Tuesday February 25, 2014

And what do you do?

11 Steps for a winning elevator pitch

Does hearing that question fill you with dread? Or make you regret turning up at a networking event/training session/conference (tick as appropriate)?

You know what you do, right? And that’s all that matters. It’s just hard to put it into words when you’re put on the spot like that.

Be prepared

Having an elevator pitch prepared and being able to answer the “what do you do?” question confidently, creating the right impression, really matters. It’s something you should be thinking of way ahead of being put on any spot. And it’s one of the first things I tackle when I’m running introduction to marketing sessions.

Elevator keypad with love-heart

We’ve all heard about how first impressions count and how we only ever have a small window of opportunity to make a positive first impression. And yes, that’s true, but never fear, here are 11 steps to help you craft a winning elevator pitch:-

1) Keep it real

For starters, be genuine, be yourself. In the same way that your website should reflect something of the experience of doing business with you, so your elevator pitch should be spoken in your true voice. You want to be remembered for being you. Don’t go for a hyped-up, all-singing, all-dancing affair if that isn’t your style – you won’t be the only one left feeling uneasy. And you won’t be able to maintain it (or remember the next time you see the same person).

2) Keep it brief

It’s called an elevator pitch because of the challenge: “how would you explain your business and sell your product or service if fate placed you in an elevator with your ideal customer and you only had the time it takes to get from the top of the building to the bottom?”

An elevator pitch should last no longer than 60 seconds…which leads us neatly into…

3) Get creative

So you can pare things down, another oldie but goodie applies here – “I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.”

Give yourself the freedom to write down everything you think you may want to, or need to say. Generate ideas, say it in as many different ways as you can – that way you’ll get the creative juices flowing and find your style. Highlight the good stuff: the things that are clear, powerful and bring your experiences alive…then, and only then, get ruthless with the editing:-

4) Sharpen your focus

Identify what your goal will be when you’re giving your pitch, what do you want it to do? Let clear purpose run through and unite everything you say. And remember it’s something that will be adapted and fine-tuned depending on who you’re speaking to.

5) Explain

Clarify who you are and what your business is or does. Make your listeners care, by answering what’s in it for them – connect to an emotional trip-wire, something others can identify with, an anecdote or story. Use clear, active language.

6) Be special

What makes you or how you do business different or special? The answer to this may be the reason you set up your own business or took on a particular role in the first place. If you’re stuck, ask your customers why they choose you.

7) Be incredible by being credible

Don’t go for clichés or jargon – “a passionate and committed individual who thinks outside the box” is meaningless. Show, don’t just tell people about how you know what you’re doing. Make it easy for them to believe you by giving proof, citing experience, credentials and testimonials.

8) It’s not all about you

Be engaging. Your business development success rests less on what you do and more on how you make people feel after they’ve worked with you – “problem sorted,” “relief – that’s one thing I don’t need to worry about.” A virtual assistant telling fellow delegates how they’ll be able to relax knowing their admin is taken care of is more compelling than her merely listing the service she offers.

And remember, ideally you want to spark a conversation. Engage your listeners with a question or make so as to lead them on to asking you one.

9) It’s a living thing

Adapt, refine and change your elevator pitch over time to take in the changes that you, your business, your sector and technology will undoubtedly go through. Most importantly, customise and target the different audiences you’ll be addressing.

For example, a short “all-about-you” at the start of a local radio interview will be different in tone and content to how you’d present yourself to an expert B2B audience at a formal meeting.

10) Keep it fresh

Going back to your pitch and giving it a bit of an update will keep you from sounding like a robot.

11) Out loud, be proud

Practise saying your elevator pitches out loud – and preferably into a mirror (no notes, no cheating!) – it’s the only way you’ll know whether you’ve found your flow.

Learn to love your moment in the spotlight – keep it conversational and smile.

And if you think you need any help with elevator pitches and putting it well, do get in touch.

(Image: iStock.)

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