How to sell yourself: The art of the Elevator Pitch

You know how on Mad Men much of the drama goes down (and up) in elevators? Elevators (or lifts to you non-Americans) used to be a place where you’d have between 90 and 120 seconds to get to know a flash of someone’s life. While today it’s just a moving box of uncomfortable silence, this social relic has lent its name to one of life’s most essential skills: The Elevator Pitch.

Whether you own a company, are job hunting, or speed dating, having an excellent elevator pitch ready to fire is a priceless life skill. Today we are going to break down the steps for preparing an elevator pitch that lands you that contract, job or “new special friend” in 12 floors or less.

Finding your perfect pitch

If you are a company that has clients or is looking for investors, you’ve got to take advantage of any opportunity to make an ally or sale. And this goes the same for selling your product, your service, or, particularly if you’re in a job interview or up for a promotion, yourself. Today, we simplify the parts of a perfect elevator pitch for you.

Introduce Yourself

Offer a firm handshake (yes, just as firm to a lady, you fish-shaking men out there.) And simply say the good ol’ “Hi I’m [so-and-so] from [such-and-such.] So nice to meet you. Tell me a bit about yourself/your company.” Because everyone loves to talk about themselves.

Once you’ve talked about who you are, they’ll want to know what you can do for them.

The One Liner

If you had only 12 seconds, not 12 floors, could you summarize your company in just one sentence? Ours is: “Quote Roller allows you to create, send, track and sign business proposals in minutes.” Now, this isn’t necessarily catchy and doesn’t really explain what Quote Roller is (not mentioning key identifiers like software or app,) but it sums up the service and how it provides a solution in a nutshell. If the person I am talking to creates business proposals as part of his or her job, there is a peek of interest that will allow the conversation to continue. If they don’t, well, they’ll say, “Gee, that’s interesting” and move on. That’s called instant lead generation.

The Problem-Solution One-Two Punch

This can start with the One Liner or just jump right into the problem you are going to solve. I personally like to ask a casual, rhetorical question like “You know when you are trying to do [this], and then [this] happens?” or “We’ve all been there, stressed out and strapped for time, trying to…”

Next, I go right into the solution. “Well, [company name] does [this] to make your life easier/more efficient/more productive/save time/save money…”

Then, without giving the cow away for free, explain how you provide that solution. Limit it to about three points, so they don’t forget.

What You Want

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. This is sillily the most challenging part of an elevator pitch. People are often taught to be uncomfortable about being direct (kind of like chatting up folks in an awkwardly crowded elevator, but that’s exactly how I got a job once.) Remember wishy-washiness won’t get you that funding, that new client, that job or that date. You are selling something. Ask that person you meet what you would like them to do.

Final Tips for Delivering the Perfect Pitch

  1. It’s about what you can do for them, not the other way around.
  2. Keep it simple. An elevator pitch is not a dissertation. The more you explain, the more you distract from the main idea and risk confusing them.
  3. Don’t forget your Call to Action. Whether you want them to beta test your new product, invest in your company, or just to meet for a drink, get to the point.
  4. Relax. Yes, you can rehearse your pitch, but make it seem conversational and breathe so they can ask questions.

So, what are your tricks for a elevator perfect pitch?


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