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Why Your Elevator Pitch Gets Ignored and How to Fix It

Have you ever been caught flat-footed when someone asks, “so what do you do?”

Me too.

Ever answered that question by saying, “I work for such and such company and we do blah”?

Yeah, me too. And it NEVER converts to a sale.

For some reason, when it's time to deliver your elevator pitch, it’s easy to get all flustered. You ramble on about your back-story or throw your company name at them followed by some industry jargon.

And what do you get in return?

Blank stares, an “oh, that sounds interesting,” or your audience reminisces about a similar idea they had once upon a time.

It sucks, and you know it sucks because it feels terrible. And it feels terrible because you sense a lost opportunity.

Well, in the next 10 minutes, we're going to outline a process for creating an elevator pitch that works for you. One that opens doors and creates conversation. One that has real potential to lead to a sale.

But first…

Do You Really Need an Elevator Pitch?

You’re @#%$ right you do.

Not only is an elevator pitch a fantastic way to turn random contacts into new leads, it's something you will use countless times when explaining your business to friends, family, or on your social networks.

More so, developing an elevator pitch forces you to truly understand what is core to your business and enticing to your customers—an exercise that will flow to your sales, marketing, and product development teams.

If you've tried coming up with one on the fly, you've already failed.

That’s because an elevator pitch isn’t something you conjure up in the moment. It takes preparation and rehearsal to get right.

Preparation, you say? I don’t have time for that.

Well in that case, you can just click the back button right now and find another article to read. Because even though we’re going to walk you through a process to create a rock-solid elevator pitch in a short amount of time, if you don’t practice it, it will come out sounding terrible.

You’ll fumble through it. You’ll look bad. Your potential customer will lose interest and never call you again.

And you’d better believe I don’t want any part of that.

Still here?

Awesome. Let’s get to work.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch, Decomposed

It’s simple really, the perfect elevator pitch is composed of the following parts:

  1. The Intro: Something to which your customer can relate.
  2. The Body: What you do.
  3. The Closing: How you help people.

Now of course, between these three things, you have to grab their attention, say something memorable, and drive them to action, but we’ll get to all that shortly. For now, let’s build out the three parts to your elevator pitch one at a time:

The Intro

After you get a conversation going and they ask what you do, you’ve got about 8 seconds to grab their attention. That means you shouldn’t waste time telling them your name or your company name…

They don’t care.

Instead, rehearse a statement that creates intrigue or ask them a question that leads them into your story. A great way to do this is to relate what you do to something they already know.

Let’s use an example.

We have a local lawnmower maintenance business who visits our house to tune up my Toro™. I love it because I know my only other option (lugging the smelly, heavy thing into our van and driving it to a hardware store).

If I bumped into this guy on the street and asked what he did, a solid intro in his elevator pitch might look something like this:

“Do you know how you’re supposed to get your lawnmower blade sharpened and oil changed every year but it’s such a pain to drag it into a hardware store?”

Yeah, of course. If I’m a homeowner with a lawnmower, I can totally relate to this. Not only that, you’ve created intrigue by asking a question and got me thinking about how I should be maintaining my mower every year. Hell, I’ve even started to feel a bit guilty for waiting so long to have my blade sharpened!

Notice that there’s no mention of the company name or product/service benefits. Again, your customer doesn’t care at this point. They’re just looking for something interesting, something helpful, and something to which they can relate.

The Body

Now that you have their attention, it’s time to tell them what you do. Keep it simple, align it with your intro, and whatever you do, don’t use industry jargon.

Here’s a bad example:

“We take off your front deck cover, adjust your lawnmowers v-belt, replace your blade adapter, and all while you sip martini’s from the comfort of your couch.”

What? I have no idea what any of those things are. I don’t know why I should care. Oh, and you sound like a greasy salesperson. 

Instead, our lawnmower guy might be better of saying:

“Well, we send a maintenance truck to your house to replace your lawnmower’s oil, sharpen the blade, tighten everything up and get it running like new…”

This is enticing. It tells me what the service offers, is easy to understand, is short and to the point, and solves the problem you created in the intro (yearly maintenance being a pain).

The Closing

By now, you’ve gotten their attention with a question and maybe even created an unsolved problem in their mind along the way. You’ve also told them about your products’ features or service offerings. Now it’s time for the close.

Tell them how they benefit!

Remember, people don’t buy features, they buy benefits. I love the adage: People don’t buy power drills, they buy holes in their wall. In this closing statement, you must help your buyer understand how your products’ features or service offerings will a) solve their problem or b) make their lives better.

Continuing with our lawnmower example:

“You don’t even have to be there, we just take care of it so you don’t have to drag the heavy, smelly thing into a hardware store.”

Sounds great, how much does it cost?

Ah, see what happened there? We engaged them, told them a bit about us, then wrapped it all up with a statement of benefits. The next question can expect, if they are interested, should be how much it costs, what your website is, do you have a card, etc.

In fact, when creating your closing, you’ll want to have a clear goal in mind. Different closings will lend themselves to different results. This pitch leads the buyer to ask how much the service costs. Perhaps you want to lead them in a different direction.

From here, there are a thousand ways to succeed or fail at the sale… but suffice it to say, if your elevator pitch gets you this far, it will have done its job. Now you have a lead to follow up on!

Build It, and They Will Come

You’ve got the basics, you’ve got some examples, now let’s build your elevator pitch. Starting with the intro:

1. Write down your goal. Do you want them to ask you for a card? Is it to tell your listener how much your product or service costs? How about give them a web address?

My goal is to have them ask me how much my service costs… this will wow them (because it’s cheap) and allow me to follow up by asking if they’d like me to put them on my waiting list.

2. Write down a few popular TV shows, products, services, famous people, or common problems that relate to your offering and with which your potential customers are already familiar. Highlight your favorite one.

Everyone knows they’re supposed to take their lawnmower in every year for maintenance…

It’s such a pain to drag your lawnmower into a hardware store…

Etc.

3. Write down a question you can ask to relate your company, product, or service to something they already know from your highlighted response in step 2. Highlight your favorite one.

It’s a pain to drag your lawnmower into a hardware story every year, right?

Do you know how your supposed to sharpen your lawnmower blade every year?

Etc.

4. Write a list of two or three product features or service offerings that relate to your highlighted question from step 3. Combine them into one (or two at most), simple, clear sentence(s).

Blade sharpening

Oil Change

Tighten bolts

Etc.

5. Write down a list of benefits the features provide your customer. These should be related to the features/services sentence you created in step 4. Highlight the biggest benefit that best connects to all the steps above.

Don’t have to hassle with a heavy, smelly machine.

I can get other work done while someone maintains my lawnmower for me.

Etc.

6. Make any tweaks to the language to align the elevator pitch to your goal from step 1.

That’s it. Put them all together and you’ve got your elevator pitch! Let’s look at our example, all pulled together:

 “Do you know how you’re supposed to get your lawnmower blade sharpened and oil changed every year but it’s such a pain to drag it into a hardware store? Well, we send a maintenance truck to your house to replace your lawnmower’s oil, sharpen the blade, tighten everything up and get it running like new… You don’t even have to be there, we just take care of it so you don’t have to drag the heavy, smelly thing into the hardware store.”

All told, this takes around 20 seconds to recite, is engaging, clear, and speaks to solving a common problem.

Congrats! But we’re not done yet.

Taking Your Elevator Pitch on the Road

Before you take your elevator pitch on the road, you. have. got. to. recite. it! Over, and over, and over again. You need to say it so many times that it sounds (and feels) natural.

If the language doesn’t fit, doesn’t sound like you, or doesn’t flow, change it. Then recite it again.

Let me suggest the following:

  1. Practice saying your full pitch out loud 3 times a day for the next 5 days. Once done, you’ll likely have it memorized.
  2. Once memorized, put yourself in a situation to use it with a friend or family member.
  3. If your friend/family member took the bait, great! Recite it with three or four other people you know before taking it “live.” If it didn’t go so well, hone your pitch, practice, then rinse and repeat until you get it right.

(Bonus points if you record yourself on video reciting your pitch until it sounds and looks natural and feels comfortable.)

If it sounds like a lot, it’s not. We’re talking about 20 seconds, three times a day for five days plus a few live “demo’s” to get it right. That’s between five and ten minutes of practice over a week. HARDLY a big deal. And the pain it will save you from embarrassment should be worth it alone.

Close a deal because of your new elevator pitch and you’ll know it was worth it.

Final Tips

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: DON’T USE JARGON! You may think potential customers should know what you’re talking about. You may even think you sound smart. But it doesn’t matter how smart you sound if you’re not getting leads from your pitch. Don’t use jargon… your elevator pitch needs to cater to everyone.

If you’re about to leave the house and be in a situation where you could potentially meet new clients, dress the part. You don’t want to be in jeans and a t-shirt when you bump into a CEO of your perfect client on the subway.

Get Their Contact Information. If you’ve got a real lead on your hands, don’t put the onus on them to call you back. They’ll be busy and will likely forget your conversation, so it will be up to you to remind them. Follow up in a day or two and remind them of something funny you said in your pitch.

You’ve Read It, Now Do It

I wasn’t kidding earlier when I told you to click back if you weren’t ready to do the work. So now that we’re here, you shouldn’t be surprised when I demand that you go through this process.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve got a special deal for you:

Go through the steps above to create your elevator pitch. Then, post the text or a video of yourself reciting it. We'll write you back with some pointers to make your pitch as effective as possible.


About the Author

Michael Mehlberg

CO-FOUNDER | TECHNOLOGY, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, AND SALES

Michael Mehlberg helps small businesses owners achieve their goals and live their passion. His approach to technology, corporate strategy, product development, marketing, and sales is both practical and highly effective, and has helped multiple small businesses grow into the company their owners envisioned. Reach out by emailing him at mike@moderndavinci.net or learn more on our About page.