Whether it’s a chance to attract a new client or gain interest from a potential investor, all small-business owners must be able to effectively explain their products or services in a few short sentences. The more quickly and eloquently you can get across what you do, the more likely you’ll find yourself with a new customer.
“If you can't say who you are and what you do in a few sentences, you don't know who you are and what you do and neither will anyone else,” says Roxana Bahar Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group, and an executive success coach. “Most people don't have the patience or interest to listen long. You either get their attention quickly or you lose them.”
A pithy elevator pitch at the tip of your tongue is incredibly important, says John Scherer, CEO of Canless Air System. “You never know when you’ll run into someone whose time you could never get before, but now, because of a certain circumstance, you have the opportunity.”
Try the following steps to develop a succinct elevator pitch that leaves a lasting, positive impression.
1. Introduce yourself. Start the elevator pitch with a brief, easy-to-absorb sentence that includes your name, your company name and the service you provide. For instance, “I’m Mary Smith; my company is Executive Express, and we offer courier service.”
2. Identify the problem your company solves. “What is the pain the potential client may have that your service can solve?” Bahar Hewertson asks. "What's in it for the listener has to resonate. Why should the person care what you do? Focus on the listener and the value of your proposition for him or her.”
Mike Muhney, CEO of mobile relationship management purveyor vipOrbit and co-creator of ACT! Software, adds, “Rather than focusing on what you have or do, relate your services and what you offer to the person with whom you’re speaking.”
3. Announce your promise. What product or service will you provide the client? “Be clear on the results the person can expect, but avoid selling,” Bahar Hewertson says. “Engage your listener by letting your passion for your work and your vision shine through. It’s important to be authentic and honest and have a higher purpose than just selling your stuff.”
Bahar Hewertson gives an example from her own business. “I'm a for-profit consultant, and I asked local foundations to donate funds so our community nonprofit leaders could attend a six-day leadership course I teach,” she says. “The pitch that showed my passion resulted in 26 local nonprofit leaders attending.”
Bahar Hewertson’s pitch included this statement: “I have a clear vision for our community of nonprofit leaders—that they become highly effective in their agencies and that they create a leadership learning community and network to support one another. That can happen when they learn how to lead well through this powerful shared experience.”
4. Offer proof and a plan. How have you delivered on your promises prior to this? What have you accomplished, and what have people said about your work? “Offer proof with one or two killer facts—and they must be facts—and an anecdote that crystallizes everything you just said as real,” Scherer says.
Finish your pitch by offering a plan of action for delivering on your promise. Make it as personal as possible to fit whomever you're talking to and his or her business.
5. Know when to stop and listen. If at any point in your pitch you find that the listener is tuning out, stop talking, Bahar Hewertson says: “Don't ignore body language. Stop immediately if you know the person isn't engaged, and change the subject to him or her.” The fact that you had the sensitivity and tact to stop and listen will leave a good impression about you and your business.
Read more articles on leadership.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.