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How to write a winning elevator pitch (with examples)
8 min read
“So, what do you do?”
If you’re self-employed, you better know how to answer that question in 30-60 seconds — about the time it takes for a short ride in a lift.
In entrepreneurship, every person you meet could be a potential customer or know someone who could be — if only they knew what you have to offer!
What is an elevator pitch?
A short, sweet “elevator pitch” tells the world who you are, what you do, who you do it for and what makes you unique. Delivered with confidence, it can make an excellent first impression and potentially generate interest in you and your business. It does not necessarily have to be delivered in a lift — or even in person. Your LinkedIn profile description, the personal statement on your CV and your social media bio are all versions of your elevator pitch.
Don’t let the word “pitch” throw you off; it’s not the same thing as a sales pitch. In fact, if you answer the question “What do you do?” with a sales pitch, you’re more likely to turn potential customers away. Nobody wants to be sold to right out of the gate. People want to do business with people they like and trust.
Your elevator pitch is really just a way to strike up a conversation so that interested parties can learn more, if they’re interested. You want to give enough information to be intriguing, without sounding canned or coming off as pushy. The goal isn’t to close a sale; it’s to generate interest, start a conversation, and possibly prompt a referral or an invitation to say more.
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Although you should be able to deliver your elevator pitch in a short amount of time, it can take a long time to write and perfect it. You can probably talk easily and passionately at length about what you do. When you’re deeply involved in the business and understand all the nuances, it can be hard to boil it down to two or three sentences. But, when it comes to elevator pitches, shorter is better.
If you want to structure your elevator pitch right, these are the three essential elements to include.
1. Who you are
Start your elevator speech by stating who you are. Keep it brief and to the point. Remember, it’s not about you, so resist the urge to launch into your life story. The elevator pitch is about getting the conversation started so you can learn about your potential new customer (and how your business could help them).
“I own a boutique public relations firm.”
“I’m a personal trainer.”
“I own a bookkeeping and accounting business.”
“I’m a graphic designer.”
2. The problem you solve and who you solve it for
Frame your pitch in terms of the problem you solve - not just what you do - and who you solve it for. This helps listeners understand who your ideal customers are, the pain points you can eliminate, and why they’d want to do business with you.
“We help technology startups get news coverage in business and trade publications.”
“I specialise in helping people get their strength back after recovering from a serious illness or injury.”
“We give small business owners peace of mind and help them stay focused on doing what they do best by managing their finances.”
“I help sports franchises connect with their fans through design and animation.”
3. What makes you unique
You may want to add a third sentence to your elevator pitch to provide additional details that convey something special about your business, to really hook the listener and make them want to learn more. Maybe you’d like to share the fact that you have a unique way of working, use some proprietary technology, have passion for your business, or work with a high-profile client or two.
“Unlike traditional big-name firms that write a ton of press releases, we focus solely on pitching executive interviews and article placements to our extensive network of media contacts.”
“I work with people in their homes, and I also have a gym with Gyrotonic equipment, which is known for building flexibility and strength without putting strain on your joints.”
“As a small business owner myself, I just love helping small businesses succeed.”
“You know those graphics you see on the underground, and that ad campaign featuring football players ice skating outdoors? That’s some of my work.”
Tips for delivering your elevator pitch
When delivering your elevator pitch, how you say it is just as important as what you say. Here are some tips for delivering your elevator pitch in a way that makes an impact.
1. Say it out loud
Try reading through some of these completed examples out loud to see how they feel.
“I own a boutique public relations firm. We help technology startups get news coverage in business and trade publications. Unlike traditional big-name firms that write a ton of press releases, we focus solely on pitching executive interviews and article placements to our network of media contacts.”
“I’m a personal trainer. I specialise in helping people get their strength back after recovering from a serious illness or injury. I work with people in their homes, and I also have a gym with Gyrotonic equipment, which is really great for building flexibility and strength without putting strain on your joints.”
“I own a bookkeeping and accounting business. We give small business owners peace of mind and help them stay focused on doing what they do best by managing their finances. As a small business owner myself, I just love helping small businesses succeed.”
“I’m a graphic designer. I help sports franchises connect with their fans through design and animation. You know those graphics you see on the underground, and that ad campaign featuring football players ice skating outdoors? That’s some of my work.”
2. Use simple language
Notice that the examples above are easy to read because they use simple language. That’s because an elevator pitch is meant to be spoken, not read. Writing for the ear is different from writing for the eye, so read what you’ve written out loud. How does it sound? How does it feel?
You want it to feel natural and comfortable, so if you find yourself stumbling over words, go back and simplify. Avoid words you would not normally use in conversation. Save your bigger or fancier words for your Twitter or LinkedIn version, where an unusual word can capture visual attention.
3. Ask for feedback
When you’re feeling good about your pitch, try it out on your family and friends. How do you feel about saying it semi-publicly? Confident and proud is what you’re going for, without coming off as bragging.
Ask your friendly audience for their feedback. Do you look and feel confident? Does what you’re saying accurately reflect your business? Take their feedback and polish your elevator pitch some more, if necessary. Once it sounds right to you, you’re ready to start practicing your pitch in the wild. Take every opportunity to do so, as it will help you become increasingly comfortable delivering it in a variety of ways and settings.
4. Tailor it to the occasion
Just because your elevator pitch is polished doesn’t mean you should spout it off to everyone you meet. You don’t have to wait for a formal invitation, but make sure that the context is right. For example, if you’re in a doctor’s waiting room and you strike up a conversation with a fellow patient, the opportunity might arise to mention your personal training business.
Always take into account the environment and the audience. Are you literally speaking to someone in an elevator, where time is of the essence? If so, use the two-sentence version.
Are you in a more relaxed setting, such as a business mixer or networking event where you’ll be engaging in a more leisurely conversation? If so, you have a bit more time and flexibility to deliver your pitch. Or maybe you’re in a more formal setting, such as standing and presenting yourself to a new group? In that case, you’ll want to work more on delivery: body language, eye contact, and vocal variety in order to make a strong impression.
5. Keep an eye on your audience
Always be aware of your audience’s reaction. If they seem restless or bored, or you’re having to be heard over a lot of noise, cut it short. If they seem interested and engaged, feel free to continue and tell them more about your business for as long as you’re holding their interest. But be sure to make it mutual. If you’re ultimately going to work together, it’s just as important that you understand their business and their needs as they do yours.
Start crafting an effective elevator pitch
Although it might seem scary or uncomfortable to talk about your business, it’s really not that different from what you probably do already in a variety of ways. The elevator pitch is just pulling the most important elements together in a succinct way so that it’s easy for people to grasp what you do in a short amount of time. And remember, the goal of the elevator pitch is not to sell or close a deal, so don’t put that kind of pressure on it. It’s simply intended to start a conversation, and if it does that consistently, you’ve done a good job.
We hope you’re off to a good start with writing your elevator pitch and delivering it confidently. QuickBooks’ small business blog is full of tips for marketing your own business - have a look at what else you could get going with!