The Elevator Pitch is a familiar idea to many in business, but I’m surprised how few good ones I have experienced. It’s a bit of a cliché, yet there is some solid theory in there and the principles are powerful tools, not just in the business setting.
Seth Godin the author and entrepreneur offers a pretty good definition:
“The purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.”
This can take a few seconds for a couple of floors or around a minute by express lift to the observation deck of the world’s tallest building.
Research in the retail sector has found that customers will make their first critical decision about a product in around seven seconds. Many years of product development, packaging and presentation often come down to a mere seven seconds. Goldfish, by the way, have an attention span of around nine seconds, so thirty is a bit of a luxury.
I’ve endured a few bad pitches in my time, and enjoyed one or two that really delivered through a combination of brevity, simplicity, a strong and relevant proposition and a chance to respond.
Brevity is essential. The basic messages will include who you are, what you are offering, and what you want in response. Just try getting all that into seven seconds! That is why I choose to look at a thirty second opportunity, and have broken it down into chunks of ten seconds.
Take a moment, and try to introduce yourself in ten seconds. It’s really tough to cover your name, who you work for, what you do there, why you are in the elevator today, and how you are qualified to say anything at all. Practice pays off, alongside the second of my principles – simplicity.
You can focus on the essentials to trim it right down. Then add a twist to make it less about you and a bit more about them.
“Hi there, I’m Alex, I’m an engineer with (company) and heard your speech at the conference today. I was really interested by what you said about (something).…..”
In less than ten seconds you have covered several key things:
- a name, not a complicated full name that they might struggle to remember, but the familiar, we’re on first name terms starting point;
- a role, generic as you don’t need detail at this point;
- a company (that they may or may not have heard of); and
- the hook.
You are interested in their stuff, paid them the compliment of listening and found an angle to lead on to your second round of your pitch.
I know it won’t always be as easy as that, but the ideal is not to pitch cold – do your research, find your angle and engage them early. Once they are on the hook, the next bit is a lot easier.
The pitch (what you are offering) and the pull-in (what you want to happen next) follow similar paths and I will explore these more in later posts. Needless to say, the principles of brevity, simplicity, relevance and response play throughout.
This standard business tool can work in other situations. As a canoe coach, I recently worked with a local blind people’s group. With a blind partner in my boat, I had a similar challenge and just a few seconds to win her trust and build her confidence in what was to come.
With my boat on a solid piece of ground, her carer brought her across – the elevator door moment. Slowly and clearly I started along the lines of – “Hello, I’m Phil, you will be sitting with me today. I’ve been doing this for ages and it’s my job to make sure that you have a great time this afternoon.” Strangely, that was about seven seconds worth of chat. Then, I helped her to sit in the boat, still on dry land, and to get familiar with her surroundings. That took about a minute. From those first exchanges we went on to spend a fantastic couple of hours afloat and her smile at the end was priceless.
The same principles, and yet in an entirely different context – that’s what I love about the blurring of lines between sports and business.