What is an Elevator Pitch?
Derived from the heart-racing, sweaty-palmed, make-or-break scenario of being in an elevator with an executive, the “elevator pitch” is all about preparation. When you have only seconds — not minutes or hours — to make a lasting impression, life really is a game of inches, and a challenge of olympic proportions.
Get ready for the big leagues with me as I teach you a few of my favorite tactics to build a rock-solid elevator pitch. Knowing exactly what to say and how to say it when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” is an essential investment in your sales future.
Why is an Elevator Pitch Necessary?
Two words: Attention span. Unfortunately, people no longer have what it takes to hear you out. We live in a society that communicates in sound bytes. It’s the age of social media, where you have a measly 5-10 seconds (max!) to prove you’re worth the attention.
But if you’re consistently showing up and putting yourself out there with a stellar elevator pitch, it’s only a matter of time before great opportunities come your way. With that said, the great Roman philosopher Seneca once quipped, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So it’s time to create your own luck, it’s time to own your story, and prepare for your next big break with a memorable and well-thought-out elevator pitch.
The 5 Elements of the Perfect Elevator Pitch
- State Your Name Hi, my name is. . . Make sure that you don’t raise the pitch of your voice at the end of your name. If you do, your name will sound like a question. Keeping your name at an even pitch and slowing down at the end of your name improves the other person’s perception of your self-confidence.
(While you’re at it, get out your phone and make sure you’re not making this rookie mistake on your voicemail recording!)
- Current Job Title / Brief Background If you’re representing a company, use your company’s brand promise which states the customer’s problem and how you solve it, distilled into one sentence. If your marketing team doesn’t already have one of these ready to go, fire them (or at least give ‘em a talking to). Now, if your job title isn’t self-explanatory, or if you’re in the job market, a brief background on what you’ve done in the past will suffice.
- Explain / Provide Context / Share Your “Why” In the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek, we learn that people buy products not necessarily because of what the products do, but rather for what they stand for, or the idea behind them. Try condensing this into one compelling example. What do you stand for?
Research shows that our brains love stories. So, have one quick example ready to go which explains what motivates you. Make sure it’s impressive, as this is a chance to show how you’ve saved the day in the past.
- Connection Draw the connection. If you know who the person is, and have worked hard for this moment, show it! Don’t make them guess why you’re interested to know them. Connect the dots, drop a name or two, and boom! Your elevator pitch just earned you that coveted VIP access to their time and attention.
- Ask Say one thing you’re looking for right now. Are you in the job market and looking for an interview? Ask for it. Are you looking for an important networking connection? Say so. Trying to sell a seven-figure product or service? Gauge their interest with a timely ‘ask’.
- Close After getting their reply to your ask, make your next move abundantly clear. Indicate how and when you’ll follow up. This simple yet crucial step is often overlooked. But if you fail to define ‘next steps’, you’ve pretty much failed the elevator pitch.
How to Deliver Your Elevator Pitch
Now that you’ve created a winning elevator pitch, it’s time to memorize it and sharpen your delivery.
Before applying any of the tips below, I recommend recording yourself on video so you can easily analyze how you look and sound. This will give you a real sense of the first impression and vibe you’re giving off.
Don’t do this in the mirror. Instead, prop up your smartphone and press ‘record’ — reviewing the video will show you tons of things you wouldn’t pick up on when looking at yourself in a mirror in real time.
- Enunciate clearly and use a measured cadence.
- Use good body language — open the area around your torso and face the person you’re speaking with. Don’t cross your arms or angle your body away from theirs. You want to be squared up, with your hands visible and relaxed.
- Move your arms and torso, rather than freezing your body. Comfortable movements, like slight head tilts and nods, will add natural expression to make your pitch more fluid.
- Add non-verbal gestures to aid in the visual understanding of what you’re saying. For example, say the word “straightforward” and pair it with a subtle gesture of a sharp and straight line.
- Smile when you speak. Even over the phone, a smile is detectable, and studies show that the presence or absence of a smile on your face or in your voice impacts people’s perception of how agreeable (appealing, charming, pleasant) you are.
Elevator Pitch Examples (Before and After)
Here’s a famous elevator pitch for a well known brand, Tesla, as delivered by its founder Elon Musk.
“Why does Tesla exist? We have record high CO2 levels in the atmosphere resulting in a steadily increasing temperature. And, it’s still climbing. Combustion cars emit toxic gases too, killing 53,000 people per year. What can we do to change this? How can we make a difference? What we’re trying to do with Tesla is accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport. At Tesla, we make great electric cars. This is really important for the future of the world.”
Elon Musk explains the problem and the solution his company provides in a clear way, without technical jargon. Impressive! This pitch is very company-focused, which makes sense for an executive at Elon’s level. However, we don’t get a clear ask.
Not that Elon needs to introduce himself to anyone, but here’s how I’d tweak it to make it ‘elevator-ready’. . .
The C-Level rewrite:
“Hello, my name is Elon Musk and I am the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors. The world’s CO2 levels are rising and combustion cars emit toxic gasses killing 53,000 people per year. Tesla is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy, and one of the ways we do that is with electric cars. Our Model S is the safest, quickest car on the road today. I’d love to see every CEO in America who cares about the environment driving one of these. I heard you’re in the market for a great vehicle. Want to test drive the Model S?”
Next, let’s hear a pitch from a famous YouTube star, iJustine (Justine Ezarik)
“Hey, I’m Justine! I make videos about tech, travel, gaming and some interesting attempts at baking. I’ve been tech-obsessed since unboxing my family’s first Apple computer. By sixth grade I had built my first website. A decade later, I became one of the Internet’s first—and most popular—influencers, inviting people around the world to watch my every move, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Make sure you’re following me on all of the social networks so we can stay in touch.”
Even without an important-sounding title or education, you get a strong sense of Justine’s passion, delivered with a little storytelling. The “what I do” is still unclear. However, we aren’t sure who her customers are, and what problem she solves for them. Also, “influencer” has become a buzzword that could mean practically anything. At the end, she provides a clear ask, wanting us to become one of her followers — if only we knew why we should follow!
Here’s the C-Level rewrite:
“Hello, I’m Justine Ezarik. I’m one of the internet’s first and most popular influencers. I’ve been tech-obsessed since unboxing my family’s first Apple computer. By sixth grade I had built my first website. Today, my 5 million YouTube fans know me as iJustine, and I love helping them make smart buying choices in a tech-saturated world. With so much out there vying for your attention, it’s cooler and more fun to buy based on a friend’s honest and educated recommendation. To many people, I’ve become that friend! Want to follow me?”
Let’s turn the page from famous ‘influencers’ and look at a real-world example of someone more like “the rest of us” — see if this is relatable or inspiring for you.
“My name is John O’Connor and I’m a financial adviser at Edward Jones. I help families, individuals, and business owners simplify life’s financial challenges by delivering customized strategies. Relationships with clients are at the heart of my practice. By listening to and understanding my client’s unique goals and needs, I’m able to deliver personalized advice and guidance to assist with the creation and preservation of wealth to help create an enduring legacy.”
John shows a love for what he does with a thorough explanation of his core, driving philosophy. We don’t get a clear ask from this, but that’s an easy fix. . .
My name is John O’Connor and I make customized financial strategies to help people manage wealth. Did you know that 80% of Hispanic adults have no savings for their retirement? Are you confident you’re building an enduring financial legacy? If not, do you have 10 minutes to talk about how to get on track to financial freedom?
See how easy it can be? Crafting a great elevator pitch will truly set you apart and have your peers and prospects begging to learn more. And it really shouldn’t take long to create and memorize your pitch. So be sure to carve out an hour this week to nail it down and get it done. Your future self will thank you.
In the meantime, visit the C-Level Partners blog to read other articles on all things business and sales success.
Until next time,