How To Create an Elevator Pitch

Most business people know what an elevator pitch is, but you’d be surprised how few of them take the time to actually develop one for their own company, or to put it to good use. As the first 60-seconds are the make-or-break of making a good impression, we've composed this article to help you develop--and perfect--a winning elevator pitch. Here’s what you need to know:

What is it and why do I need one?

As an entrepreneur, you should always be on the lookout for the perfect contact: the purchasing agent for a company that can distribute your product, the CFO who controls the financing you need, the foundation president who can issue a grant to help your non-profit. If you suddenly found yourself in an elevator with this person, would you be able to tell them enough about your company to pique their interest and get an appointment for a follow-up before the elevator ride was over? That short speech (30 seconds to 2 minutes) would be called an elevator pitch, although it’s just as useful at a cocktail party, a conference, or even an online discussion board. 

But the right words won’t just pop into your head when you’re introduced to Mr. Perfect Contact. In fact, if you’re under stress, you’re more likely to either draw a blank or start babbling nonsense. Remember Ralphie in The Christmas Story? When he finally got to ask Santa for the BB gun he wanted, he froze up and blurted out, “Football!” Don’t be like Ralphie: Prepare your elevator speech in advance so you’ll prepared for the big moment. 

Ready to write your pitch?

Before you begin crafting your elevator pitch, make sure you have gathered all the relevant facts about your company so you can not only promote it, but also be prepared to answer any questions that may come up. Talk with your CFO to get financial numbers and research the market to get an idea of your market share. In order to explain how you’re better or different from your competition, you’ll need to know who your chief competitors are and how your company compares to them. 

Then consider your target audience: what problem do they have that you might be able to solve? What benefits can your product or service provide? In order to create a compelling message, you need to know what is likely to motivate them to take action. 

Once you’ve done your homework, start writing an outline with all the points you want to include in your pitch. Keeping it as short and to-the-point as possible, turn your outline into a paragraph. After you’ve reviewed and polished it, read it out loud. Sometimes sentences that look good on paper sound stilted or unnatural when spoken, and you want your pitch to sound conversational. Rehearse it a few times and try it out on a friend to get their feedback. Once you have a version that works for you, you’re ready to try it out in a real-life situation. 

If your elevator pitch is getting good results, don’t mess with success. If not, tweak it until it does. And remember, the purpose of the pitch is to make a good impression, but a good impression doesn’t mean much if you fail to follow up on it. It should be just the first step on the path to an ongoing and successful business relationship.