This is how to nail your elevator pitch

In my last post  I wrote about why you should “Stop pitching your startup”. Today I’m going to tell you how to craft an amazing elevator pitch.

Ironic, wouldn’t you say?!

First off, I think you’ll all agree with me that entrepreneurs know an elevator pitch should be about 90 seconds.

It’s pretty common knowledge and I’d argue that’s the main reason most elevator pitches suck!

Why? Because all entrepreneurs seem to think:

“Shit, that’s not a lot of time to get someone excited about my startup.”

So what do they do? They try to incorporate as much as possible in that short time, often talking so fast the receiver doesn’t understand the words coming out their mouth. Entrepreneurs do this to me regularly and I see it happenning to others even more. And you’ve done it too, right?

At the core of these terrible elevator pitches is the same mistake: entrepreneurs not understanding the objective of the elevator pitch. Entrepreneurs think the goal of the 90 second pitch is for the receiver to understand everything about the startup, and that’s fundamentally wrong.

So here’s the deal.

Killer elevator pitches don’t ever tell the whole story.

A strong elevator pitch…
1. gets the receiver excited;
2. leaves the receiver wanting to learn more;
3. makes the receiver ask follow-up questions.

That’s it! Nothing else. And if your pitch delivers just that… BAM! You’re in business.

While I was running FounderFuel for several years we worked on elevator pitches a lot. We thought about their purpose and reflected on how we could create a formula to drive the best results.

If you start with the premise that an elevator pitch is about getting the receiver excited, wanting to learn more and asking follow-up questions then you’ll think differently about what it is that you need to say. You’ll also think differently about how you deliver it and perhaps most importantly, why you’re giving it.

After much reflection, we came up with the concept of deconstructing your elevator pitch into three sections:

1. the first 10 seconds:
Say something brief, clever and creative to capture the receiver’s attention with the single goal of earning the right to say more…

2. the next 20 seconds:
Introduce yourself, your company and deliver a solid one-liner that positions your business, again with the single objective to earn the right to say more…

3. the remaining 60 seconds:
Give just enough information so the receiver has a basic understanding of what you do and becomes genuinely interested.

As an entrepreneur, remember you’ll be pitching different audiences, so the next thing you need to do is figure out who you are pitching. Your audience may be any of the following, so you’ll need multiple variations of your pitch:
– potential employees
– partner prospects
– potential investors

What you say to a potential investor is very different from what you would say to a potential employee. You should have a pitch carefully crafted for each of them.

With that in mind, you need to write each variation of your pitch. Yes, this is mandatory even if it the pitch is only 90 seconds. Why? Because every word you use must be carefully selected to ensure your message gets across. Every word counts!

Now you need to memorize them! Plain and simple, rehearse each version of your pitch 100+ times until they flow naturally.

While you’re writing your pitches keep in mind that you must A/B test them. Yes, just like you A/B test your product, why not do the same to your pitches? Use one pitch to the first person, and a second pitch to another. Watch the reactions and iterate from there.

However, before you pitch be sure to earn the right to pitch!

When you pitch people, pay close attention to their face. If they’re squinting, you know they aren’t getting it. You’re saying the wrong things. At some point the receiver may say, “Ah, ok! You mean it does this and that?” or, “Ah got it, it’s like ‘this company’ for ‘that space’.”

The moment when the receiver gets it is what I call the “Ah ha!” moment. Catching that moment is critical because that’s when the receiver just understood what it is you do.

Perhaps the most important element of this is to remember exactly what you explained the moment before they said those golden words, ‘Ah ha’. Next time you need to insert whatever it is you said at an earlier point in the pitch . Ultimately that thing you just said should help the next receiver understand what it is that you do earlier, and that’s exactly what you want, right?

Now that you’ve experienced multiple sources of feedback, rewrite your pitches, memorize them and start the cycle over again until people get it, and get it fast!

So here you go, these are the 10 steps to nailing a killer elevator pitch:

1) Know your audience

2) Write your first draft

3) Deconstruct your pitches into 10, 20 and 60 second blocks

4) Memorize every single word

5) Use A/B testing on your pitches with distinctive stories

6) Earn the right to pitch

7) Look for the “Ah ha!” moment

8) Remember whatever it is you said that generated the “Ah ha!” moment

9) Insert what you said earlier in the pitch

10) Rewrite, memorize and pitch again over and over, and over, and over again

Now that you have the formula, you have what you need to nail your pitches, but remember one last very important thing:

If the people you’re pitching don’t get it, the only person you can blame is yourself. Don’t ever blame the receiver, because ultimately it is you that isn’t doing a good job at communicating.

So give it a shot and don’t under-estimate what it takes to nail your 90 second pitch. It’s a lot of work!

Have other tips and tricks to share with us, let us know, we’d love to hear them.

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