A 3-step formula for a great elevator pitch

Xosha Roquemore as Tamra Webb, Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri in 'The Mindy Project.'
Universal Television | Getty Images
Xosha Roquemore as Tamra Webb, Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri in 'The Mindy Project.'

So what is an elevator pitch, anyway?

Quite simply it is a short statement you make about you and your business in answer to a question like "What do you do?" or "What business are you in?"

It has to be short, and it shouldn't answer the question the way they asked it. Think about that for a moment. A complete stranger asks you what you do. That stranger may be your next biggest customer or client, or they may know someone who may become your next biggest customer or client.

Are you going to get their attention and interest them enough to want to learn more if you say one of the following?

"I sell houses."

"I'm my company's top producer."

What about these?

"I manufacture paper bags. My family has been in the bag business for 20 years."

"I'm an attorney."

If you are going to captivate a stranger, answering the question they ask won't cut it.

Richard Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo
Paul S. Howell | Getty Images
Richard Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo

What is a great elevator pitch?

It is a short statement you make about your business that captures the questioner's attention, raises their interest and helps them see you as someone they want to know more about, so they can use you or recommend you. Your pitch, therefore, must engage, intrigue and perhaps even inspire. Your questioner must see you as different, special — and valuable.

To achieve that goal in a few seconds means you must know:

  • What business are you really in?
  • How do you benefit your customers?
  • Why are the benefits you provide exceptional or even unique?

The formula for the perfect elevator pitch

When you know what business you are in, and how you benefit your customers and clients, you can put that into a simple three-step formula.

Step 1: Ask a rhetorical question that focuses on the problems your marketplace faces, and that you can fix. A question will automatically stimulate thought, so they will pay attention.

Step 2: Follow with a simple statement such as, "What I do is to..."

Step 3: Focus on special values that clearly state how your customers or clients benefit in ways your listener probably won't have thought of.

Excellent elevator pitch examples

Here are a few examples of how a great pitch would go:

  • "Do you know that most home sellers get less than they deserve? I am a realtor who markets homes and negotiates contracts, so my clients get the highest price and the best terms possible. I also do it in their preferred time scale and with the absolute minimum hassle."
  • "Do you know how much food/raw material/merchandise finishes up on the factory floor? I make packaging products that optimize my customer's production processes, so they minimize their costs, get more product out the door and maximize their profits."
  • "Do you know that most accident victims get short-changed by their insurance company? I use the law to make sure my clients get absolutely everything they deserve and need, not just straight after the accident, but forever."

The bottom line

A great elevator pitch generates business. Know these principles, follow the three steps, memorize your pitch and practice it to make it perfect.

Rhett Power is the co-founder of Wild Creations and the author of "The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions."