The Elevator Pitch - 60 Seconds to Success

How To Sell Your Idea in 60 Seconds or Less

You don't need to be in an elevator to give an elevator pitch. In fact, that very rarely happens. So, what exactly is an elevator pitch? Well, even if you haven't heard the term, it doesn't mean you've never given one. Here's the basic premise:

Sell Someone Your Idea in 60 Seconds or Less

That's it. It's basically a challenge to convince someone that your idea, whether it's a new ad campaign, a new product or service, or even yourself, is a good one in the time it takes for the elevator to travel several floors.

And if you can't do it in that time, you're in trouble. It means you've over-complicated the whole thing.

Why is the Elevator Pitch Important?

If you have an idea to sell and you meet a potential buyer, you need to jump on that opportunity and pitch it to that person quickly, and with confidence. If they're a busy CEO, you won't have long. You have to make a solid presentation, get across the main points of your product or service, and leave a memorable impression.

You could bump into one of these potential buyers at any time, be it a party, on the street or, as the title suggests, in an elevator. When that person asks "so what do you do?" or you get the chance to making an opening gambit, you have to be prepared.

What are the Essentials of a Good Elevator Pitch?

This differs depending on what you're selling. There are a few schools of thought on this, including this excellent one by Expert Alyssa Gregory, but there are several common elements.

Define the Problem and Solution

This is key. In the first few seconds of the pitch, you outline a problem that currently exists, using language that draws in the listener. Common ways to start the pitch include:

"Don't you hate it when…"

"The biggest problem with…"

"What's the deal with…"

After you identify the problem, you then present your solution, using the majority of your remaining time to outline how your product or service meets the demands.

It should be broad enough to avoid technical jargon and figures, but be specific enough to clearly solve the problem.

Every Word Counts

There is no room in a pitch for any flowery language or extra verbiage. You have just 60 seconds, or less, to get someone interested. So, write your pitch, edit it, refine it, cut it, practice it, cut it again, and keep going until every word you use is essential.

Prompt Questions
You want to engage your audience. The best way to do this is to tee up questions in the pitch. Those starting questions mentioned earlier are good, but you can always include more. Just remember the "w" words you learned in school:

  • WHAT is your biggest challenge right now?
  • WHO is your biggest demographic?
  • WHY should people come to you?
  • WHEN will you be ready to take a big step?
  • WHERE do you see your company in five years?

And the HOWs of course:

  • HOW is business?
  • HOW long have you had the problem?
  • HOW much time do you have?

Be Conversational, but Professional

You're walking a fine line. No one wants to hear a stale, pre-prepared pitch. It should feel natural, like a conversation. It should not feel like you're cornering the prospect with 60 seconds of over-rehearsed fluff. But at the same time, you don't want to be so relaxed as to seem unprofessional, unprepared, stuttering or forgetful.

Keep it cool, imagine the prospect is a colleague you know and trust, and talk respectfully but with passion and drive. Think of Columbo. Always respectful, always curious, always magnetic and he never leaves without planting an idea in your head.

Be Enthusiastic

If you're not interested in what you have to say, why should anyone else be? You need to have a genuine passion for what you're selling, whether it's a huge plan for a solar powered car, or a new ad campaign for paper clips. You are not just selling the idea, you're selling yourself (see this article for mistakes you should avoid). And above all, have fun with it!