately”.  This resulted in considerably more responses of “Tell me more”.

Here are few hacks to help you develop your elevator pitch:

  • Ask your current customers what value they receive from you and why it’s important.  Listen to what they tell you but also listen for the undertones.  Is what they tell you applicable to the majority of your target market?
  • Then ask them what personal value they received.  People buy for their reasons, not yours.  Did it result in a promotion, an ability to fund their child’s college fund, paying off their mortgage, or a feeling of accomplishment? 
  • What makes you different or better than your competition?  Again, this has to be translatable to the prospect’s needs and challenges.  Because you believe that you are faster, cheaper, more knowledgeable or whatever, doesn’t necessarily translate into a solution for them.
  • Reflect on how you speak of your work.  Does it get you excited?  Why?  If you aren’t conveying enthusiasm, how do you expect your prospect to get excited about engaging in a business relationship with you?

The elevator pitch is greater than an exercise in selling.  It helps you think about how you want to position yourself in an effective and meaningful way.  You might be surprised at how you look at your business after going through the exercise.  You might even get more people saying, “Tell me more”.