A bank of elevators from the outside
A bank of elevators from the outside

The Elevator Pitch is Still Important

Paul Kiernan

This article will revisit the elevator pitch, reacquaint ourselves with what it is, and understand why it’s still essential.

Communication has changed drastically since the advent of the internet. Now, smartphones, texting, and zoom conferences have taken the place of most in-person meetings. It’s a new world, and business has to stay on top of that.

But, as the new order wholly and slowly eclipses the old ways, it’s worth stopping for a moment and re-examining one of the traditional marketing and sales tools that seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs. We are talking about the elevator pitch.

This article will revisit the elevator pitch, reacquaint ourselves with what it is, and understand why it’s still essential.

What is the Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch has been somewhat vilified by the image of the door-to-door salesman sticking his foot in a closing door to make a sale.

People still think the elevator pitch is a quick sales pitch that is the verbal equivalent of the foot stuck in a door. But there is more to it. And, even with all the technology that helps businesses moev faster and do more, the elevator pitch, how to make one and have it land, is still one of the best tools in the box.

A good elevator pitch is a quick, finely crafted, usually memorized speech design dot sell yourself, your business, or the services you can provide someone. All done in a short period of time.

The name, often credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso, is derived from the idea of bumping into a senior staff member in an elevator and having to try and win them over by the time they’ve reached their floor.

This means an elevator pitch is about 30 to 90 seconds. How do you know when it works? When the elevator doors open, if there is an exchange of contact information and the discussion continues. If you’re not, you start again with the next elevator ride.

The Elevator Pitch is Still Important

So, now we all remember the elevator pitch, let’s look at why it’s so important to you and your business.

It holds the attention for a short window of time

You have tremendous confidence in yourself, your idea, and your product, but don’t overestimate how interested they will be in you or your product. An elevator pitch gives you a foot in the door and allows them t see the value of you and your idea in a concise amount of time.

In 90 seconds, if your pitch is clean, precise, tight, and memorized, they don’t have time to do anything but listen to you and the idea. No awkward time, just a straight pitch, and the door opens.

Contrary to what you think, less time is better for you. Here’s why.

Organized Thoughts, No Wasted Time

An hourglass

Have you ever tried to explain or describe an event or a product because someone asked, and you have done no prep? Usually, in that type of situation, with no time limit and no prep time, you ramble on and on. In this scenario, the person who asked for the explanation stops listening to the words and focuses on you, your speaking, your mannerisms, ticks, and anything but what you’re saying. Why? Because it’s disorganized and seemingly endless.

With an elevator pitch, you avoid this kind of train wreck. The pitch forces you to write down why you’re the best person for the job or why your business can help the person you’re pitching to.

Writing things down and memorizing them means you’ve cut out the fat and are serving the leanest pitch. You have taken time to review it, dropping what isn’t necessary and condensing all the great information into 90 seconds.

Now, there is no need for fidgeting, rambling, or feeling awkward. You know what you need to say; you know you have only a limited time to say it, and you are absolutely ready with a tight, clean, clear pitch.

When done right, the person you’re pitching to gets it and knows they only have to listen for 90 seconds, so they do listen; they hear your pitch instead of being distracted by your fumbling and unease.

Identify Your Market

Every occupation has its own lexicon. What terms and words fly in a construction site will be horribly out of place in a financial office. Language is crucial as it delineates tribes. So, to know how to be a part of the tribe, you need to know the terminology used.

So, you have decided on your dream job, or you know the absolute right person that will be receptive and active to your idea. While preparing your pitch, you’ll need to focus your language on what makes sense to that field or that person. In other words, how does that tribe communicate, and how close can you get to their language, a language that will activate and excite them?

What words you use is as important as how you pitch. Your pitch could be stellar, but if you’re using the language of a different tribe, the person you’re pitching to will not hear you. This isn’t about volume

or enunciation, although both of those are important to get your pitch across, this is about not hearing you because you need to speak the correct language.

Listen to the language of the people you want to know and work with. Listen to the industry terms and the

slang they use. Get it into your body so that if you go off pitch, you can still remain in the realm of the person you’re pitching to.

Social Media is Anything But

We are part of a social media world, just the facts. However, despite its name, social media is not very social. We sit behind screens, and our human interactions are limited.

Because we're moving faster now, developing professional relationships has become increasingly challenging. It’s too easy to forget someone who emails you; it feels less personal. The elevator pitch is a face-to-face situation, which makes it automatically better than social media.

When you build your elevator pitch, you’re allowing yourself to have a prepared conversation that can be a gateway to a business or professional relationship.

The purpose o the elevator pitch is to continue the conversation after the doors open and allow networking to begin. It’s 30 to 90 seconds; you can surely handle that much face time.

Prepare your pitch, work out the language, have it memorized and be at the ready when you have the chance to speak to that right person, and they aren’t hiding in plain sight with earbuds or a kindle.

Putting a Pitch Together

A baseball pitcher on the mound mid-wind up

It all sounds familiar, yes? Now you know how vital an elevator pitch is, let’s look at what makes one good and successful. Follow these steps, decide which ones work for you, and let the rest go. You want your pitch to be natural, from you, and not just a form you’ve filled out while sitting on the john. Make it yours.

What You Do

If your pitch represents your company, you’ll want to open with a solution you provided another company that is of interest to the person you’re pitching to. For example:

“Don’t you hate when your online store and brick-and-mortar shop cannot align on merchandise? We’ve been building eCommerce shops that unite both the online and the brick-and-mortar for over twenty years.”

What do you have? A problem and a solution. There it is.

If your pitch is about selling yourself, you’ll want to start with your strengths and how you can be an asset to the company. For example:

“Hi, I’m (your name), and I have advanced degrees in online marketing and five years of building quality ecommerce sites that convert.”

There you have a quick greeting showcasing your area of expertise and touching on your qualifications. And you still have 75 seconds left in the elevator ride.

Nope, Not a Sales Pitch

An elevator pitch is not a sales pitch; you can say that to the person you’re pitching to. The purpose of the elevator pitch is to gain more access and start a relationship. When that has been accomplished, then you can engage the sales pitch. So, when you start your elevator pitch, it’s perfectly fine to say this is not a sales pitch.

Make it clear that you want to continue the conversation and start a professional relationship more than give them the hard sell. You do this by stating what you do and what you have to offer without asking if they require it. This approach makes it feel like a conversation, not a sale.

If you’re selling yourself with an eye toward a particular position within their company, simply state your desired position in that field or company.

If you’re selling your company, you may say something akin to:

“We have gotten many of our clients noticed with our custom ecommerce site; they have all been very pleased.”

If you’re selling yourself, say something like:

“I’ve been in this business since I got my masters in it.”

Again, the purpose of the elevator pitch is to keep the conversation going and start developing a professional relationship. It’s quick and should feel as casual as possible. This is what keeps it free of feeling like a hard-sell sales pitch.

Yes, I’m From the East Coast

You’re looking for any connection that will allow you to keep the conversation going and then take it to the next level.

With this in mind, it's great to drop hints about places you’ve lived and institutions where you’ve studied to connect on some level.

Having things in common also allows for potential networking. Maybe the person you’re pitching to isn't from the East Coast, but someone in their inner circle is, so there is a potential for networking. Personal information doled out in short bursts can help form a strong connection.

Any Thoughts

A lightbulb sitting on top of a stack of books

Not to sound like a broken record, but you always have to remember the elevator pitch's why. This is not the end of the conversation; it’s just the start. The pitch is designed to make the person listening want more.

To that end, it’s helpful to end the conversation with a question or a call for their opinion that puts the ball squarely in the recipient's court.

To use the example we’ve built, you could end the elevator pitch with something like:

“How about you, ecommerce site and brick-and-mortar working together well?”

And now, there is a reason for contact, an opening, and a conversation that can be continued later. Now, you can proceed with an email or set up a zoom call. You’ve met face to face, laid the groundwork, and now you can take the next step.

Put the Time In

All right, now you know what the elevator pitch is, why it’s important and how to put one together. Now, write it all down, get it to a tight 90 seconds and rehearse it. Memorize it so that it can sound casual and off the cuff.

Some people will say to look in the mirror while you do this, but looking in the mirror can get you focused on the wrong thing; you hate your hair, have a pimple, look fat, whatever. These things are the negative voice in your head that you don’t need to encourage by staring at yourself in the mirror.

Memorize the pitch and speak it out loud, in the shower, on the drive to work when you’re waiting for a call or an email, whenever, just speak it out loud as often as possible. This kind of repetition solidifies the pitch in your head and allows you to hear how it flows. You’re not going to be looking at yourself when you make the pitch, so the mirror isn’t helpful.

Once you’ve spoken your pitch out loud a few times, ask a friend if you can drop it on them. Then, set up situations with friends where you can meet them in a hotel or anywhere there is an elevator and practice the pitch there.

In this day of high tech and smartphones, the elevator pitch may seem arcane, but it still has a purpose. It will be an inroad to professional relationships, it helps with networking, and it enables you to solidify what you want and how you can help others.

When was the last time you made an elevator pitch? Now is the time to dust it off, update it, and get it to work..