Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn’t Working (and How to Fix It)

Elevator Pitch

Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn’t Working (and How to Fix It)

I hate to be the one to tell you, but if you’re an executive who has NOT taken the time to create an elevator pitch, it’s probably broken. So today, let’s fix it.

Because you’re looking for your ideal position in this challenging work environment, you’re probably familiar with the Elevator Speech—or, as Silicon Valley popularized it, the Elevator Pitch. It’s the few succinct statements you’ve crafted to describe what you do that you could deliver to a prospective employer in the span of an elevator ride.

An elevator pitch has to be short, obviously, so it has to be to-the-point, but it also has to be memorable. Your goal is to leave the listener with a desire to know more about you—and, hopefully, to call you in for an interview.

Given how useful the elevator pitch is in the job hunt, you’d think people would spend more time perfecting theirs. Yet, in my thirty years coaching executives up the career ladder, I’ve heard most people give what amounts to a recitation of their resumes.

The problem with most elevator pitches is that they wind up sounding simply like the story of what the executive has done for a living. Not only is that not usually very interesting (unless you’ve been a lion tamer, or you just got back from a stint on the International Space Station), it doesn’t let the prospect know how you can solve his problem.

Furthermore, even when the pitch does contain something to spark the hearer’s interest, most people still act as if they have to spew the whole thing out before they lose their audience entirely. In my experience, the elevator pitch might more rightly be called the elevator conversation.

You should think of the opener for your elevator pitch as a brief sales pitch.  You start with a memorable action statement.  For instance,

I “get” how I.T. can make or break a business.  CEO’s call me in to assess, improve, or junk their I.T. systems and use their technology investment to yield a more successful bottom line in both the short and long term.

You didn’t talk about what you’ve done, yet you made it clear you have experience doing the job you’re targeting. Your goal, after you’ve made your initial statement, is to get the prospect to ask you, “how do you do that?”

If they don’t ask, you can continue on, of course. But if they do—and, if you’ve practiced, and are calm and comfortable, they probably will–be prepared to follow up with something like this:

I see it as my job to be bleeding edge in my knowledge of technology.  When I get into a business, I typically do a business and technology needs assessment with top executives. I don’t necessarily use the “bleeding edge – but I know the best practices and I map that against the company’s needs and budget.

Again, your goal is to be asked for more info during the “ride“. Again, even if they don’t ask, you can continue on with something something like,

My work outcome always includes actionable recommendations that lead to Company-wide success.

There. You’ve gotten your prospect’s attention, told her what you do, and told her what she can expect of your work. And, hopefully, you’ve included her in a conversation, making it an elevator pitch/conversation.

Finally, before you “exit” the elevator: you’ve spent all this time talking with the other person, you need to finish the “sale”—ask for something! It can be a further meeting, something like,

I would be interested in talking with you further.

Or you can just ask for a business card, or maybe a referral.

Creating your elevator pitch doesn’t have feel like brain surgery, but you should definitely take the time to make it worth your while to deliver and your prospect’s time to hear.

In sum, keep these four things in mind when creating your elevator pitch:

  1. Have a memorable lead-in.
  2. Use the pitch to generate more questions.
  3. Use the questions to reinforce that you understand business strategy, making hard choices, etc.
  4. Make a request.

Do those things, and you’ll not only show your prospective employer that you’re well-spoken and knowledgeable in his industry, but you’ll demonstrate that you have the know-how and confidence to solve his problem. And that’s a lot more exciting than simply going from one floor to another.

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