You and a stranger are standing in a hotel lobby waiting for an elevator. He has the appearance of a fine, upstanding chap and you’re in an affable mood so you comment on what a nice day it is. He’s welcoming of conversation. Additional pleasantries ensue, followed by introductions and the customary handshake. The elevator finally arrives and just as you and your new friend step inside, he asks about your business.
It’s time for the ‘elevator speech.’
Of course, this is a very literal exposition on phrase; it can take place practically anywhere. The elevator speech is brief (the time it takes to take a typical elevator ride), to the point, and delivered in a casual, conversational way. It’s the friendly alternative to a dull recitation of your organization’s vital statistics or suggesting someone visit your company’s website.
An elevator speech shouldn’t be confused with company ‘boilerplate’ that commonly appears as a paragraph at the end of a press release. The purpose of PR boilerplate is to identify your business—where it’s located, when was it founded, what it sells—and to let people know where to get more information. An elevator speech, on the other hand, informs the audience why an organization is worth getting to know in the first place.
Elevator Speeches Can Pave the Way for Future Sales
We’ve all seen the stereotypical sales rep in movies and TV shows—annoying people who never miss an opportunity to launch their pitch. Doubtlessly such behavior in real life would be a colossal turn-off. As annoying as such salespeople would be, however, they are correct in realizing chance encounters might possibly bear fruit as a sale. A nicely crafted elevator speech gently plants the seed.
You simply never know what doors new acquaintances might open—either as a buyer or as a potential referral. And when people ask you about your business, they’ve given you permission to ‘promote,’ so take advantage.
But what if you’re a dentist, a CPA or some other professional or highly skilled service provider operating a small business? People are already familiar with those occupations, so how much of an elevator speech could these professionals need? The answer is “just as much as any other company.” There may be a lot of other folks in your line of work, but there’s only one business that depends on your skills and unique expertise. Here’s your chance to differentiate your operation from your competition.
Tell Your Company’s Story in 30 Seconds or Less
It’s time now to sit down at your computer (or pen and paper if you’re decidedly old school). The goal will be to tell a story, and do so in about 75 words or less. As with most stories, there are three essential parts:
- Introduction – Identify your business and its general purpose.
- Body – Describe your typical customers’ needs or challenges
- Conclusion – Close with how your business benefits your customers.
Example: I own Big Mike’s Express IT. We set up computer networks, provide disaster backup systems, monitor hardware and software for problems as well as other related services. Our clients are mostly local small-to-midsize businesses. They need fairly robust information technology but lack the in-house resources to manage their own systems. Basically, we solve our clients’ IT problems so they can concentrate on what they do best.
Your value proposition should play prominently in your elevator speech—so your audience understands how your business benefits your customers. Be aware, however, that honesty is THE fundamental element in a good elevator story. If you believe what you are saying, your listener will be more likely to believe it as well. Sincerity comes through.
Finally, let’s say you’ve carefully distilled, refined, crafted and edited your words to deliver maximum impact in the least possible amount of time. You don’t want it to sound rehearsed. Read through your elevator speech a couple of times, then set it aside and try to repeat it aloud. The idea isn’t to recite it word-for-word; in fact, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Your delivery should sound natural. As long as you hit your main points and deliver them in the right order, you’re prepared to help your business make a good (and memorable) first impression.
For some additional takes on elevator speeches, you may want to check out the following articles:
- How to Write an Elevator Speech (Businessknowhow.com)
- How to Write a Better Elevator Pitch (Inc.)
- Seven Steps to Deliver Your Best Elevator Speech (U.S. News & World Report)