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The ability to cultivate professional contacts is a key competency in the world of business. Enter the “elevator pitch,” a tried-and-true networking tool that is crucial for any successful business leader to master.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

Elevator pitches are beneficial because they allow speakers to quickly and succinctly explain to others who they are and what they offer, opening the door for future business relationships. Forbes suggests that the speech should be around 30 seconds — the same amount of time it takes to ride up an elevator.

Elevator pitches can come in handy in any number of settings, such as:

• Job fairs
• Networking events
• Business meetings
• Job interviews
• Sales pitches

Although they are short, successful elevator pitches all share similar composition and delivery.

The Anatomy of an Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches require a certain basic structure to be effective. Geoffrey James of Inc. suggests dividing an elevator pitch into three distinct parts:

1.) The Benefit

When speakers begin to deliver their pitch, they need to explain more than simply what they sell. They need to explain what the product that they’re selling means to the people why buy it. It’s not enough to say “my company sells shoes.” The phrase “customers buy our shoes because we offer one-of-a-kind designs at reasonable prices” is more compelling. The focus should remain on the customer, not the company.

2.) The Differentiator

An elevator speech must also point out why clients should choose the company. If there is no differentiator, the listener might be intrigued by the product and choose to purchase it from a competitor. For example, professionals in shoe sales might point out that their company is the oldest independently run shoe company in the state.

3.) The Ask

“The Ask” is simply a request to stay in touch. Assuming the listener is intrigued, this part should be brief, direct and courteous. The speaker might ask “what’s the best way to get on your calendar?” or offer to trade business cards. Once this exchange occurs, it’s important to end the pitch. Overwhelming new contacts with information won’t necessarily increase the odds of landing a sale and might even make them less likely to stay interested.

When writing and delivering an elevator pitch, it’s important to remember the following:

• Have clear goals. What’s the point of your elevator pitch? Is there a specific job you’d like? Are certain talking points more crucial than others? Write these down and clarify them as much as you can.

• Don’t use industry jargon. A successful pitch doesn’t alienate the listener. It uses plainer language that everyone can understand.

• Read the pitch out loud. This gives you a chance to work out any content issues, as well as to practice your public speaking.

• Tailor it. Are you speaking to a CEO? A new business owner? Someone with a minor role in a not-for-profit agency? The pitch must change based on the social or professional context, so you can convince the specific people you’re talking to that you can meet their individual needs.

Example of an Elevator Pitch

The following is a strong elevator pitch example.

Q: I’m the vice president of marketing at Yummy Foods Inc. So, what do you do?

A: I do freelance graphic design. Clients hire me to develop high-quality creative assets, particularly for corporate ad campaigns in the food industry. Have you seen the X campaign? I worked on a farm for many years, and the Y company wanted to hire a designer who was intimately familiar with the agriculture industry. I’m always looking to take on new clients and share my love of nature and food with consumers. Please take my card, and let me know the best way to get on your calendar.

This model is successful because:

• It provides a Benefit, a Differentiator and an Ask
• It avoids jargon
• It’s tailored to the listener, but also offers a unique angle to the work

Elevator pitches are first and foremost a connection tool. Speakers must convince their listeners to trust them and that whatever they offer will help make life easier, better and more fulfilling in a substantial way. Ultimately, this promise is the factor that makes the sale.

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