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Chapter
1

What exactly is an elevator pitch, and what can it do for you?

Imagine that you’re stepping into the elevator of a high-rise office building. There’s one other person in the elevator car, and he has money literally falling out of the pockets of his sportscoat. He’s clearly an investor!

Even better, he’s a curious investor, because, out of the blue, he asks you what you do. But there’s a catch: “I’ll give you some of my sweet, sweet money,” he says, “but only if you can convince me to invest in you before these elevator doors open again.”

The elevator’s already begun its ascent. The pressure’s on!

What do you say?

Your elevator pitch: what it is, and what it can (and can’t) do

The above story has never, ever happened to anyone. It’s not even a situation. And that’s kind of the point. “Elevator pitch” is a bit of a misnomer.

Some people hear the term “elevator pitch,” and they think that, with a handful of well-chosen words, they will be able to land that whale of an investor. Or hypnotize a skeptical buyer into green-lighting a gig.

That’s asking quite a bit of a few dozen words. But if we approach it with more realistic expectations, we’ll see that an elevator pitch is an invaluable part of our communications.

So, first: What exactly is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a way to succinctly communicate some combination of what you do, what makes you different, who you serve and how they benefit.

An elevator pitch is a starting point. It’s the first step in what we hope will be a long and mutually beneficial conversation.

Accordingly, here’s what your elevator pitch can and can’t do:

  • Your elevator pitch can’t close the deal. But it can open the conversation.

  • Your elevator pitch can’t describe everything you do, how, or why. But it can quickly create important connections in the mind of the listener.

  • Your elevator pitch can’t persuade anyone, right there, on the spot. But it can intrigue them enough to learn more.

  • Your elevator pitch can’t be a single statement that works for every audience in every situation. But you can develop a few different versions of your elevator pitch so that you’ll have something ready for almost all audiences and situations.

Exercise A: capture the best and worst of the elevator pitches you’ve heard

In the workbook, write down your answers to the following prompts:

  1. Think about the elevator pitches you’ve heard that really struck a chord with you or that stood out from others. What were they, and why did they appeal to you?

  2. Think about the elevator pitches you’ve heard that made you roll your eyes or that rubbed you the wrong way. What were they, and why did you have a negative reaction to them?

Stuck? Check out the social profiles in your network. LinkedIn profile headlines and Twitter bios can be examples of elevator pitches.

Save these answers – they’ll come in handy as you craft your own elevator pitch.

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