At some point, we have all encountered “the elevator pitch.” The elevator pitch is the dreaded 30-second- to 2-minute-long summation of whatever someone is selling. Creating and using an elevator pitch is still taught, and even celebrated, in universities around the country. (Champlain College recently wrapped up their 7th Annual Elevator Pitch Contest.) But why? The day of the elevator pitch has passed.
Old-schoolers may see the elevator pitch as an institution or even a rite of passage. However, in our world of instant, constant communication, does it still carry value? Think about your last elevator ride. Did you make eye contact, much less talk, to a single person? If you were on an elevator with someone in a position to boost your business, what do you think his reaction would have been had you tried to get between him and his iPhone during that ride to the fifteenth floor? Besides its invasiveness, the elevator pitch has several strikes against it:
- What if it is impossible to explain your business coherently in under two minutes?
- There’s no way around feeling like a used-car salesman when you deliver your pitch.
- A set elevator pitch runs the risk of promising a potential customer too much or too little.
- With so little time to deliver a message, an elevator pitch is always one-sided.
There is nothing wrong with having a few standard replies to expected questions. If you know your business, you can answer questions without memorization. In today’s world, it is more likely that you will be “meeting” people through their website, Facebook, or Twitter. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but there is no need to rush through a canned pitch. There is no advantage to blurting your message out in record speed. Take your time and begin a real conversation!
By starting a two-sided conversation, you can explain what your company does and what makes it better than others. You also have a chance to ask the right questions. The answers to your questions will allow you to elaborate on all you can do for that particular person. Find out what difficulties the individual’s company has and help develop a solution. This type of back-and-forth does not happen on elevators.
People buy from people they like and trust. It is that simple. By forming a real relationship with a potential customer, you are increasing the likelihood of a future, lasting business relationship. How many lasting relationships have you had with used car salesmen? Focus on each individual and craft a message that has real meaning for them.
It’s time to put your elevator speech in an envelope. Put it in the closet with the typewriter, the 10-pound Seinfeld mobile phone, and the ponytail you saved when you got that mullet cut. Use all of the many tools available with today’s technology to reach (and get to know) your future customers.