I wish someone had told me what I was really getting myself into when I started creating my own businesses.
I started a video production company with some close friends back in 2014. It’s humbling to recall how naïve we all were back then. We went into it headfirst, but mostly we were just trying to figure everything out as we went along.
Little did we know that creating a business would require stepping farther outside our personal comfort zones than we had ever done before.
We were four filmmakers. What did we know about business taxes or legal paperwork or marketing our videos to people we’d never met before?
I’ll tell you what we did know: nothing at all.
These days, I know a good deal more than what I did just a few years ago. Practical experience is the most remarkable teaching tool you can possibly find. That doesn’t mean I’m the world’s foremost expert on every fine detail of running a business. Like most people, I’m still learning as I go along.
Which is how it should be.
What still trips me up sometimes is marketing myself to other people. I wouldn’t describe myself as a very immediately outgoing person, so selling my services is a challenge. A worthwhile one, but a challenge nonetheless.
Pitching your services or products is a necessary part of running a business. It’s not something you can hide from and still expect to be successful. How will people know about your business if there’s not someone out there telling them about it?
On the other hand, who out there ever wants to sit through an hour long presentation given by someone you’ve just met? That’s so disruptive! I think it’s fair to say that most of us just want some enticing bullet points that can stick in our head as we go about the rest of our day.
That’s where the “elevator pitch” comes in.
An elevator pitch is just as its name sounds: a pitch that can be delivered in the time it takes to finish a ride on an elevator. This can be an actual spoken pitch you give to a person standing right in front of you or it can be words on a website.
What you’re hoping to deliver with an elevator pitch is the maximum amount of enticing information in the shortest amount of time. It leaves no room for lengthy explanations, weird tangents, or even a single “um” while you’re speaking.
You need to be a confidence machine who can speak about your product or service better than anyone else in the entire damn world.
This is much harder than it sounds (and it already sounds challenging). But it’s not impossible, dear reader!
We just need some tips to get going...
Keep it short and sweet
Anything that needs to start out with an “ahem” is probably too long. You don’t want to see the person unconsciously settle in for a long conversation. This needs to be the light appetizer before the heavy main course.
Aim for a pitch that takes no longer than 60 seconds to deliver. That’s going to average out to be around 150 to 250 easy to understand words. No more than that, please!
You want to get your point across, pique the other person’s interest, and leave them just dying to talk with you more. One goal of an elevator pitch is to be desirable, so make sure your pitch is tantalizing.
Understand what you want to achieve
This may be the hardest part of the elevator pitch, aside from actually giving the pitch. Knowing deep down what you want the outcome of the pitch to be requires a thorough understanding of what you’re trying to sell.
You can’t half ass this part here. You need to pitch with your whole ass.
Are you looking to get this well-dressed executive to buy your revolutionary new insulated water bottle? Do you want every visitor of your yoga school website to sign up for a full month of classes? Are you trying to build beautiful new websites for other people who are selling cool things?
Know exactly what you want the result of your pitch to be so that you can deliver it effectively. You’re going to look foolish if you’re trying to figure out what you want on the spot.
Communicate what makes you stand out
Whether you believe it or not, we’ve all got some special sauce in us. There’s something in each one of us that makes us stand out from the rest.
What makes you different? Why should the person you’re pitching to want to buy what you’re selling? There are so many other people out there doing what you’re doing, so what makes you the clear choice?
Don’t be discouraged by those questions. I believe in you and you should, too.
That insulated water bottle? It’s got custom designs printed on it that no one else will ever have. Those yoga classes? If you buy a full month, you’ll get a week free. That web design business? It’s proven to have a 100% satisfaction rate with its clients.
There’s always something that sets you apart.
Throw the ball into their court
You know how to make your pitch enticing now, but what does the person you’re talking with do after you’re finished?
People love talking about themselves. It’s one of the things we do best. One of the easiest ways to engage with another person is to ask them questions about what they do. We can keep the pitch going by asking the other person open-ended questions about themselves while keeping a connection to what we’re selling.
For instance, “How much do think your family spends on bottles of water every month?” It’s rare to find someone who’s actually done that math. Get them thinking about how much money they’re throwing away on single-use water bottles so they can realize how much they’ll save with your reusable bottle.
Practice practice practice
The title here says it all. You have to practice your pitch.
I’d put money on you not being able to find a single person who goes into an elevator pitch (or any sort of sale) cold. I’ve never done any pitch without going through what I’m going to say in my head at least a dozen times.
Having confidence is one thing, but it’s silly to think you can give a perfect pitch without going through it at least once. Trying to sell your products or services is already a difficult thing to do. Why give yourself the extra stress of not knowing exactly what you’re going to say?
Man, nobody’s got time for that. Be kind to yourself and to the person you’re pitching to.
Selling your products or services isn’t an easy thing to do. However, it is a necessary thing to do if you want to run your own business (or if you’re making sales for another company).
Like most everything else in this world, making a sale becomes easier with preparation and practice.
There may be no guaranteed trick you can depend on to make someone agree to give you money in return for a product or service, but there are steps you can take to help you feel more comfortable and prepared when you approach another person.
Keep working on improving. Believe in yourself (and remember that I believe in you). Become obsessed with practicing.
You can do it, cats.