There’s a lot of conjecture sweeping across the net these days about the best way to pitch your business to a potential customer. There are those who swear by the Elevator Pitch, holding it up in the lap of the gods as a crucial selling tool, and there are those who, recently slammed by Pitching Coaches, reject it outright in favour of more casual methods. Regardless, it’s a well-known buzz phrase so it’s best to understand what it is, and how and when to use it.

An Elevator Pitch is a concise summary of your business: what you do and how you can do it better than your competitors. It’s about identifying the pluses of your business while convincing a potential customer they need what you have in order to solve a problem of theirs.  It comes from the idea you can convince a person to use your business in the time it takes an elevator to move from one floor to another. But there’s a whole lot more to perfecting the pitch, as it turns out. Here’s the lowdown.

“A woodsman was once asked, ‘What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?’ He answered, ‘I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.’”

The same can be said in preparing your Elevator Pitch: research, reflect, refine. Then stand and deliver!

Elevator Pitch
Image Source: American Express
Elevator Pitch

1. Solve Your Customer’s Problem

Before you launch into any business, you need to figure out, first, if it’s even worth launching into! Though you may already be set on your idea, it’s important to ask yourself: can you give the world a solution to a problem? Noah Parsons explores this idea further in his article, The 7 Key Components of a Perfect Elevator Pitch.

2. Know the Essence

What is the heart and soul of your business? Is there a noble cause behind it? Does it have humanitarian aspects? Are you passionate about a cause? What motivated you to come up with this idea in the first place? Think about what makes your business tick – its benefits and advantages, features and essential workings. Make a list of every feature and how they could best benefit a customer. Prioritise to find the strongest feature to use in your EP. The idea is to leave the listener wanting more so that they will feel compelled to either, a) ask you extra questions, or b) pick up the phone and enquire later.

3. Understand Your Point of Difference

Work out what distinguishes you from your competitors – what’s your point of difference. This is your unique selling point, the thing which sets you apart from anyone else. You’re special. Tell me why. Why should somebody buy from you when Joe Blow has a cheaper something down the road? This is a huge selling point to make so hone it down to a single sentence and use it in your EP.

Shaun McGowan of Lend Capital Pty Ltd says ‘We have many competitors in the marketplace; we need to be unique to have a competitive advantage.’

4. Who is Your Target Market?

Who, exactly, are you appealing to? When pitching an EP to either a potential customer or to an investor, it’s generally wise to keep it simple either way – there’s no point using complicated language when selling soccer balls to a child. The best communication is kept simple and pointed directly at your preferred audience. Chuck Cohn takes you through the steps of finding the right customer for your business in his Forbe’s article, Steps to Find Your Target Market.

5. Appeal to Emotions

According to entrepreneur, John Assaraf, people buy based on emotions, and they justify their purchase with logic.’ In the book The Answer, by John and Murray Smith, he suggests using words like “You know how… well what we do is…”. For example, “You know how “such and such” annoys you? Well we can offer “blah blah” so that it doesn’t.” That way our voice of reason justifies the initial emotion of hearing how a feature can benefit us. But as mentioned above, use in moderation. More is not more in a pitch.

6. Find your Voice. Be Authentic

Information is only as good as its deliverer. The key to any good communication is to be assertive, natural and authentic. Keep your voice steady, strong (but not argumentative or desperate) and as conversational as possible. You want to engage the listener, not frighten them or have them strain to hear. The same goes with body language – keep hand gestures to a minimum so they can concentrate on what you’re saying, not what you’re doing. Brianna Morgaine brings it all together in her article, Is Bad Body Language Ruining Your Pitch? Here’s How to Fix It.

Elevator Pitch
Image source: The Master Negotiator

7.    Keep it Concise

Most Pitch Coaches agree, you’ve got between thirty and sixty seconds to make an impression. So, the best pitches are those which include a short description of what your business does, the best feature of your company, and how you can solve a problem your listener might have.

8.    Know When to Pitch

At some point in life you’ll need to pitch an idea, a business, yourself, or an artistic endeavour to someone – the investor, the bank, a potential employer, a ruling corporate body, or a publisher, the list goes on. Events showcasing potential startups like Pause 2017, are the premier way to put your best foot forward to investors searching for the next big thing.

So, get practising!

Mary Paterson

Mary is a freelance writer and small business journalist with a broad range of experience in the Australian start-up scene. Connect with her at Authorflair.com for more insights into Small Business.