Monday Mornings with Madison


I’m sure every entrepreneur, salesperson and business owner has thought, at one time or another, “I know I could help (fill in the person or company’s name) if I could just get them to talk to me for 20 minutes!”  The problem is that most people in decision-making positions have dozens (or hundreds) of people asking for their time. If they gave every salesperson or business owner who asked 20 minutes of their time, they would never get any work done!  These are busy people who are not just sitting around waiting for salespeople to contact them. They have their own objectives, issues and concerns.  Most of the time, a salesperson or entrepreneur is lucky to get a minute or two of their time.

The challenge then is to get the point across quickly, clearly and effectively.  But how?  What should you say and do when you have just 120 seconds to catch the attention of the person with whom you most want to speak?  A properly designed elevator pitch can help any salesperson or entrepreneur stand out from the competition, break through the mental clutter, and grab that person’s attention!  This is probably the single most important step in sales prospecting.

What is an Elevator Pitch?

At its core, an elevator pitch is a brief communication and sales tool that articulates your message and starts a conversation. It is also a quintessential teachable moment… when you are able to help someone understand the value of your product or service.  A good elevator pitch provides just enough information so that the person has a sense of what you are talking about without overwhelming them.  A great elevator pitch gives them enough information so they understand what you are talking about without overwhelming them and makes them want to know more.  Think of it as a primer… a high-level, basic introduction to whatever you are selling.

A key aspect of an elevator pitch is that it eases a person into the subject.  Think appetizer, not main course.  They need a chance to catch up with all of the thinking, learning and contemplating you’ve done about the topic for months or years.  You may love and be passionate about what you do, but most people are not like you… at least not yet.  Even if you are offering a solution to a problem on a silver platter, they are not likely to be as interested in it as you are.  They aren’t likely to understand the intricacies, subtleties, and details right away. Initially, they’ll only understand and be interested in the big picture… and are too busy to spend time learning more unless it is something very worthwhile.

Thus, you need to explain your product or service in a way that will grab the attention of someone who has seventeen other things on their mind and only two minutes to focus on you.  Remember, that person is looking for a reason to tune you out which means you have to explain your idea in a way that requires the least amount of work.  Above all else, you must get to the point… in hopes of having a chance to get to the details later.  All you have time to do in two minutes is to make sure he or she understands what you are talking about and what’s in it for them.  It is not meant as a tool to close the deal.

Seven steps to a solid Elevator Pitch

Here are some tips to help you prepare a great elevator pitch.

  • Be concise – Use as few words as possible, but no fewer.
  • Be clear – Don’t use acronyms, MBA-speak, or ten-dollar words.  Use plain words that are understandable by your grandparents, your spouse, and your kids.
  • Be compelling – Explain how your product or service solves their problem.
  • Explain expertise – Communicate why you are qualified to see the problem and provide the solution.
  • Focus on the big picture – Stay at a fairly high level and don’t go into too much unnecessary detail.
  • Tailor the message – While all versions of your pitch should convey the same basic message, customize it to address the specific interests and concerns of that person.
  • Start a conversation – Don’t try to close the deal.  Just start a dialogue.

Once you write your elevator pitch, read it out loud while timing it to ensure it takes you less than two minutes to deliver it.  If it takes you more than two minutes, edit out extraneous details.  Try again, and keep doing that until you get it down to under two minutes. 

Once you have a solid pitch, rehearse it.  Practice it in front of a mirror.  Then practice it with family and friends.  Always make sure your delivery is under two minutes.  Ask your test audience which words and concepts were most compelling and make sure to emphasize those.  Take out anything that caused confusion or they didn’t understand.  Keep honing it until you have a tight message that rolls right off the tongue. 

Remember, though, that your “elevator pitch” is you, in the flesh. With bright eyes and flashing smile, you must be completely believable as you talk about you what you do.  You need to tell others what you do in a memorable way, even when there is no elevator in sight.  So keep it brief, focus on the big picture, and most of all be genuine. 


“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Thomas Jefferson

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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