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Charles Sterck, CPA / Tax Principal in the RINA San Francisco office.
Charles R. SterckCPA /Principalview bio

Creating an Important Elevator Speech

Elevator speech delivered over the phone by a businessman

6/4/2020

In our Medittation on An Elevator Speech article, we explore aspects of an elevator speech and what it can do for your business. Here is your guideline for creating your important speech.

A good elevator speech will typically contain this information:

  •  What your product or service is,
  •  What your market is and who your customers are,
  •  How your product or service benefits customers, and
  • Your competitive advantage.

Let’s look at these ingredients in turn to help design your elevator speech:

Briefly describe what it is you sell. Don’t go into excruciating detail here.

  1. What Product or Service Do You Deal In?
    Briefly describe what it is you sell. Don’t go into excruciating detail here.
     
  2. What is Your Market?
    This section briefly discusses:
    •  Who you sell the product or service to,
    • What industry it is you work in,
      And,
    • How large a segment of the market do you represent?
       
  3. What are The Benefits of Your Product or Service?
    • It won’t be so difficult for you to succinctly define what your product is. The tricky part is to identify how it adds benefit to your customers or clients.
    • This may take a bit of thought. Sit down with a piece of paper, or in front of your computer. Start making a list. When you do this, remember that you are not describing your products or services. You are describing what they can do for your customers.
    • You don’t need to work alone. You can get some of your team members to brainstorm with you. And then you might consult some of your trusted clients. They may be able to give you unexpected insights into the appealing features of your product.
       
  4. What are Your Competitive Advantages?
    A competitive advantage is a quality or set of qualities that enable you to stand out as different from your competitors. The best competitive advantages are not easy for another company to reproduce or duplicate. Examples might be:
    • Quick Turn around
    • Unconditional Guarantee
    • Unique products
    • Economies of Density
    • Proven processes

Make It Brief and Powerful

Now that you know the elements you want to cover, remember that an elevator speech is a brief, powerful statement. That’s partly because you want people to be intrigued enough to ask questions. But also you want it to be memorable, so people will be able to repeat what you have said.

Your elevator speech is a word-of-mouth marketing tool. This is another reason you want to keep your elevator speech simple and jargon free.

People won’t remember language that confuses. And they won’t repeat anything that sounds too much like a piece of self-promotion. They won’t want to sound like a commercial.

Break the Message into Parts

When you come to write your elevator speech, it will probably help if you break it into two parts. The first part can describe what you do, and the second part can describe the benefits you offer clients.   For example,

‘I run an agency (What I Do) that helps companies recruit top-class professionals (Benefit).’
Or, ‘I run a financial planning consultancy (What I Do) that helps businesses get the best possible return on their investments (Benefit).’
Or, ‘I customize IT systems (What I Do) to improve productivity and customer service (Benefit).’

Of course, that’s just one line. Often you want an elevator speech that is a bit longer, one that will fill up 45 seconds or even a minute, depending on the context. But the principle remains the same. Give people a clear idea of what you do, but focus on the benefits.

Practice Your Elevator Speech

Practicing the elevator speech
Businesswoman practicing her elevator speech

You’ll need to be able to say your elevator speech with confidence and conviction. So you’ll have to test and practice it. If the speech just rolls off your tongue, that’s great. If some phrases sound clunky, find other phrases that sound better. It helps if you write the speech down so that you can keep track of variations.

First, try the speech out on yourself. Repeat it, say it to yourself in the mirror. If your partner or children start looking at you strangely, try it out on them. Try it out on your team members too, and people with business sense that you trust.

Once you’ve settled on a speech that sounds good to everyone, try it out on some business prospects, preferably face to face. Take note of their reaction. If they look interested or ask follow-up questions, that’s good. If their eyes glaze over, or they look confused or skeptical, go back to the drawing board.

Using the Elevator Speech

Once you settle on your elevator speech, you will find it useful in a range of circumstances:

  • When you meet new people in a business context, say your elevator speech when you introduce yourself.
  • When you leave a message on someone’s voice mail. It will give context to the call and be more memorable than a simple return phone number.
  • Put the speech on your outgoing voice mail messages. That way, every time someone calls you, you have an opportunity to promote yourself.
  • Add a key phrase from your elevator speech to your business card, office stationery and resume. This phrase needs to be only slogan length.
  • Add your elevator speech to your electronic communications, making it part of your emails or using it as a kind of banner on your website.
  • Consistency of message is essential to good marketing, so use the elevator speech on your marketing materials. It can go on all your brochures and fliers.

Cold Calling

Your elevator speech can be particularly useful when you cold call prospects.

Remember, the key to cold calling is not to make your total pitch too early.

One good approach is to introduce yourself and say, ‘Do you have a moment?’ If the person is busy, you can say ‘thanks’ and call back later.   If they do have a moment, use that moment to deliver your elevator speech. And then ask if they have a few more moments - you can then go into more detail about what you do.

The Elevator Speech at Networking Events

Networking event on Zoom
Use Your Elevator Speech at Networking Events

You need to use a somewhat different approach if you are at a networking event, such as a business breakfast, lunch, or conference.   When you cold call, you need to state your reason for calling reasonably quickly.

But at a networking event it’s generally better to encourage other people to speak first. Then you get an idea of what kind of business they are in and what their needs might be.   This means you can customize your elevator speech. Although you might have one basic elevator speech, it won’t hurt to have a number of add-on phrases or sentences that would give more information, depending on who your potential client is.

You may also like to have a longer version of the speech for events where you are sure that people are already interested in what you do and actually want information.

Once again, the purpose of the speech is not to make a sale on the spot. It’s to start a possible relationship, get the other person interested enough to want to exchange business cards and take a follow-up phone call from you.

Expanding the Elevator Speech

You can use the longer version of your elevator speeches in situations such as making a presentation to a business club or even to a banker when you are seeking finance. Even when you are sure you are going to speak for a long time, it’s good to make a solid early impact, get peoples’ attention and make sure that they are listening to what you are going to say.

In the longer version of your elevator speech you could give a brief overview of your product or service and its benefits. You could give a sense of how big your market or prospective market is, how big a share you have or are aiming for, and what your competitive strengths and weaknesses are.

If you are pitching for investment, give an early summary of how you plan to make money (your revenue model), who is backing you, and what their track record is.

And if you are making a presentation, include a key slide that encapsulates who you are and what you are offering. That is, reduce your elevator speech to the dimensions of one slide.

Finishing the Elevator Speech

Often an elevator speech is an opportunity to end with a request – anything from a copy of their business card to whether they’d like to schedule a full presentation.

Elevator Speech Don'ts

The elevator speech needs to be positive and informative. So don’t give in to the temptation to merely put a favorable gloss on what your business does. If you are a caterer, don’t merely say that you’re a Business Meeting Facilitator. That might sound a little grander but it will leave people unsure as to what you actually do.

Elevator Speech "don'ts"Remember that an elevator speech is not an advertising slogan. Resist using a catchy phrase, or a slogan that is too obviously a piece of self-promotion. If you provide bicycle couriers, and someone asks what you do, don’t say ‘We ride like the wind.’

If you run a used goods store, your advertising slogan might be ‘We pay more for less.’ But that’s a slogan for people who already understand what the business is, and would be of no help in explaining it to someone who doesn’t know.

Also, avoid jargon. Most business people are too busy to get in-depth knowledge of technical issues, so jargon won’t mean much to them. And if they do understand jargon, you may sound too much like your jargon-using competitors.

Conclusion

Your elevator speech is a powerful marketing tool. It helps you establish sound business relationships. And it can even work in your absence, as people will repeat your speech when asked what you do. It provides a great word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

The effort you put into developing the speech will help you add punchy, attention-grabbing introductions to your other marketing efforts.   Work on developing a brief, powerful way of introducing yourself, and you’ve taken the first step in establishing an impressive business identity.

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