Tell me about yourself.
What do you do?
What makes your product different?
If these questions force you to pause, or you don’t feel confident about your ability to convert these inquiries into genuine interest, then you should work on making an elevator pitch.
A good idea may be the start of a big venture, but you—the entrepreneur behind it—are the one responsible for evangelizing your idea and getting others excited about your vision.
Want in on the action? This guide will walk you through how to create an elevator pitch, with tips, examples, and templates to inspire your own.
When to use an elevator pitch
A carefully crafted pitch delivers your unique value proposition, anticipates questions before they come up, and lets you start strong without tripping over umm’s and uhh’s, scrambling for an answer. It’s the sales pitch for your startup and it makes a good first impression on listeners.
The entire purpose of a [venture capital] pitch is to convince them that you are the entrepreneur in whom they are going to invest their money—and make a lot of money in return.
Your elevator pitch is a versatile tool you can use to:
- Spark interest from potential investors
- Sell directly to consumers at events
- Guide your copywriting and personal brand
- Pitch to bloggers and open up strategic partnerships
- Explain what you do at professional networking events, job interviews, or career fairs
The ideal pitch should aim to be under 30 seconds, around 75 words, and be easily adapted, made longer or shorter for different contexts, with the ultimate goal of creating opportunities.
Whether you’re already running a profitable small business or you feel like you’re still “faking it ’til you make it, an elevator pitch in your back pocket makes it easier to start conversations off on the right foot.
How to write a good elevator pitch
When it comes to delivering an elevator pitch, a job seeker, a salesperson, and a business owner will have different goals in mind, but the basic ingredients of an effective pitch are surprisingly similar.
Use the following guidelines to craft the perfect elevator pitch.
1. Grab attention with your introduction
Your elevator pitch will likely be in a place where many people are competing for your listener’s attention. It’s a good idea to start your pitch with an attention-grabbing statement to stand out from the crowd.
According to Monroe’s Principles of Speech, a time-tested guide for persuasive public speaking by psychologist and Purdue University professor Alan H. Monroe, this can be done through sharing humor, compelling statistics, or astonishing information.
A good hook should be flexible and depend on how well the person knows you, if they do at all. By the end of your introduction, the listener/reader should know:
- Who you are (work experience, education, etc.)
- Your brand and business model
- Your product/service category and what you’re selling
“Lead with the name of your brand,” Cindy Gallop, advertising executive and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, says. “This may sound ridiculous, but you’d be amazed at how often I’ve been pitched someone’s startup where they tell me what it does but spectacularly fail to tell me what it’s called. You need a brand name that’s compelling, memorable, and intriguing in itself. MakeLoveNotPorn always lands straight away. ”
It’s easy to sound robotic with your introduction, so try to personalize your approach for the listener and their existing knowledge in order to hook them from the get-go.
2. Identify your target market and how you’re serving it
Once you’ve introduced yourself and your business, you need to demonstrate product-market fit—in other words, you need to illustrate who your target customer is and the opportunity you’re tapping into.
After introducing your brand, Cindy suggests to “follow up with one quick, simple, straightforward soundbite that sums up what your brand does. In the case of MakeLoveNotPorn, I use our tagline to say, ‘We’re pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.’ Immediately, without knowing exactly what we are and how we do that, my audience understands our purpose and why we exist.”
Identify the need for your product. The goal here is to make the listener open to your ideas. Prove that there’s demand for what you’re doing by considering:
- The pain points you’re solving (like ergonomic chairs)
- The passions you’re letting people express (like shirts for dog lovers)
- The gap you’re filling and opportunity you’re creating (like game-changing tech)
- The amount of time/money you’re helping people save (like an app that helps you save money when buying groceries)
You can illustrate these needs with:
The listener is more likely to hear your idea when presented with a clear picture of how it solves a problem. Once you establish the need, show how your solution will work based on real-life examples.
3. Embrace competition and any inevitable comparisons
Instead of glossing over your competition, acknowledge it—especially if you’re pitching to someone who knows your industry or market. Drawing attention to the competition gives you an excuse to explicitly differentiate your business from others.
You don’t necessarily need to call out a specific competitor. You can simply mention an existing alternative, even if it’s just the status quo or “the way things are done now.”
Ask yourself: Why is my solution unique? What’s the competitive advantage, and why is it superior to competitors?
This helps you start a conversation with a one-up position over the competition. Be sure to avoid buzzwords and include key points about what makes you the best solution.
4. Have a call to action
What good is generating interest if you’re not converting that momentum into some kind of action? End your elevator pitches with a strong, contextual call to action based on who your audience is.
“Sum up what you are and what you do in a couple of sentences,” Cindy says. “But the important thing here is, you don’t have to inform your audience of absolutely everything about your brand and business.”
“You want to tell them just enough so they really want to find out more, and want to book that meeting/call where you can go into more detail, or are prepared to make time immediately to talk in more detail. But what you do want to make sure you land within that elevator pitch is how your business makes money.”
Next steps can include:
- Handing someone your business card in case they want to learn more
- Recommending a product or sending a sample for them to check out
- Asking someone to connect with you on LinkedIn or by email to discuss working together
- Suggesting that the person pass your information along to their own circles
5. Practice your pitch
Once you’ve written out your pitch, practice it. Practice in the mirror, in your building elevator, with your team and friends. It’s the only way to get better at delivering a smooth elevator pitch to listeners.
Speak with enthusiasm and excitement. Pay attention to the listener’s reactions and body language as you pitch. Collect feedback from people. If a few parts in your pitch sound “off” or unconvincing, go back and fix your pitch accordingly.
3 business elevator pitch examples (+ templates)
Templates offer a good starting point, but you want to make it your own as much as you can. As always, practice makes perfect, and the more feedback you get over time, the more you can improve your pitch.
But to start, here are three basic templates, with hypothetical examples, that will help you touch upon your major talking points in a natural way.
The all-purpose pitch
Your generic elevator pitch, this format provides you with a clear and intuitive way to cover all your talking points, letting you easily expand upon and cut out parts depending on your audience at the time.
The Pixar pitch
This pitch is aptly named because it invokes the traditional storytelling structure—something Pixar excels at.
Stories are all about transformation and empathy, and if you can explain the journey your customer takes from point A to point B, you can get your audience to step into your customers’ shoes, even if they’re outside your target market.
Give this approach a try if your product solves a very real and relatable pain point for your customers.
The sales pitch
Sometimes you find yourself speaking directly with a potential customer. In this case, you know that focusing on them and their needs is the best way to position your product.
Opening with a rhetorical question lets you establish how qualified they are as a prospect from the start, potentially tease more information from them by actively listening, and personalize your approach according to how they identify with the pain point you’re proposing a solution for.
Tips and tricks for effective elevator pitches
The templates above shouldn’t be used as rigid structures—a pitch, above all, needs to be persuasive.
Persuasion is the art of getting your audience to nod yes along with you.
The following communication strategies can help you spice up your pitch.
Use social proof
If you’re associated with any big brands, have any celebrity customers or investors, have any influencer endorsements, or can weave social proof into what you say, you can really raise some eyebrows.
Why? Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, and author of bestselling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, defined social proof as people doing what they observe others doing.
People are more likely to engage with what is already popular. Think of it as safety in numbers.
Social proof is used in advertising all the time. Say you’re someone with three young kids who struggles to get them into the car without slamming doors and crushing hands. You see an ad with a happy family driving around in a minivan with automated doors and extra protection features. You may feel compelled to experience the same.
People want to belong and command the respect of others. It results in people copying what’s already popular. If you propose that your ideas are already accepted, the listener is more likely to engage with it.
Include concrete numbers
The appearance of authority aids more convincing arguments for your ideas. If you can provide hard numbers and appear to believe in your product, so will your listener.
Stats and hard numbers appeal to any logic. How many units have you sold or how much funding have you secured? What’s your customer acquisition rate? Significant numbers add an extra layer of credibility to your pitch.
Explain your product through an analogy
In Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath discuss how some of the most memorable pitches are grounded in analogies. A lot of movies get made simply because the pitch successfully anchors the premise to one that’s already well-known.
For example, the writers of Alien first pitched it as “Jaws in space” and had little trouble generating interest in the film. From those three words, you can understand that it’s a horror movie, involving an unseen threat that leaves death in its wake, set in space.
Try developing an analogy to use something familiar to explain the unfamiliar and complex, or embrace an obvious comparison to focus more on differentiation instead of basic features.
Sell with stories
Stories are a naturally persuasive vehicle: they grab attention, demonstrate change, and evoke empathy. In fact, neurobiologists have shown that stories can act as a conduit for understanding pain points that make them a valuable asset in the business world.
A general rule in storytelling: the bigger the gap you can create between the beginning and the end, the more impactful your story will be. So don’t be afraid to start off unremarkably normal or even when your character is at rock bottom.
It’s all the better if you yourself are the main character in the story—you’ve got a personal stake in solving the pain point.
Write for the ears
Alliteration, rhyme, rhythm—there are a ton of ways to wield words so they roll off the tongue. And when most memorable expressions stick because they’re pleasing to the ear, you’ve got a good reason to put some art into your articulation.
If you can make your pitch sound nice on paper, you can give it a unique style that lends you a certain charisma that’s hard to imitate, even amongst your direct competitors.
Consider video pitches
A modern spin on the traditional elevator pitch, video pitches give you a chance to speak directly to a listener and inspire them. They basically pack your elevator pitch into an online presentation. As the COVID pandemic drives people to remote work and asynchronous communication, video pitches can help your pitch get heard.
You can post it on your businesses website, AngelList, Product Hunt, social media, or other websites where investors search for new stuff. Following the same principles at pitching in person, be sure to keep your video pitch between 30 and 60 seconds long. Show your passion and excitement quickly and provide numbers that prove you’re the best solution for an audience’s problem.
Opening doors to new opportunities
Despite its name, you don’t really want to corner someone and force your elevator pitch on them unexpectedly. You want the person you’re pitching to invest attention, ask questions, and continue the conversation or see value in what you’re doing.
You’re focusing on getting them interested in your business, and when that’s the case, less really is more—what you choose to exclude can be as powerful as what you include.
It’s going to be a work in progress, and the best way to improve is to get it out there and see how others receive it, observing where you create interest, lose attention, and win people over.
So let’s hear your pitch. Practice it in the comments below.
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Elevator pitch FAQ
What is an elevator sales pitch?
An elevator pitch is a 30-second description of what you do and the products or services you sell. The goal is to make a connection between you and the listener, be it a potential investor or a recruiter at a job interview. Also known as an elevator speech, it should take as long as the time you would spend in an elevator ride with someone.
How do you start an elevator pitch?
Every elevator pitch should start with who you are and your expertise. You’ll want a brand name that’s compelling, memorable, and intriguing in itself. Then, follow up with a quick and straightforward sound bite that sums up what your brand does.
What is the conclusion of an elevator pitch?
The conclusion of an elevator pitch will be your ask, or your final question for the listener. It could be as simple as asking for advice or information. It could be the amount you need for funding. Let people know how they can help you out in the conclusion of your elevator pitch.
What are the 4 parts of an elevator pitch?
- Your brand name, category, and product offerings
- The problem you aim to solve
- Your solution and key benefits
- Your ask