Buzzwords: Elevator Pitch

Back Article Dec 15, 2016 By Robin Epley

/elə vādər piCH/, n.

A succinct and persuasive sales pitch, such as one you might give to someone in the course of a short elevator ride.

It happens every time: I’ll be at a business event and someone will inevitably say that we all need to “perfect our elevator pitches” and launch into a rote explanation (an elevator pitch of the elevator pitch, if you will). Cue the over-exaggerated rolling of my eyes.

“Elevator pitch” is one of those buzz phrases that a lot of people toss around, but few people actually know how to do well. Who came up with this idea anyway? You’ve just met an influential person and already you’re going to annoy them by selling yourself and your product, in an enclosed space where they can’t escape? This sounds more like a good way to get someone to avoid you forever, rather than to invest in you.

The Buzz

People often use “elevator pitch” when what they’re really doing is just saying their motto. Just announcing: “Jane Doe, of XYZ Company, we make dreams happen!” or some such nonsense isn’t an elevator pitch and doesn’t tell the person on the receiving end anything about your product or what you do. It takes effort, but try to also get to know the person you’re talking to first. A personal and sincere relationship will pay off long after the elevator ride is over.

Dear would-be mentors and future conference keynote speakers: You can’t simply tell people they need to work on their elevator pitch — you have to teach them how.

The Word

Not everyone is a born salesperson, but everyone can have a great idea. Just like you had to work at your company or product, you’re going to have to work at learning how to sell it, too. Vaibhav Nadgauda, a general partner with Moneta Ventures, based in Folsom, says that if you meet the hiring manager or venture capitalist of your dreams in an elevator, don’t launch into a robotic recitation — he’s been hearing pitches for more than 20 years, and he knows when you’re making a mess of it.

It’s all about “how you pitch and who you pitch to,” he says. Nadgauda says he only wants to know three things: What are you trying to do, why is it important to him and why are you the person he should trust to do it? Establish credibility at the outset to pass their filters, he says. Explain your accomplishments to prove your reliability and credentials. “Just sounding excited about it is great,” Nadgauda says, but he looks for how deeply you care.

At the end of the day, “there’s no one formula,” Nadgauda says. He does recommend practicing your pitch, though. “Make sure it’s something that you’re very good at getting out, instead of getting it out on the fly.” But you also have to make sure you’re not robotic and routine — it’s a fine line to walk.