Monthly Archives: March 2012

Send Your Elevator Pitch To The Top Floor

I caught Alice Heiman’s blog this morning, Let’s Talk Sales with Alice Heiman, where she touched on a point that’s important to remember when networking and that’s your “elevator pitch”.

An elevator pitch is defined as “a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.”

So let’s say you’re at a networking event or attending a party at a friend’s house and someone walks up to you an asks a simple question like “Harry, what do you do?”  Are you prepared to answer with a short burst of information about your company and services or do you wind up delivering The Gettysburg Address?

One of the most important things a businessperson can do is learn how to craft and deliver their value proposition in a way that makes people want to know more about what you have to offer.  But I find that there are very few executives and salespeople who have developed a quick pitch that’s worth a flip.

Here are eight essential elements of a powerful elevator pitch as defined by Dumb Little Man

  1. Concise. Your pitch should take no longer than 30-60 seconds.
  2. Clear. Use language that everyone understands. Don’t use fancy words thinking it will make you sound smarter. Your listener won’t understand you and you’ll have lost your opportunity to hook them.
  3. Powerful. Use words that are powerful and strong. Deliver the “Sis-Boom-Bang” to grab their attention!
  4. Visual. Use words that create a visual image in your listeners mind. This will make your message memorable.
  5. Tell a Story. A short story, that is. A good story is essentially this: someone with a problem either finds a solution or faces tragedy. Either type of story can be used to illuminate what you do.
  6. Targeted. A great elevator pitch is aimed for a specific audience. If you have target audiences that are vastly different, you might want to have a unique pitch for each.
  7. Goal Oriented. A kick-ass elevator pitch is designed with a specific outcome in mind. What is your desired outcome? You may have different pitches depending on different objectives. For instance do you want to: make a sale, gain a prospect, enlist support for an idea, or earn a referral.
  8. Has a Hook. This is the element that literally snags your listener’s interest and makes them want to know more. This is the phrase or words that strike a chord in your listener.

Now that you understand the basic elements of an elevator pitch, how do you put together one that’s effective and could put you in a position to connect with someone who could become your new client?

Jeffrey James offers these tips on how to craft a pitch that will turn a casual conversation into a sales opportunity.

Position Your Firm – This is a carefully crafted sentence that describes who you are and what you do for your customers.

  • “Retail firms use our software and services to train their employees, resulting in an average 10 percent increase in sales.”
  • “Within a year, our customers typically save 10 times more than they spent to install our employee tracking software.”
  • “We help companies lower IT procurement costs—typically by 20 percent or more—by negotiating directly with major IT vendors.”

When you position your company in this way, the person you’re talking with will express either disinterest or interest in what you just said. If it’s disinterest, the person is not a potential customer–so let the matter drop.

Differentiate Your Firm – The person you’ve just met has shown some interest in your firm, based upon your one-sentence position statement.

  • “We have a unique methodology and supporting software based on some proprietary scientific research that we funded through MIT.”
  • “We’ve been able to prove that some customers have gotten that ROI in less than six months.”
  • “We’ve got extensive contacts that let us know the biggest discounts that the IT vendors have offered in the past, so we use those as the basis for negotiating your price.”

Open a Conversation – Assuming there are still signs of interest, ask an open-ended question to find out whether or not the person you’ve just met actually is a potential customer or just being polite. Examples:

  • “Just out of curiosity, what priorities might you have in these areas?”
  • “You seem intrigued. Of what I just said, what might be of interest?”
  • “Hey, enough about me. How does your firm handle that kind of problem?”

Ask for a Meeting – If you’re following the steps, you’ve now spent about somewhere around 40 seconds on the conversation–about half of which consisted of the other person speaking, and you listening. If it makes sense to have the conversation continue, it’s now time to ask for a meeting to discuss the matter in more detail–so you can drop the business talk and go back to discussing, say, how lovely the bride looked.

There are two basic approaches.

If the prospect seems skeptical or hesitant, ask:

  • “If we really could do [insert something of value to the customer here], what would your thoughts be on having an initial conversation with us to hear more?”

If the prospect seems interested or enthusiastic, ask:

  • “I would love to have a conversation with you about [insert something of value to the customer here]. What’s the best way to get on your calendar?”

So what’s your pitch?

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.


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