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Avoiding common elevator pitch pitfalls

Part of creating an effective elevator pitch is knowing which pitfalls to avoid. So before we get to selecting our elevator pitches – that’s next – let’s take a moment to review what we’ve created and to ensure we’re not making any common mistakes.

These are some elevator pitch errors that we see again and again. (You may recognize some of these from your answers to the exercise in Step One.)

Too vague

I made this mistake in my first few years as a freelancer. I’d say I was a “marketing consultant,” which is about the same as saying nothing at all. So people would ask if I built websites or developed marketing plans, which are not things that I did or do. I received several inquiries that were poor fits for my skillset, and I wasted a lot of time.

Solution: Be precise. Make clear choices. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you’ll attract more business by standing for something specific than for nothing at all.

When people attach your name to specific expertise, you’ll be front of mind when they need that thing. When we’re vague, we’re unmemorable. And unmemorable people don’t get hired.

Too cluttered

Sometimes, people try to shoehorn a bunch of ideas into their elevator pitch. But people can’t remember a bunch of ideas. You’re lucky if they take away one key idea from your elevator pitch. If you give them five things, they’re unlikely to remember what you want them to remember.

Solution: Be selective. Focus on one core idea that you want your audience to pay attention to. And don’t expect your elevator pitch to do everything. If it does one thing well, that’s a win.

Too clever

By now, we’ve all seen those LinkedIn profile headlines that say something like: “I work and play at the intersection of design, culture, and influence.” That sounds very pleasant, but I have no idea exactly what you do, or what you can do for me, as a prospect.

Solution: Be clear. This is an introduction. It’s your first chance to pique the listener’s interest. Don’t confuse your audience with jargon or impenetrable metaphors. Use simple, clear, familiar language to make your point.

Remember: It’s okay to lose the sale because the prospect doesn’t need your offer. It’s not okay to lose the sale because the prospect doesn’t understand your offer.

Too self-congratulatory

One of my personal pet peeves when it comes to elevator pitches: People who make it all about themselves. I’ve met guys – you probably have too – who spoke exclusively in self-important hyperbole and ended with the line, “How cool is that?” <insert eye-roll here> Tone matters. And your audience will determine how special your pitch really is.

Solution: Be other-focused. Your elevator pitch is meant to introduce you, yes. But it should also be clear about what you do for others.

Ultimately, the listener will want to know what’s in it for them. If it’s all about you and not at all about them, they’ll tune out.

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