Drafting a Killer Elevator Pitch

It’s an age-old cocktail party question—”So, what does your company do?” It sounds simple enough, but employees at many businesses stumble when answering it. And if they’re stumbling, that means they’re not particularly good at articulating their company’s value to the market or succinctly differentiating it from competitors. If the conversation is with your uncle, that’s probably not a big deal. But if it’s with a potential customer, that’s a lost opportunity. Enter the elevator pitch.

The goal of an elevator pitch is to convey where your company fits in the market and help turn leads into prospects. It’s a short description—articulated in three or four sentences—that tells who your company is, what it does, and how it’s different from other companies that do the same or similar things. Many companies think they have their elevator pitch nailed, but when asked to give it, they begin to stray and end up somewhere well off the mark.

Every person who speaks on behalf of your company should be talking from the same playbook. What’s needed is an elevator pitch that everyone at the company believes in, and therefore can articulate with ease. Developing one, and keeping it up to date, is critical. So, where do you get started in creating a killer elevator pitch?

  1. Review your company’s Positioning and Messaging strategy documents, especially the Value Proposition. Although you may know the benefit of your products to their market, you need to be thinking up a level to your company’s benefits to their audience. If you’re a small company, your products (or signature product) can be included because they’re part of your early success. But if you’re an established company with lots of products, talking about individual ones should be avoided.
  2. “Identify one thing you want your audience to remember,” Harvard Business Review says about elevator pitches. All of the big tech companies launch new products and services with a catch phrase that’s easy to remember. If you’re pressed for time delivering a full elevator pitch, what’s the one key takeaway that will prod potential customers to learn more?
  3. Keep it short. People have a natural tendency to want to say everything about their business, which sometimes can lead to a monologue. You want to engage your listener, not bore them. If you can’t tell your company’s story in 30 seconds, your overall Positioning and Messaging may be the problem.
  4. Don’t be afraid to use numbers. Telling potential customers that your company can help them cut OPEX by 20% is huge. If your company can do that, it needs to be woven into the elevator pitch.
  5. Be interesting. Instead of saying your company makes software, tell them the benefit of your software to its end users. Tell them what problems you solve. Avoid listing only your features, and instead, translate them into benefit statements. Sentences that start with “We help …” are a good way to capture a listener’s attention immediately. A good place to find this information is in your company’s formal value proposition as part of its overall Positioning and Messaging.
  6. Differentiate yourself from the competition in a single sentence. You need to point out quickly why you have a leg up over what the competition is doing (without disparaging them, of course). Point out your unique selling points and explain quickly why that benefits the customer.

Once the elevator pitch is completed, everyone in your company should adopt it—and practice it. You never know when you’re going to sit at a trade show lunch table with a potential customer and put all that hard work into practice!

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