Whether you’re catching your prospect on the phone, or via email, you typically only have a short window to let them know what your company and your solution is all about. But while the tendency can be to try to cover all the bases as quickly as possible, according to sales executive and trainer Jeff Hoffman, that’s an urge reps need to resist at all costs.
Instead of bombarding your customer with everything you can do for them, it’s far more constructive to give them an extremely tailored and targeted taste of what you can provide and to leave them curious to learn more. Of course, that’s something easier said than done. In fact, for many salespeople, saying more by saying less can be one of the most difficult — but effective — skills to learn.
In this episode of Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman, Jeff explains what makes a perfect elevator pitch by outlining five key points to success.
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— Jeff Hoffman, M. J. Hoffman and Associates
Tune in to more episodes of Strictly Sales:
- Episode 1: Office Gatekeepers
- Episode 2: Breaking Up with Bad Leads
- Episode 3: Leaving Voicemails
- Episode 4: How to Drop the Phony “Sales Voice”
- Episode 5: How to Open and Close Emails
- Episode 6: How to Hire the Right Sales Reps
- Episode 7: Elevator Pitches
- Episode 8: How to Work Trade Shows
- Episode 9: The Most Common Objections
- Episode 10: Making Assistants Your Allies
- Episode 11: What do Do When Prospects Are “All Set”
- Subscribe to the Podcast
Jeff: This is Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman and CeCe Bazar. For more information go to OpenView Labs or MJHoffman.com.
CeCe: Hi everybody, and thank you so much for coming back, and joining us for Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman. Jeff, thanks so much for being here.
Jeff: Oh, yes, CeCe Great to be back.
CeCe: We have had such a great response to the first series of podcasts that we’ve done. We’ve decided to bring Jeff back in, to talk a little bit more about sales. This time we want to talk about something really important, Jeff. We want to talk about elevator pitches. When you get a prospect either in person, or on the phone, or via email, you have a very short window to let them know what you do. Let’s talk a little bit about elevator pitches. Is it a buzzword or is it something that’s real?
Jeff: It’s definitely real, unfortunately, it’s been kind of rendered almost ineffectual by the label elevator pitch, but it’s definitely real. You know, the challenge with it, you said it well. I mean, we do need them. We need them in a very specific place, usually early in the sales process. Some of the problem we have is in that term elevator pitch, which can be very misleading. The notion of it, you know, is that you’ve got this elevator ride with one of your prospects.
Jeff: You’ve got this captive audience for a select number of floors. You’ve got a limited amount of time, which I think is probably true with an elevator pitch. You have a captive audience, which is also true in a real elevator ride. I think that’s where a lot of people, you know, tend to write something that isn’t very, you know, elevator pitch worthy. That’s probably the first thing we should probably talk about.
CeCe: All right. What do you think makes the cut when you’re writing your elevator pitch?
Jeff: Well, I think the first thing is you’ve got to be clear on what’s your goal for it. Many people, what they do is they take all the wonders, joys, terrific things, features, benefits and value propositions. All the things that makes their product or service unique, and then they try to boil it down in some perfectly crafted 15 or 20 second diatribe. They kind of vomit all over a prospect or customer when they say, “What do you do?” Thinking that the question was, “What do you do, can you describe it to me?” That’s not really what it is about.
I mean, if you can describe your product or service in 30 seconds, then I would argue you don’t need a sales call. Why ask for a sales call later. The first goal shouldn’t be to describe. I think the first goal of an elevator pitch is to inspire curiosity. You want to be interesting, but you don’t want to be complete in your description. You want to basically, capture the prospects attention long enough where they look at you when they ask a question.
They say something like, “Well, how does that work, or what does that mean, or how would I use that, or who else uses that, or is that like this?” Any of those kinds of responses are great. If you hear a response that says, “Oh, it makes sense.” That’s probably a sign that it was a bad elevator pitch.
CeCe: Can you give us an example, because I do think you’re right. I do think that people tend to focus on the features . . .
Cece: . . . when they’re giving their elevator pitch. What does your product do? Can you give us a quick example, maybe something that you’ve used in your past?
Jeff: Yeah, sure. I’ve used lots, you know, it depends on what I’m doing. You know, so I’ll kind of give you one of my pitches, just to give you a sense of how they’re constructed.
Jeff: I, you know, sell sales training and sales consulting, mostly to C level executives in Fortune 500 space. One of the things I might say if a VP of Sales picks up the phone. I might say something, like, “Hi, CeCe, I got you live on the very first dial. When you hire me I’ll teach your sales reps how to do the same thing.”
CeCe: I’ll bet they laugh.
Jeff: They definitely laugh. It’s funny. It’s also got a lot of elements that I would argue you’d want to consider when you’re building an elevator pitch. The first and most obvious is you’ve got to consider your audience.
Jeff: I’m selling to C level executives, generally sales executives, so being, you know, kind of more forthright, and a little bolder is probably par for the course for that audience. If I was writing an elevator pitch for 18 managers, I might not be as brazen as that last one.
CeCe: Totally. Would you argue that your first step then in developing your elevator pitch is asking yourself who are you speaking to, and what is the question that you want to get them to ask?
Jeff: That’s really, really perfect. You know, so many people write an elevator pitch with the goal, or I should say the marching orders, that they write it so your aunt Edna would understand what you do. I’m, like, that’s great if you’re selling to Aunt Edna. I’m, like, it’s just you’re not. You know, to make it pedestrian, so anyone can understand it. You’re not calling anyone. It’s . . .
CeCe: That’s the one you use when you’re out, and meet someone at a bar say. Not the one you’re using when . . .
CeCe: . . . you’re in the office.
Jeff: That’s [verbing]. That’s not really an elevator pitch, because number one, you’re not pitching. Number two, they’re not captive, and number three, you probably don’t have a finite amount of time. You can say whatever you want when you meet someone at a bar, and you tell them what you do for a living. If you’re using an elevator pitch that’s so generic it can be used for anybody. It’s probably a poor one.
CeCe: I love it. I think everyone has their marching orders right now. Go back think about whom it is you’re speaking to, what question it is you want to ask, and how you are going to wrap a bow around your elevator pitch to inspire curiosity.
Jeff: Yeah, I mean, you know, when you do that you’ll consider a lot of elements. You want to be a little bombastic. You want to be what I would say the use of hyperbole. Your audience is smart. They understand what hyperbole is, it’s exaggeration to make a point.
I always think of elevator pitches, when someone asks me, what do you do? I interpret the question differently. I pretend that the question is not what do you do, but the question is why do you like selling what you do? That’s a very different answer, because there I get more personal, and I get to give them my opinion, which is a huge part of an elevator pitch. What’s your opinion of what you do, and how do you stand out from competitors. This is probably your first chance to brag in front of a prospect. I would take that chance.
CeCe: I love it. I think that, you know, it’s really funny. I worked with a VP of sales once who said, “When Gatorade is selling or pitching their product they’re not saying, ‘We’re part water and food coloring, etcetera.’ They’re selling a moment and they do it in a really bold and hyperbolic way.” Which I think is exactly what sales people want to do across the board.
Jeff: That’s right. I mean, the kind of walking steps I always say is make it personal, consider your audience, use hyperbole, sell to your strength. Whatever you do that’s different from your competitors, this is the place you want to share it.
Limit your pitch to one thought. You know, don’t give someone a laundry list of six things you do well, because no one’s going to pay attention to that. Pick one, even if it’s not the thing you think they’re going to buy. Just pick one because the whole point of it is not to close.
The whole point of the elevator pitch is for them to actually stop what they’re doing and talk to you for a few more minutes. Pick one thing you really love about your product or service. Brag about it, use hyperbole, make it personal, focus on the listener, and consider who that listener is. You’re on your way to writing something that’s probably more interesting to listen to than your typical, you know, repetition of an S.I.C. code.
CeCe: All right. Well, it seems like everyone has the equation for how to write your elevator pitch. Jeff, can people tweet their elevator pitches to you, and have you critique them a little bit?
Jeff: Yeah, I’d love it if you would. I’d be happy to critique them, and also it gives you a place to see what other people are writing. It also forces you to keep it in the right number of characters because you don’t have a lot of real estate on Twitter. Yeah, please do, and it’s @MJHoffman.
CeCe: Excellent. Jeff, thanks so much for joining us. Everyone good luck with your elevator pitches, and we’ll catch you next time on Strictly Sales with Jeff Hoffman.
Image by Gideon Tsang