Picture this: You’re geared up and excited about this incredible product/service you are building. You know you’ve hit the nail on the head because you’ve talked to your customers, and you know you will be the one to help people to solve one of the many problems that they need help solving. So, you decide its time to start talking about it (through networking, etc) and getting early adopters on board to test it out (and get some revenue generated).

In the beginning, you are telling your story to just about anyone who will listen. You start at the beginning (sometimes a very good place to start) and tell them everything that has ever happened in your business, from the conception of the idea, to the testing and pivots/iterations, all the way up to the present day. At first you’ve got their attention, because they want to hear more about you and what you have to offer, but by a minute in you notice that they are either simply nodding along, looking at their watch or looking around to find someone else to talk to. This is before you’ve even got to the key aspects of your business, and why they should be on board. Even worse, they excuse themselves from the conversation!

Most people will only listen to you for about 1 minute before their mind starts to wander or they lose interest. From my experience, you only have about the first 30 seconds to really grab them and convince them to keep listening for the next 30 seconds.

The best and fastest way to get someone’s attention is with an elevator pitch. Why is it called this? Because it typically represents the amount of time you are standing in an elevator with someone riding it from the bottom floor to the top. It’s something you craft and hone to use when convincing someone to invest in you and your business. You don’t want it to be something you memorise, you want it to be something that you embrace as the embodiment of your product/service.

In a blog piece from 2011, Elliot Loh, a Mentor with 500 Startups provided the most succinct formula I have come across for writing an absolutely killer elevator speech. His proposed formula (after you introduce yourself) is this:

  1. 1st Sentence: We solve [problem] by providing [advantage], to help [target customer group] accomplish [target’s goal].
  2. 2nd Sentence: We make money by charging [customers] to get [the benefits of your product/service].

I would also add in that you want to have a 3rd sentence- the Ask/Follow-up. This is where you tell them what you want from them, be it investment, mentorship, a meeting or introduction.

This should lead to follow-up questions, so you want to have the answers to at least the following questions firmly planted in your brain. To help you out, you can bring either bring handouts with everything you just discussed and the information they are looking for or products to try out, or invite them to a follow-up meeting.

  1. If you already started your business then what traction do you have? If you haven’t, what are your plans to build traction? 
  2. How many users do you have?
  3. How much money is being made?
  4. Who is working on the business? Highlight your background/skills and key members of your team (or investors/mentors you’ve already brought on board).
  5. Why are you better than your competition? 
  6. What makes your business so special? Why should you be seen as the best? Highlight any patents, new technology, experience, etc.
  7. If I do invest, how will you use my money?
  8. Is this something you are doing because of a passion or just way to make money?
  9. Can I try it out? 
  10. What are your next steps? Highlight plans you have for when the product/service is ready to be rolled out to the public, and what you will do if it does/doesn’t succeed.

Important tips when preparing your elevator pitch and when you are finished:

  1. Make it attractive to use your product/service. If you’re helping out the investors competition or if you’ve been working with heavy-hitters in your industry, point this out.
  2. Leave them wanting more. Don’t spill all the beans at once. You never know who could be listening in, or what someone may do with the information you provide. A follow-up meeting is the time to go more in-depth.
  3. Make them care and make it personal.  Highlight the benefits of your product/service and how it can help them out in their own lives. Be passionate!
  4. Prioritize. Your product/service may help solve multiple problems for multiple different customer segments, but only focus on one of these per pitch. Ideally you want to focus on the problem that it solves for the customer segment the person you are pitching to falls into.
  5. Stop talking and listen. Once you’ve reached the period at the end of the last sentence, stop talking and give the other person a chance to ask questions or to introduce themselves. Blithering on after you’ve said what you wanted to say takes away from the impact those few short sentences have, and it may come off as selfish.

This post is dedicated to my family and friends. Thank-you so much for putting up with me over the past year as I’ve brainstormed this idea, tested it, almost launched it in a different format, made a pivot over to the current format, sometimes complained or struggled with writing these pieces, when I’ve lost sight of why I’m doing this and just generally being there as my sounding boards (here’s looking at you Mom!).

This will also be my final blog post for 2016, so I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for the support and guidance you have given to me over the past year since this initiative started. I hope you all have Happy Holidays (because I know that you all celebrate different holidays with your families and loved ones) and a fantastic New Year!