The elevator pitch: Why is it hard and why is it so important?

The elevator pitch: Why is it hard and why is it so important?

What is an elevator Pitch?


Most of us can sit down in front of a laptop and eventually, sometime later, print off an at least plausible business plan of sorts.

What very few people can do, is succinctly convey their grand idea to someone, who has no relevant previous expertise and grab their attention in such a way that they hear it, understand it and are sufficiently interested that, at a future date, they are able to repeat it to a third party – without you being there to prompt them.

Now that’s an elevator pitch and if you can do that, then you’re in the game.

If, on the other hand, your mental response reading this is to say “that’s all very well but our product/service is really complicated I need explain more about it so you get it” you are almost certainly doomed. There is no skill in making a complicated idea sound complicated. The art is in making it sound simple, compelling and inevitable.

It’s as much about going through the mental exercise of understanding and articulating with laser like clarity what your brilliant ideas actually offers, how it will change the world, what problem it solves, for whom, why it’s better than the status quo, why it’s a logical conclusion that it’ll happen and how it’s possible.

If you can’t do that, you need to get someone onboard fast, who can.

Why is your elevator pitch so important?


If you’re looking for investment, it’s a pre-requisite – even if you’re pitching your brother-in-law. Having a memorable, persuasive elevator pitch backed up with a substantive presentation is the difference between getting the funding and not.

If you’re self-funded, you still need a lot of other people to participate. In today’s marketplace, every small business owner needs to be ready to make the right impression with a potential, customer, supplier, employee or possible partner whenever and wherever your paths are fated to cross. It’s for every time that old school mate asks what you’re working on now. The breakfast club networking in your local town or the complete stranger you get chatting to on a train or at 30,000 feet.

Having established the worth of an elevator pitch; let’s get rid of a few myths.


  • An elevator pitch should be 30 seconds. The whole idea is that it’s quick but if you’ve got your stopwatch out, you’re missing the point. it’s less about speed and more about impact.


  • If I’m not after venture capital I don’t need an elevator pitch. As a business founder, at some point you will need to convince and persuade others of the validity of your idea. That may be potential employees, potential customers, suppliers, strategic partners even. At some point all of them will need to decide to choose you over anything else. Having a short, snappy explanation of what you do and why sets you up for a confident start.


  • You only need one elevator pitch for all seasons. Sadly no. Just as in the past you’d customize your cv to fit that job you really wanted, so your elevator pitch will need adapting depending on your objective and the needs of the person you’re talking to. You won’t give a potential investor the same pitch as that old school mate.


  • Being one-on-one with your target in an elevator is the perfect place to deliver your elevator pitch. Definitely-not the perfect place. In fact, you’d be likely to scare the bejeebers out of them and they’d quite possibly call security. Pitching in an actual elevator is generally best left for the movies.


  • An elevator pitch is a sales tool. I’ve yet to hear of many people giving their pitch and the person it’s directed at immediately pulling out their pen and asking, “where do I sign?” It’s an introduction, a teaser to open the way for further discussion. It’s not what you say before you ask for the sale. Unless you like the word “NO!”


  • You can drop your own company data into an online template to fill in the blanks and you’re ready to go. Go ahead, just do yourself one favour and read it out loud before you tick the ‘elevator pitch done’ box. If it sounds remotely like something, you’d ever say to someone in real life go-ahead, you need more help than I can give you here. For absolutely everyone else – you just answered your own question.


  • You can send your elevator pitch by email or use it for a cold call. If you’re connecting with a prospective client for the very first time, copy pasting your elevator pitch into your email or reciting it as soon as they pick up the phone is going to make most people press delete and put the phone down.


So, when are elevator pitches effective? When you’re at a networking event or talking to a stranger and someone asks, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” It’s to prompt interest and they might just be the perfect fit or know the person who is.

If the next words after you deliver your pitch and shut up, are “tell me more” you’ve nailed it.



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