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“I have a great idea!” “I want to tell you about my project.” “You have to hear this pitch!”
OK, so you’ve teed up a conversation, but can you deliver on it? When the person you’re wanting to impress (the decision maker who could literally change your life or your business) is ready to listen, do you have a pitch that will sell? For many, sadly the answer is no. Far too many don’t go through the exercise of creating a succinct pitch. After five minutes of a circuitous pitch, your opportunity is over.
Let me start by giving you my thesis:
If you cannot sell yourself or your idea in a few paragraphs, you cannot sell the idea.
The succinct pitch strategy is the elevator pitch. We refer to is as an elevator pitch because when you have only two floors in which to sell yourself or your ideas, you have to be ready. You have to summarize often complex ideas into a sexy, fully formed pitch that provides a true value proposition. Facts, figures, complex conversations don’t sell. A strong story sells. It doesn’t matter what your medium is or what you are selling. Everyone from leaders and executives to marketing teams to producers to policy makers all use the elevator pitch to articulate their ideas quickly and dynamically. With the increasingly short attention span of our world, the shorter the pitch, the better.
So … where to begin?
The who/what/why of your ideas need to be understood, in a linear way that quickly moves from point A to point B and beyond. Think of the following:
- Who is the message focused on? Think about your customer, decision maker, etc.
- What is the purpose? Do you have the purpose of the idea fully understood? If you do not, you are not ready to pitch. If you do, formulate the opportunity in ways that your audience will appreciate.
- What is the product? Define the product you are selling: who does it help, what does it do, why is it beneficial?
- Why you vs. someone else? Do you have differentiators that make your proposition unique and important?
- Who does this help? Be clear on how the differentiators make an impact.
Rip apart your ideas: SWAT
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats is a time-tested way to poke holes in your own thesis. This is a must. You have to really dissect your own ideas to make sure you’ve thought through all of the areas your audience will bring up. If you see there are issues, take the time to solve those issues before you pitch.
Build a story
Here’s where the paragraphs come into play. As stated earlier, if you cannot sell yourself in a few paragraphs, you cannot sell yourself at all. You have to make a story that is compelling and engaging – one that is short, sweet and to the point. Think about your hook. As a former CEO of mine often says, “don’t bury the lead.” If facts and figures clog the story, rethink those facts. Remember: facts tell, stories sell.
Practice, practice, practice
I get pitches all the time for TV or digital projects, and also hear from companies trying to rebrand. One thing I get too often is a long winded, circuitous description of their concept or their product. Many have elevator pitches, but they are not refined through practice, so they are clunky and lack confidence. If you are uncomfortable with your pitch, make sure you have presented it to your team, your confidants, to other clients or partners. Get feedback, refine and rewrite until you are comfortable with the final presentation. Also, make sure you have multiple versions of your pitch depending on your possible audience(s).
Once you are using your elevator pitch, make sure you are taking in feedback from your audience and refining the message.
While it is only one tool in the arsenal, the elevator pitch should be your hammer, your go-to device. This works equally well when selling yourself to a potential employer in an interview as it does selling a multimillion-dollar project. Increasingly, the elevator pitch is being used in creative ways to sell big ideas, including philanthropy. Here’s a great example of how MasterCard used an elevator pitch to help end poverty by supporting charities in the field during Mashable’s Social Good Summit. Think about ways you can be this creative in your business.
Do you have your team pitch internal ideas with elevator pitches? Do you ever practice in a literal elevator? Why not? It’s fun and effective! How is your elevator pitch? Do you utilize the development stages to their greatest effect? Have you found it a successful tool? I encourage my clients at CORE Innovation Group to create theirs, and I encourage you to create yours. Do you have unique ways to create creative pitches? Do you have war stories in pitching? I’d love to hear your experiences with the elevator pitch. Feel free to email me with your thoughts: [email protected].
Patrick Jager is the CEO of CORE Innovation Group – expert strategy and implementation in media, communications and business development.