Elevator Pitches Help Meetings Hit New Heights

by Tre Baker  on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

In the same sense that water-cooler conversations in the office rarely take place near an actual water cooler, elevator pitches are usually done in more open environments. There remain two goals elevator pitches still have in common with their namesake however: you want to get moving quickly and reach a destination in a short amount of time.

A good elevator pitch should last no more than 90 seconds with one minute the optimum, says Jeff Amerine, Director of Technological Ventures at the University of Arkansas.

“A good elevator pitch will immediately start off with some kind of emotional connection that frames the problem,”Amerine says. “ ‘Why is this a problem that anyone would care about?’ If you make an assertion, you back it up with quantitatively supportable facts.”

That’s why finding the person who cares about the service you’re selling is the first step. If you’re staring at a sea of faces during a conference, don’t just start casting lines unless you know exactly which fish you’re trying to catch. Your goal in the pitch isn’t so much to get the other party to sign a contract, but to set up a future meeting where maybe those papers enter the picture.

“People who are really good at this are perceptive because they’ve already got in mind when they’re talking to somebody that may already be interested,” says Amerine. “They’ve targeted who they’re seeking out.”

So you found your future investor or future client. Perhaps this person is potential employee or employer. What do you do now?

“You pull them aside,” says Amerine. “You don’t immediately start selling. You seek to understand something about the other person, and then you seek to be understood.”

That means knowing not just what you know, but what the person in front of you needs to know. You may know what solution and what features of the solution could mean for a possible client, but all they may want to know about are the benefits to your solution.

Instead of talking about how you’re going to do something, tell them instead about the cost savings, revenue increases and value that will come to their business if they do use your solutions, whatever those may be.

Be conversational. Avoid technical jargon. Have a conversation in your pitch. This will be the part that takes practice. You may have a script in your head, but potential partners don’t want to hear you read a script from memory. Don’t get longwinded and lose track of the time this person has given you.

And when it’s over, stay perceptive and keep in touch. If you’ve received a positive reaction from your pitch, it’s time to get a meeting scheduled on their calendar.

“Be persistent, but not a pest,” says Amerine.

A good businessperson will know that he shouldn’t waste your time either if he’s not interested, but that’s not always the case in the South where folks are a bit more demure about showing disapproval than their northern counterparts. If your calls never get returned and it’s tough even to get an email answered, maybe it’s time to move on.

Not everyone gets to the top floor without a few stops along the way.

Elevator Action

Elevator pitches are made inside conference rooms, hotel lobbies, restaurant booths or parking garages.

If you’ve got someone you’re pitching to with a nicotine habit, sometimes you can buy more than just 90 seconds outside with them, as long as you don’t mind a little second-hand cigarette smoke.

But what about elevators? Does the delicate act of networking still work when you’re cornering a potential investor or client inside a 50-SF box that’s moving up or down?

Literal elevator pitches still work in Canada, apparently. In 2011, Visa held “Canada’s Longest Elevator Pitch” contest, held between the ground and 57th floors of the One King West Hotel in Toronto. Anna-Maria Mountfort used her 60 seconds in front of a panel of judges — without getting motion sickness — and won the $10,000 grand prize for successfully pitching her company specializing in children’s mittens.

You won’t find any elevators that travel more than 40 floors here in Arkansas, with most conference centers and campuses sticking close to terra firma.

That’s all right though. For a good elevator pitcher, 60 seconds is still enough to time to cover a lot of ground.



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