ABP: Always Be Pitching

Here’s how to hone your elevator pitch.

The Elevator Pitch. One of 2008’s business buzzwords. While this phrase gets thrown around a lot, particularly at a time when so many of us are pitching relentlessly, there is perhaps no wiser or more concise advice than from Seth Godin:

The best elevator pitch doesn’t pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project.

The point of an elevator pitch isn’t to close a deal or make a sale–it’s to get someone to continue to listen to you. This should be the mindset with which you start every conversation regarding your startup.

But shouldn’t how I pitch the company be situational?

No. You aren’t pitching investment. You aren’t pitching a sale. You aren’t pitching a download. You’re pitching time. Someone else’s time.

Unless you’re just gifted with the gift of gab (or persuasion), asking someone for their time can be one of the hardest things to accomplish. Some of the most common advice you’ll hear is to write the pitch out and practice it in front of a mirror. But that’s pretty obvious.

So, when confronted with only 30 seconds of facetime with someone, how do you clearly get your message across?

This is probably obvious, too, but it begins with choosing your words intentionally, which may not mean what you think it means. It isn’t about using business terms one can relate to, or repeating the keywords du jour. It’s about what, or whom, your words are focused on.

“Yeah, okay, but what does that mean?” you might ask.

The most effective thing you can do in an elevator pitch is talk about them.

Frankly, people don’t give a damn about you or your product unless it impacts them directly. Yet so many pitches are solely focused on what a company does, what a founder needs, or what a company can do, all without any mention of why it matters to the listener. Across the board, this self-centered focus on what is being sold is the downfall of many pitches, whether they’re in the elevator, on the phone, or in an email.

But how can you effectively make a pitch about your product sound like it’s about someone else without coming across as a used car salesman? Here are some of our tips:

  1. Action words hold the power. Words such as “do,” “make,” and “create” have a ton of power and potential. Use them as often as possible in a pitch of any kind, especially an elevator pitch when time is precious.

  2. Say the person’s name. This is a great trick to come across as genuine, as well as an excellent way to ensure their name sticks with you for good.

  3. Use the present tense. Speak in the now. Your product doesn’t plan to do this in the future, you’re not going to do this some distant day down the road. You’re doing to do it NOW. Get people excited about what is happening in the present, and how they can get involved today.

  4. Stay away from fluff and buzzwords. As fun and popular as they can be, keep a wide distance from business buzzwords that have no meaning. “Curated experience,” for one, means very little to someone if they’re giving you only 20 seconds to get their attention. Try replacing those words with something more actionable or tangible, and save those terms for fluffy marketing pages.

Once you’ve honed your elevator pitch, it’s time to start building it out. Come back next week for insight on how to start building a customer value proposition.