Elevator Pitch 101 – A guide to pitching your business in 25 seconds or less.

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In this article I would like to tell you everything you need to know about how to create an elevator pitch for your product and how you can use it to attract more customers, to find more people who like to work on products like yours or to build a lasting relationship with someone you are trying to hire for an essential role in your startup.  

But before we get started, what is an elevator pitch in the first place?

An elevator pitch is the simplest method to offer someone to use your product, invest in your product, or join you for the adventure you are building. Let me tell you a story about how the elevator pitch was used by Steve Jobs to convince John Sculley, who was then the president of PepsiCo, to join Apple Inc. and take it to the next level. Jobs wanted to develop new products while someone else could run the company, and Scully was perfect for the role. But he was adamant about not leaving his position at PepsiCo. In a face-to-face meeting, Jobs told Sculley that Apple would become the world’s largest and most prominent technology company in the future. Yet, Sculley wouldn’t budge, although he respected Jobs’ vision for the future of Apple Inc.

Jobs kept on pursuing Sculley persistently and made efforts to bring him on board. While Sculley did feel that the position offered to him was intriguing, he was adamant about his role at PepsiCo. Finally, months after non-resulting persuasion, Jobs called for a final meeting with Sculley in New York city. Sitting across the table, Jobs stopped trying to pursue. He simply said to Sculley what is regarded as one of the biggest and simplest elevator pitches in history. He said, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?”.

If you’re building your startup, or you have already founded a startup that requires pitching people, you need to understand what an elevator pitch is and how powerful that statement can be to your business. You need to use this pitch during brief encounters with people you meet on the go. You need to use this pitch during brief encounters with people you meet on the go. You will have about 25 seconds to tell your story and convince the person listening to you. 

If you are still talking while the elevator doors open, you have missed the opportunity to pitch your product or services to a possible client or coworker. Here is an example elevator pitch used by Airbnb to describe their services.

Most tourists booking online care about price—and hotels are one of the highest costs when traveling. On the other hand, platforms like Couchsurfing have proven that over half a million people are willing to lend their couches or spare bedrooms.

We have created a platform that connects travelers with locals—letting them rent our rooms or even entire places. Travelers save money, and locals can monetize their empty rooms. We just take a 10% commission.

This elevator pitch looks very long compared to Steve Jobs’s to convince Sculley to join Apple Inc. But Airbnb’s rise is considered one of the best in the market because it focuses on all the essential elements about the business quickly, without making a fuss about it. 

Now let’s go through why this elevator pitch is so effective in the long run.

  • Airbnb’s elevator pitch starts by focusing on the travelers’ pain points, the first one being the price of hotels. 
  • It uses evidence to prove that travelers are actively looking for better alternatives to hotels.
  • Airbnb can offer a service that is not as expensive as hotels and yet provides better accommodation than sleeping on a couch. 
  • It showcases that the most significant benefit of using the service is that travelers save money, and locals can make extra cash. 
  • It also tells how the company profits from offering this service which gives confidence in the service sustainability. 

This elevator pitch is again very much smaller than a brochure. The brightest people at Airbnb realize that if they wanted to pitch the product quickly, they would need an elevator pitch, which they came up with within the end. 

An elevator pitch like this can be used to attract leverage and secure loans in the early stages of your startup. If you have a sales team, you can use it to partner with other brands. A part of this high pitch exists on the home pitch of Airbnb, where visitors can understand the company’s purpose and vision for the future. 

How to write an Elevator Pitch for your startup

I understand that you are very talented, and your services are helpful to your customers and clients. The key here is to build an elevator pitch that shares this fact clearly and concisely. You want to make sure that all the components of your business information are broken down and turned into an elevator pitch template. 

Define your objective

During an elevator pitch, your word count is limited. Time is limited. You need to figure out what the objective of your pitch would be. Are you doing it to explain what your product or service is? Or are you trying to persuade a potential client? Are you going to use it online or in-person?  What are the exact words you will say to help the listener have a complete idea of what you are trying to express through your product?

You are building your startup that can help real estate agents reach more clients through a mobile application. What would you say, and how would you explain this during short conversations with your family and friends? You will need to build an elevator pitch that would make it explainable in the simplest terms possible,  allowing you to quickly duck out of the conversation and start a new one. 

However, you cannot use the same kind of pitch when talking to a potential client. You will need a different type of pitch for that. So make sure that you understand what you are going to pitch when talking to people who relate to your business in different scenarios, requirements, and understanding. 

Justify your purpose

Why are you building this product or service? For example,  Steve Jobs wanted to change the world using the power of technology and computing. Airbnb wants to connect travelers with local businesses.  So why are you offering this product or service?  What are the easiest ways to justify your purpose? Talk about the problem, and then put yourself in place to provide a solution. 

Taking the same example as real estate application development, you can talk about how hard it is for realtors to find the right customers for the clients. You can talk about how your application can make it easier for realtors to easily cess and notify the customers without spending a dime if they only had your application on their mobile phones. 

Backup your claim

It’s one thing to say that you offer a solution to real estate agents and another to prove it. You need to prove that it works. You need to show them the statistics. You need to show them how good opportunities are. Perhaps you are in this business because you understand the real estate business better than anyone else in the market. 

Add a call to action

What is the point of telling the other person everything about your business and not asking them to take action? Consider understanding what you want your audience to do once you are done telling them about it. The specific steps that your customers can take depending on the context of your pitch. 

If you are pitching to a potential client who would like to use your mobile app,  you can simply ask them to try your application for a few days for free.  You can exchange your card with a link to a downloadable app from the App Store by simply scanning a QR code. Once the person is on board by taking action on your pitch,  even though it’s free for now to them, you have earned a potential client in less than 25 seconds. 

Elevator pitches are done in person,  which means that you have ample opportunity to exchange contact information through cards.  If you know the person, there is no need to do this, but if you don’t, chances are you will never see this person again. Following the elevator pitch, follow up with them and arrange a quick demo meeting or call for personalized feedback once you have the contact information. Talking to them and staying in constant touch from time and again is the best way to take the pitch forward. Someone who listened to your elevator pitch fully can potentially become your long-term customer, client, or partner. 

Learn by heart

Some people believe that they should be reciting the exact words by memorizing them. The best elevator pitches combine memory and learning from the heart. When you talk about your product, you should convey the passion with which you started building it. The way you talk about your product should be natural and believable. Practice your pitch as long as you need to master it. Speak it loudly or to a friend.  

Keep improving your elevator pitch time and again. See what works best and make the necessary tweaks to ensure it becomes effortless. Practice your pitch whenever you are in an elevator, even if you are alone. 

Additional ideas on improving your elevator pitch

Limit your ideas

When creating an elevator pitch, stop trying to merge many ideas into one.  You need to make sure that you catch its core and pitch the idea that resonates with the person listening to you. You don’t have much time to tell them everything about your product or service. You can only use this time to tell them what they might find interesting and valuable. Trim down all the unnecessary words and give your pitch some space to breathe into. 

Keep it fresh and updated

You need to keep your elevator pitch fresh and updated. Even if you are good at speaking the exact words, again and again, don’t speak the same old elevator pitch that you have been talking about for years. Change it from time to time, improve it, test it, and make changes to have more conversions. 

Tailor your pitch

Identifying client or buyer persona plays a vital role in properly pitching your product or service. You will meet a whole different category of people every time you walk into the elevator. Make your pitch a little extra for each person to talk to them from their point of understanding about your product and their requirements. 

Further reading on how to get better at the elevator pitch →

  1. 12 Elevator Pitch Examples / Hubspot
  2. How to give an elevator pitch / Indeed
  3. Creative elevator pitches for different scenarios

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