What is an Elevator Speech?

By: Terri Sjodin
Posted: 09/18/2007

What is an Elevator Speech and are you using this fantastic tool?

The elevator speech is an extremely effective tool to help you earn the right to give your full-length presentation to a prospective client in the future. Your prospect may not know you. He/She may not have time to listen to your full-length presentation. Yet they will usually give you a couple of minutes. Why? They may be curious, simply be polite, or feel obligated to consider all new ideas on behalf of their firm. During those few minutes, you can present the listener with a skillfully crafted speech. This is a mini-presentation intended only to intrigue and arouse interest and encourage a prospect to meet with you in the future for a longer, more in-depth presentation. The elevator speech is not supposed to sell your client, prospect, or listener and close the deal in three minutes. It is merely a tool to start a focused conversation to set up the next appointment time.

The term elevator speech has become a popular buzz-word in the past couple of years, and a number of sales organizations are encouraging their teams to learn how to give these mini-pitches. While most elevator speeches aren’t actually delivered in elevators, there is one university that literally has its students practice them in a moving elevator.

In this contest, pairs of competing graduate students get just two minutes to present their ideas for start-up businesses to regional venture capitalists. Pitch their business plans in an actual elevator traveling 28 floors to the building rooftop. They are allowed neither props nor handouts; the students have to make their best case using just their presentation skills and, hopefully, a great idea for a new business. 

The term elevator speech comes from the experience of having only a couple of minutes to talk to your prospect while you both ride an elevator. Imagine stepping into a large sleek elevator in the lobby of a New York City high-rise. Out of nowhere, the person you’ve been trying to get an appointment with for the past two months breezes in as the doors shut behind you and you both head toward the 52nd floor. What an opportunity! You have a captive audience, but you have only a couple of minutes to make your pitch. What you really need is more time in front of this person to sell him/her on your idea. What you have before you is a chance to earn the right to be heard. The best way to accomplish this is through a highly intriguing elevator speech!

The elevator speech is an attention-grabbing device that can be adapted to each person’s personality, style, and individual needs. It is a highly useful tool to expand your business whether you are a salesperson, entrepreneur looking to find a venture capitalist, teacher, politician, or someone just interested in getting a job offer.

There are countless opportunities to use your elevator speech. You might be working at a trade show where someone approaches your booth looking for information. He/she likely will listen to a quick two-or three-minute overview that may intrigue them enough to come farther into the booth or agree to an appointment later that day or after the show. Often times, sales professionals sponsor luncheons, golf tournaments, dinners, and special events for clients and prospects. Don’t just wing it! Take the time to build and deliver a savvy and compelling message that helps you make these amazing opportunities truly profitable. Better yet, don’t just wait for an opportunity to come to you, create elevator pitch opportunities to increase your prospecting capabilities and impact your production!

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