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Make sure your elevator pitch is effective

Updated: May 24, 2013 - 2:36 pm

Posted: May 24, 2013

You remember the moment, don't you? You stepped onto an elevator and there already in the elevator was the president of a company that you have been calling on for the past year hoping to win a contract. You notice that he already has pressed the 35th floor button because it is illuminated.

No one else is in the elevator. You are alone with him. You have about a minute to make your case. It is an opportunity you have been waiting for.

This, my friends, is the time for an elevator pitch. It is a skill that every businessperson needs to have mastered and be ready to deliver whenever necessary. All executives need to be able to give a concise, carefully planned and well-practiced description of your product or services that anyone should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator.

What distinguishes an elevator pitch from normal conversation?

First, according to Robert Pagliarini of SeekingCapital.com, it needs to be created, rehearsed and tailored for a specific audience.It needs to sum up unique aspects of your company and the distinctive services or products that you may offer. This does not mean that it needs to be quickly delivered. Too quick of a delivery may sound rehearsed and insincere. Rather, everything said should have been thought out previously and delivered in a friendly and conversational, yet direct, tone.

Everything that you do, your eye contact, handshake, etc. communicates something. They all help to deliver your first impression to your potential client. Be intentional about the tone you set.

Second, most companies have many products and services. Of the ones that you offer, which do you consider to be most beneficial to your prospect?

This is where preparation is important. You need to know something about the potential client's company. Is it the quality, delivery or service that you think will be most important to him? The target of your elevator pitch should be foremost in your mind. What is it about your product or services that sets you apart from your competition? Everything you say needs to be focused on the needs of your prospect. The key concept here is focus.

Third, since your minute is almost up, be sure to indicate what you would like the next step to be. What action would you like to see happen because of this incredible opportunity? Be sure to ask him if you can follow up later by phone, email or in person.

Sometimes accidental run-ins with people are not so accidental. Being in the same elevator with the president could have been strategically intentional. Whether intentional or not, businesspeople need to be prepared for these opportunities whether they happen in an elevator, at a restaurant or at the water cooler.

Your elevator pitch needs to be ready, based on research and an understanding of people and companies that are important to your company or your career.

Bob Stowers is a clinical professor of management and leadership communications at the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary. Visit http://mason.wm.edu/faculty /directory/stowers_r.php.

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