Whether it’s a chance to attract a new client or gain interest from a potential investor, small-business owners can quickly explain their products or services with an elevator pitch.
What's an elevator pitch? These mini presentations take the same 60 seconds or so you might spend on an elevator ride. The more quickly and eloquently you can convey what you do in a quick, pithy summary, the more likely you’ll engage your audience.
“You truly never know who you're going to meet, which makes having a handful of talking points at the ready a must,” says Jessica Norris, owner of Dillys Pickled Veggies. “I met the CEO of a major distributor at a trade show. After a few minutes talking about my pickle company, I made a connection that became a long-term business relationship.”
Prepare yourself to meet the moment by trying the following steps for an elevator pitch that leaves a memorable, positive impression.
1. Introduce yourself.
Start the elevator pitch with a brief, easy-to-absorb sentence that includes your name, your company name, and what you offer.
For the best results, keep it simple and straightforward without speaking too fast, advises Norris, and be aware of your body language as well.
“Give the person a genuine smile, a firm handshake, and maintain eye contact as you introduce yourself,” she says.
2. Identify the problem your company solves.
This is your chance to hook your audience: make them care about what you do and what problem your service or product will solve.
To develop your hook, think about what you can deliver to make their lives better or easier.
“Your audience wants to know what you can do for them as specifically as possible,” says Joel LeBendig, chief strategy officer at Zen Media, a marketing and PR company. “For example, if you sell vacuums, tell the person you offer a clean floor, or even better, a clean home.”
Hooking the person with the problem your company solves also involves understanding their pain points, notes Felipe Vasconcelos, CEO of More Naturals, a private label cosmetics company and Kapuluan, a body and hair treatment company.
“For instance, you could say, 'Are you tired of struggling to find high-quality beauty products that are also eco-friendly? Our company provides a solution by offering a range of sustainable beauty products without compromising on effectiveness or style,'” explains Vasconcelos.
3. Announce your promise.
To effectively show your potential clients what they can expect from your company, it’s important to first discover their needs and desires, says Vasconcelos.
“If after researching my audience I discover they value convenience, I would say, 'We promise to deliver beauty products right to your doorstep, saving you time and hassle, so you can focus on looking and feeling your best.'”
The goal is to make the promise short and memorable and tie it back to the problem you solve, adds Robin Kovitz, CEO of Baskits, a gifting service company.
“I will say, 'We make it quick and easy to send impressive gifts,'” says Kovitz. “'As a CEO, you must be really busy, so we offer a way to show your employees just how much you care about them. We can also send a gift to your prospects and ensure they will return your calls.'”
4. Offer proof and a plan.
An effective elevator pitch should cause your audience to ask how you'll make good on your promise. When this happens, offer specific details and a plan for achieving your promises. Keep it brief. Just give them a sneak peek at what doing business with you will give them with a few helpful statistics, facts, and data.
“Providing concise details while remaining enticing is crucial,” says Vasconcelos. “Establish credibility by highlighting any awards, customer testimonials, or notable partnerships. Then share a plan that outlines the steps you'll take to deliver on your promise.”
For example, Vasconcelos might mention partnering with top beauty influencers and a comprehensive marketing campaign targeting ideal customers.
5. Know when to stop and listen.
During your pitch, pause occasionally so the other person can respond or ask a question.
“If they avert their eyes, cross their arms, or present closed off body language, stop. Then let them talk and adjust your pitch accordingly,” says LeBendig.
This can leave a good impression about you and your business.
“If it seems like you're losing your audience, ask them an open-ended question and listen intently,” adds Norris. “I’ll ask what pickle is their favorite or get them talking about what brands they've tried and what they like about them. Bringing the conversation back around to focus on them keeps them invested.”
Once you’ve delivered a stellar elevator pitch and built camaraderie a few times, it can become easier and more natural. After a pitch, your next step is to focus on making a sale. Take advantage of the interest you created with a well-formed business pitch that further proves your company is the ideal choice.
A version of this article was originally published on September 23, 2013.
Photo: Getty Images