Elevator PitchWhether you’re in sales, run your own business, or have an idea for a killer start-up, mastering the 90-second “elevator pitch” should be at the top of your to-do list. Here are some tips for presenting your message quickly and efficiently.

  1. Don’t try to close. The purpose of the 90-second pitch is simply to generate enough interest in your product or service to warrant a formal meeting. A “win” here is simply to have the other person agree to schedule a meeting where you’ll be able to make a more formal pitch. That’s where you’ll want to worry about closing.
  2. Lead with something specific, to provide context for what follows. You’ve got to grab their attention immediately, and you’ll quickly lose it if they can’t tell where you’re going. Let’s say you’ve invented and sell pants for cats. Just come right out and say that. Don’t waste any time talking about how you’ve started your own business, or how you used to work in real estate and got tired of all the drama. Your personal history is probably not relevant at this stage. You sell cat pants. Just say that.
  3. Focus on the problem, NOT the solution. It is possible that an ordinary person will fail to see the obvious benefit of a product such as yours. Maybe start with something like, “Haven’t you always wished cats were a bit more discreet? Don’t you find it inappropriate for cats to be showing off their naughty bits all the time?” Now you’ve set up a problem that your audience can relate to. A problem for which you have a solution. Now you’ve got something to offer them. As a general rule, spend about 2/3 of your 90-second pitch on setting up the problem.
  4. Tell a story. What is the problem like without your solution? Explain the size and scale of the possibilities. When appropriate, throw in an analogy that helps your audience quickly relate to your product. Let’s say you’re pitching your cat pants line to a major retail chain. Try something like, “There are currently 500 million cats in the U.S., alone. In fact, there are more cats than people. We’ll be like Levi’s…but for cats.” Now you’ve established a sense of scale and invoked the name of a well-known brand, creating an appealing connection in the mind of a potential investor.
  5. Use 4th-grade language, NOT industry jargon. Don’t get overly technical. Too many sales pitches get bogged down in legal, technical, or otherwise overly embellished language. You’re not selling ” thoughtfully sensible, high-quality organic feline apparel”… You’re selling pants. For cats. Keep it simple.
  6. Practice, practice, practice! Practice your pitch in bright, noisy, awkward situations. That way, you’ll never be rattled by environmental distractions. Try recording yourself and then watch your pitch from the perspective of your audience. You’ll derive immeasurable benefit from this approach. You want to be rehearsed, but you don’t want to sound rehearsed. The trick to a solid sales pitch is to do it without sounding like you’re selling something. Practice will help you deliver your pitch with calm confidence.
  7. If you get hung up, just move on to the next section. Suddenly realize you forgot the part about how your cat pants are available in denim and corduroy? Don’t worry. Just keep on going…you can always throw that in later. The listener doesn’t know if you skipped something.
  8. Have a killer closing. Leave them with a memorable 1-liner that they can repeat to others. “We’re bringing style and elegance to the exciting world of cat apparel.” If you leave them excited and wanting more, you’ve done your job. From there, it’s just a matter of exchanging contact info and scheduling that follow-up meeting.

Remember, the purpose of an elevator pitch is mainly to grab the attention of the listener. You want to give them exactly enough information for them to be able to decide whether they’d be interested in meeting with you to discuss buying your product, becoming your client or investing in your company. If you come across as prepared, confident and concise, the chances of getting that meeting are much, much higher. Believe in yourself, know your product, and practice, practice, practice! Explain the size and scale of the possibilities

* ED. Note: That is an absolutely terrible close. As of this writing I’m at home with a cold, so my customarily fabulous sense of humor is, unfortunately, about as sharp as a stick of warm butter. My apologies to anyone who may be offended or upset by the poor quality of my jokes. I would hope that any discomfort inflicted upon your comedic sensibilities does not distract you from the otherwise valuable advice I’ve presented. Thanks.