An effective elevator pitch can escalate sales

by Andrew Ballard

It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, an effective elevator pitch can lead to new sales opportunities. Many claim to use this technique to stimulate a sales conversation, yet few actually make the transition from pitch to profit. Let’s examine a few elevator principles.

An elevator pitch is that intriguing sound bite intended to peak interest and stimulate conversation. No more, no less.

Recently, I was in an elevator discussing this very concept with a new client. I asked, “What’s your pitch?” He rambled, “By codifying proprietary technologies, we deliver a superior enterprise application to an under-leveraged vertical market.” I thought he was gonna pass out before we hit the lobby.

We wonder why it’s not obvious to all humanity that our widget is the latest and greatest. This is usually because marketers have a supply-side mentality. We focus on features, while those on the demand side of the equation just want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Put the customer’s hat on and use some “elevator etiquette.”

First, if you have to take a breath midstream, your spiel is too long. Bill Joos, VP of Business Development for Garage.com (a successful venture-capital firm) says, “Brevity brings the best results.”

He’s right! If you can’t peak interest in 10 seconds, a laborious dissertation won’t magically win friends and influence people. The last time I checked, Snohomish County didn’t have many high-rises. Assume you have three floors instead of 30 to get your point across.

Open with an attention-getter designed to draw a question.

My personal prologue is: “I help companies accelerate revenue generation.” The typical response is: “How do you do that?” They’ve just given me permission to go into more detail. When I lead with, “I’m a marketing strategist,” they start pushing buttons to get off the elevator.

Next, lose the techno babble! Use simple and clear language that communicates how you increase your customers’ advantage or reduce their risk. Most people buy on emotion rather than logic—make sure your intro has an emotional appeal. Said another way, sell the sizzle instead of the steak.

Along that line, what you say is important, how you say it is imperative. If you don’t have passion about your value proposition, prospective customers will find someone else who does. Finally, incorporate a call to action.

Zig Ziglar gained notoriety in the ’70s by concluding a “benefit statement” with a closing question. That’s how you should wrap up your elevator pitch — with a question. Ask to exchange business cards so you can follow up. Keep in mind that an elevator pitch is not designed to sell, only to set up a selling opportunity.

The same principles apply to marketing communications such as product sheets, direct response, e-marketing and advertising. Your message should be short, simple and emotional. And be sure to close with a call to action. Give your prospect a good reason for taking the conversation to the next level.

A great pitch doesn’t just happen; it takes preparation and practice. A good exercise is to test it among associates. Use these elevator principles and your prospects won’t go running for the stairwell.

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