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How to write a captivating elevator speech when you’re an entrepreneur

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June 24, 2021    |     5-minute read (838 words)

When it comes to winning customers or grabbing investors’ attention, you have just seconds to get your point across and make a good first impression. This is where an elevator speech comes in handy!

A brief and succinct description of your business, an elevator speech (also known as the elevator pitch) can help you earn an opportunity to segue into a deeper conversation with your potential customer or investor about what you can offer, which may lead to a sale or help secure funding. 

Indeed, an elevator speech is critical for startups, particularly early-stage ventures, to carefully develop. But not every entrepreneur manages to attract engagement with their spiel. Most meander and miss the mark despite having a sound understanding of their business. 

So how do you go about crafting a great elevator speech for your venture — one that leaves your audience curious for more?

Keep it short

The term elevator speech comes from the idea that you may run into a potential customer or investor in an elevator and need to get your point across before the door opens again and the opportunity is lost. As the ride takes roughly 30 seconds, your pitch should last no longer than that.

The objective is to keep the pitch succinct and snappy so that you can pull it out whenever you bump into your prospects, who usually are short on time, at a conference, networking event, trade fair or social gathering.

Know the components

As the name suggests, your elevator speech should include nothing more than what someone could absorb while on their elevator ride with you.

That means your pitch should be very concise and quickly explain what you do and what you sell. But remember, it should not be all about you.

Ideally, your elevator speech will consist of three parts:

The Benefit: The benefit is the reason the customer might want WHAT you are selling. It is never the features and functions of your product or service but always the effect that your offerings could have on the potential client’s own business.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your startup sells an inventory control software system that helps small-scale manufacturers keep track of their raw materials. An effective elevator pitch might phrase their pitch as something like this: “Small manufacturing businesses use our system to reduce their inventory costs by more than 50%.”

The Differentiator:  The differentiator is the customer’s motivation to buy from YOU. It is what makes your product or service unique from the rest. Make sure that your differentiator contains concrete facts and figures, not general claims or opinions.

Here’s an example: Suppose your firm provides logistics support for businesses. A good differentiator would be something like this: “We have a global presence and function in 55+ countries and territories.” On the contrary, phrasing such as “we are industry-leading and best-in-class” is an unsubstantiated claim.

The Ask:  The ask is where you ask for an opportunity to MEET the customer in the event they show an interest. Many entrepreneurs commit the mistake of trying to close the sale in their elevator speech. Know that it is way too soon for that. Aim for a fact-finding business meeting where you can better assess their needs and actual decisions can be made.

Here’s an example: If you offer online bookkeeping services, ending the elevator pitch by saying something like this would be a really bad idea: “I can share the price quote for our bookkeeping services over email.” 

Consider closing your elevator speech by simply saying, “Since you are interested, what's the best way to get on your calendar?” instead.

Keep it simple

It goes without saying that your elevator speech should be a concise explanation of your business. 

Having said that, you may consider using industry lingo if it adds value. However, avoid using slang or jargon that your prospective customer might be unfamiliar with.

Focus on making a clean pitch. Cut the fluff and focus on the problem, solution and what makes your product or service better than that offered by competitors. 

Fine-tune the pitch

Step 1: Define your target audience.

To get the anatomy of your elevator speech right, begin by getting a clear understanding of the target market. Consider citing the customer’s demographic in your pitch with details of their average spend to pique interest.

Step 2: Construct your speech.

Draft your short and sweet pitch by focusing on its crucial elements — the benefit and differentiator followed by the ask. Keep the finish strong so listeners are curious and want to know more.

Step 3: Practice your delivery.

Spend time honing your elevator speech. Practice saying it aloud so it's conversational and well-paced.

Step 4: Make it your own.

Don’t hesitate to add a personal touch. As you use it, make adjustments based on feedback and real-life experiences.

Step 5: Deliver with confidence.

When you encounter a prospective customer, convey a clearly enunciated pitch with conviction. 

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