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Perfect Pitch

Monday, July 12, 2010

By Kim O’Connor


An elevator pitch isn’t just for people who work in big buildings equipped with a lift.


The idea is that you should be able to provide someone with a concise, conversational description of your business in the short time it would take to zoom between floors.


A well-crafted elevator pitch is an essential networking tool that home business owners can use in social situations, online profiles and even marketing materials.


Here are five tips that will help you make sure your first impressions are pitch-perfect.


1. Hit The High Points

An effective elevator pitch clocks in at around 30 seconds or less.

Need help honing your pitch? A good place to start is the Pitch Wizard tool at 15secondpitch.com. The website will help you craft a sound bite that includes all your essential info: who you are, what you do, what sets you apart from the competition and what you suggest as the next step to move the conversation forward.


“The point of an elevator pitch isn’t to get into every detail of your solution,” says Chris O’Leary, author of “Elevator Pitch Essentials” (The Limb Press LLC, 2008). “Instead, all you want to do—and all you have time to do—is to make sure the audience understands what you are talking about and what’s in it for them.”


Think of the pitch as a basic introduction to your product or service.


2. Don’t Sound Like An Infomercial


Shoot for a conversational tone so you don’t sound like you’ve memorized a script. Avoid industry jargon, generalities and cliches.

“I see a lot of sales professionals teaching people to say things like, ‘I make people rich every day,’” says Barbara Lopez, a professional elevator pitch coach.

“That explanation doesn’t really tell you what they do.”


You’ll sound more confident (and competent) if you speak plainly.


3. Propose The Next Step


Determine the best way to move the conversation forward with your new contact and make sure you say it out loud at the end of your pitch. You’re most likely to succeed if you ask people to hold your contact information in their hands instead of in their heads.


“I hear plenty of pitches where people ramble off a website or phone number that no one is attempting to remember,” says Lauren Milligan, a résumé expert and career coach. “That job belongs to your business card.”


4. Get Personal


“A lot of times people make the mistake of introducing their company instead of themselves,” observes Lopez. “They’ll say, ‘I’m with ABC company and we do this and we’re known for that.’”


The problem with that strategy, she says, is that it’s human nature to crave a more personal connection. As you network, avoid the word “we” and stick to “I” statements.


5. Pay Attention To Feedback


“A good litmus test is to try out your pitch on a few different people and take note of their follow-up questions,” suggests career coach Milligan.


“If they are asking questions such as, ‘Um, so do you sell life insurance or do you work for an accounting agency?’ then it’s a good bet that you haven’t yet cracked the code.


“If they are asking questions that show they are engaged in the conversation, then you’ve done well.”


Kim O’Connor, a freelance writer who lives in Chicago, plans to take the stairs until she perfects her elevator pitch.

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