Writing the Elevator Speech

How to Make an Elevator Pitch

Businessman passing open elevator
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When someone turns to you and asks, “So what do you do for a living?” what do you say? Ideally, you have a polished, intriguing answer that takes just a few seconds to say and that leaves your listener thinking, “Tell me more!” This little speech is called an elevator speech or elevator pitch, and it's a terrific lead-generation tool for any salesperson.

Your elevator speech should briefly answer five questions: who, what, where, when and why. For example, let's say you sell insurance. You'll want to work in the following types of responses:

Who are you / your company? Your response might be, “We are a life insurance provider.”
What do you do for your customers? This should be a benefits phrase, like “We give them security and peace of mind.”
Where do you find customers? Talk about your ideal customer, for example, “Families with small children.”
When / in what area is your company better than your competitors? It is your USP (unique selling proposition) such as, “We have the best customer service ratings in the state for our industry.”
Why should I care? Here you can mention a problem that your product solves, such as, “Our product keeps grieving families from having to deal with financial problems.”

Once you have the basic components of your elevator pitch, you can string them together in an effective and not too wordy form. Ideally, your finished response should have between 25-35 words and take no more than 15 seconds to say. Using the above example as a starting point, the final elevator speech might sound like this:

“ABC Life provides insurance products that give parents peace of mind because we take good care of our clients and they know their children will be provided for if something happens to them.”

You can also rearrange your speech to suit your audience. If you were speaking to someone who isn't a parent, you might change that part of your response to something like, “... give husbands (or wives) peace of mind, because their spouses...” or so on. If you're talking to someone in your industry, you can throw in the technical words and acronyms, but always have a non-technical version memorized for pitching to a layperson.

Elevator pitches don't only apply to selling your company's products and services. You can develop similar speeches that will help in many areas of your life. For example, you can craft a job-hunting response that focuses on your talents and successes or a networking pitch that focuses on how good you are at referring leads.

Whatever the specific goal you're trying to attain, a good elevator pitch makes people want to know more. If you rattle off your elevator speech and get the response, “Really? Go on,” or “How does that work?” you've done a good job. Now's your chance to say, “Why don't we set a time to get together and go over this in more detail? Are you free Thursday at 2:30?” Suddenly you've picked up an appointment purely on the basis of your 15-second speech.

You can even get together with the rest of your sales team and craft a “group” pitch. Having the whole sales team use the same introductory response gives customers and prospects a feeling of consistency. Just don't reel it off like a telemarketer reading from a script, or your speech is likely to backfire. Practice saying it until it sounds nice and natural. If a phrase sounds awkward or just wrong, try digging out your thesaurus and see if a word substitution or two will make your elevator speech sound more like something you'd say in everyday life.