For a small business owner, a simple chance conversation can be an opportunity to drum up new business for your company. Asking what someone does for a living is part of a polite conversation, and it gives you the opportunity to give your elevator pitch. If you aren’t familiar with the terminology, an elevator pitch is just a brief explanation of what you do — and how you can help your audience.
For those of you who are just creating an elevator pitch, or for anyone who wants to improve their current version, we’ve put together a list of 5 rules for creating an elevator pitch that rises above the rest. Here’s the list:
1. Explain your business in two lines
You have only a moment to explain what you do, but it can be hard to pare down an explanation to the details. Try starting with only a minimal explanation of just two lines. Focus on writing down what is unique about your business. You don’t need a perfectly formatted document; this draft is to get you to eliminate unnecessary words.
While you should mention what you do, how your business helps is actually more important than your particular methods. A professional speaker, for instance, wouldn’t just say that he gets up on a stage and talks. Instead, his pitch might include an explanation of the fact that he motivates employees to focus on quality — or whatever his speaking is supposed to achieve.
2. Add some excitement
If you aren’t excited about what you do, there’s no reason anyone else should get excited either. There was some sort of passion that lead you to get involved with your business; let it show through. In some cases, your reasons may be your elevator pitch.
Do you see a particular need for your services? Focus on that need, and a passionate pitch might just write itself. Results are another easy way to get excited about your business. Think about the numbers you celebrate — the milestones for your business.
3. Test your pitch
Find a few people that will listen to your pitch and give you feedback. Ask them what terms they didn’t recognize, where it was boring and where it was exciting.
Your listeners’ questions about your pitch are especially important. You don’t necessarily want to answer every question about your business in your pitch — getting prospective customers to ask a few questions is a great way to hook them — but if a test subject has no idea what you do after listening to your pitch, it’s back to the drawing board. It may take a couple of tries to come up with a pitch if your business isn’t particularly common.
4. Adapt to the situation
You don’t give your elevator pitch in a vacuum. It’s always part of a conversation. Your conversational partner probably has some specific needs that your company can help with — and he or she may have already described them as part of the conversation.
If you’ve already heard those specific needs, respond to them. Tell your listener exactly what you can do to help him; being specific is what can take an elevator pitch from the “I’ll be in touch” level to the “I’m calling you first when I get back to the office” level.
5. Be open to change
I actually learned this trick during a high school science fair: I was giving a pitch about my project to a judge and he asked a couple of questions that seemed pretty important. I started incorporating his questions, along with the answers, in my pitch. I’m pretty sure that it was that small change to my pitch that landed me a prize.
Your elevator pitch is not carved in stone. If you come across a better explanation of what you do, you ought to include it in your pitch. It’s even worthwhile to test out multiple versions of your elevator pitch and make changes based on the result. And if your business changes, it’s important to make sure that your elevator pitch reflects those changes.
So, how well have you done with your elevator pitch? Have you followed these rules—or do you have your own suggestions?