Elevator Pitches Would Be Better if They Didn’t Make You Gag

Elevator pitches have gotten a bad rap because most aren’t very good.  Pat Weber* Business Coach for Introverts and Shy is a business colleague I met on LinkedIn.  It turns out we both have strong opinions about what I prefer to call a brand statement — because it is supposed to communicate in about 30 seconds the “what’s in it for me?”  I interviewed Pat for her ideas — her very strong ideas — about what drives her crazy about elevator pitches and what you can do to make yours rise to the occasion.  Here are her answers to my questions. To learn more about how Pat and I began our collaboration on LinkedIn, tune in to our discussion on Free Webinar Wednesdays: “Success Stories From the Trenches.”

"Patricia Weber"

Patricia Weber

Why do most of these pitches sound the same?

[tweetmeme]People always say the same thing in their introductions in meetings that go on week after week. I’ve worked with a couple of clients to tease out of them at least 6 or 7 variations for something fresh and interesting to listen to. Otherwise, listening can stop.

Because people put up with this silliness, it discourages creativity to create and speak something of real interest. I personally think the networking group BNI is one of the worst at encouraging this because, as far as I know, how to vary your pitch is never addressed in their training.

Is it just me, or do most pitches have the wrong focus?

This is where that verbal diarrhea needs something like Pepto Bismol. It’s “my company,” and “our products” and “we’re the best.” I mean who really cares? What the prospective client wants to hear is – what problems do you solve? How does that mean anything to me? The other stuff is fluff and only matters as the relationship deepens.

The worst elevator pitches are loaded with the words, “I, me, my, mine, ours.” I tested this once as educational leader of a local leads group. Before everyone started in a tiresome round robin of pitches, I asked everyone to stand. The directions were that as soon as anyone heard a pitch with “I, me, my, mine, ours,” they could tell the guilty party to sit down. It was like rapid fire all around the table. The point is the focus of many, or most elevator pitches is wrong.

Rarely do people talk about the problems they solve and instead run like a race horse out of it’s gate with, “we have blue widgets and a lot of people like red widgets,” ad nausea.  A listener has little interest in product features during an introductory pitch.  But the listener does want to know the type of problems solved or the benefits of a product or service.  Focus, focus, focus on answering “Just what does that mean for me?” for the prospective customer or referral partner.  This will help you to lead with problems solved or benefits of the features you want people to know about.

How can elevator pitches attract potential clients?

What if people would end their pitch with what Barbara Lopez. Elevator Pitch Coach, calls, Make Them Want More? Offer them a small experience what you do or have: a free sample, your blog address, something to give them a reason to want to talk further with you instead of ending things with, “And again my name is … yakkety yak.” Who cares!

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*Leading and inspiring introverts in business with coaching, training and eBooks, to live genuinely for the most success and fun. Business Coach for Introverts and Shy, Patricia Weber.

For my take on elevator speeches follow this link to where Pat interviewed me.

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Comments

  1. I was just at a networking event on Monday in which we all shared our elevator pitches, so your blog post is very timely. I appreciate Patricia’s advice, but would benefit from her sharing several actual examples of bad and good elevator pitches. (with names changes to protect the innocent — or guilty, as the case may be!) Thanks!

  2. Hi Jeannette,

    Liked your interview with Pat.

    I have to be honest and say I do not like it when you are at seminars or workshops etc and asked for your pitch. I know the benefits but many times they sound so false. Perhaps it because people focus on the pitch and forget to inject a little emotion or enthusiasm. Also people know they only have a short time so they speed up their delivery which I think makes it worse.

  3. Cindy this is Patricia. Jeannette and I actually have planned to give samples of parts of bad and good elevator pitches.

    So as not to totally derail our plan and serve your request, a December 2009 blost post, 6 Most Pitiful and Hilarious Elevator Pitches Ever Heard, http://prostrategies.com/wordpress/2009/12/6-hilarious-elevator-pitches-ever-heard/ has real life examples from some of my local networking events.

    Watch for more!

    Susan, it’s all about planning! Trying not to sound arrogant, when my elevator pitch is 30 seconds or two minutes, 90% of the time, the person who goes just after me, says aloud, “I wish I went before you!” As an introvert I plan, and with enough networking real practice, a person can give an enthusiastic delivery that people WANT to listen to.

  4. Patricia, this is a very interesting topic. I’ve been to many networking events where, like Susan described, were encouraged to give a one minute speech. They’re rarely well done, because we all zip through them. I agree that we have to make it less about ourselves and more about what problems you can solve. And I must admit, I was all about “here’s what I can do” at first, but I remembered that you never sell the product, you sell the value. I would also love to hear some good and bad examples. Thanks for the post.

  5. Hi Dennis. Would you “zip through” a conversation with a valid prospect? I agree that many people zip through what they say. The reason for this is likely what you admitted you realized: misplaced focus. The “zippers” are focused on selling and not simply explaining the value or problem they solve. Jeannette and I will be providing posts with what we believe to be some good and bad examples. Thank YOU for your comment and we hope to heat this topic up more for you.

  6. Thanks, all, for your comments. What I hear is that too many times elevator speeches sound forced or contrived and I agree. I think there are a couple of reasons — people are simply nervous getting up in front of a group, and they are fearful that what they have to offer won’t be accepted. Also, it could be a sign that they haven’t thought through their brands. What is it that they stand for? What is the true benefit they offer the listener? This isn’t easy because you can’t have one pitch for every group. It must be tailored to the needs of the people in the group — staying true to your brand but always refining, refining, refining.

  7. Jeannette and Patricia I agree with you completely.

    Actually think this is where most people fail, I quote you: “What if people would end their pitch with what Barbara Lopez. Elevator Pitch Coach, calls, Make Them Want More? Offer them a small experience what you do or have: a free sample, your blog address, something to give them a reason to want to talk further with you instead of ending things with, “And again my name is … yakkety yak.” Who cares!”

  8. Patricia and Jeannette,

    I appreciate this post because it is always a concern for people. Tomorrow I am featured on a video for a women’s group about networking – I wished I’d had this earlier – it would have been a brilliant addition. I think, like Pat says, it has to be planned and rehearsed so you ‘feel’ what you are sharing and if it’s not about what you can do for the other person, they won’t be listening! If they ask for your card – they got it! If they don’t…back to the drawing board!

    With a smile and appreciation,

    Gail