Pitch perfect: Here’s how to impress with less

Janet Arrowood

You have only 30 to 60 seconds — that’s 75 to 150 words — to grab someone’s attention. That’s about the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors — hence the term “elevator pitch.” It’s crucial to make your pitch concise, jargon-free and focused on what you provide rather than how or why you provide it.

So, what does an elevator pitch involve? Here’s a generic example. You probably offer many products or services, so you’ll want several pitches to meet different goals.

We/I provide three main services/products. We/I solve problem or situation ABC by providing our competitive advantage to help a particular person or group achieve its goal or objective.

Note the focus on what rather than how and the way the pitch makes the prospect’s goals or objectives the most important thing since that’s the final part of the pitch.

Here are two examples.

A not-so-good pitch for a real estate professional: “My name is ABC. I work for DEF Realty. We provide a full range of value-added services backed by our stellar reputation to help anyone interested in buying or selling a house or investment property fulfill their personal dreams or business investment goals. We do this by ensuring all properties get maximum exposure in the real estate market so we can get our clients the best possible value for their money or price for their resale.”

That’s more 70 words that say next to nothing. If your pitch includes words like “any,” “every” or “all” or generic adjectives, you’re not pitching a valuable service or product. You’re too vague and unlikely to attract much business.

Try this instead: “My name is ABC. I’ve been a licensed Realtor for more than XX years. The three types of neighborhoods I specialize in are X, Y and Z. My company and I are experts in client relocation to these neighborhoods. We have assisted XX families and YY companies with their relocation needs during the past ZZ years. We’re usually able to get you into your new home in 60 days or less.”

That’s roughly the same number of words. But now you’re more focused and have used a layperson’s terms. Most of the people in your network can relate to this. They get the sense of what it is you do and what you want from them. In addition, you’ve provided a couple of specific examples of the types of clients or prospects you seek, even if the person you’re pitching isn’t one of those prospects.

Another version of your elevator pitch should focus on your centers of influence. These are people or positions that can get you in front of or in contact with potential clients.

I’ve found a pitch focusing on gaining contacts with these centers of influence to be successful. For starters, the person you’re pitching doesn’t usually feel put on the spot since you’re asking for somewhat generic contacts. You give the person some ideas of the type of person or position you’d like to contact without making a specific sales pitch or muddying the waters with lots of industry specific details.

Here’s an example of a center of influence pitch:

“Hi. My name is GHI. I’m a CPA with Big CPA Firm. We specialize in small business tax and accounting services. Good business contacts for me are construction companies with 50 or fewer employees, independent financial advisors and business law attorneys. We provide their clients with tailored, practical tax advice and tax filings. We have the qualifications and more than XX years of experience to help these clients manage IRS, state and other tax issues and filings.”

Again, just over 70 words. But this time, the focus is on introductions to and contacts with companies that have access to and influence over dozens, if not hundreds, of really good prospects for you. Rather than one off transactions with a series of sequential prospects, you seek to build relationships with a few centers of influence you make comfortable with you and your expertise. Then they do the hard work of identifying suitable prospects for you and making qualified referrals. Note the “pitch” only identified three categories of centers of influence.
A laundry list of services will cause the target’s eyes to glaze over.

An elevator pitch — or two or three — is something every business owner, professional or employee needs if they want their businesses or job opportunities to grow.