Written by Kevin Volz.
Bill Nemeth considers himself a pro at crafting and mastering the elevator pitch. As the director of Jumpstart’s Burton B. Morgan Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, Nemeth leads a team of more than 100 mentors who assist more than 100 companies in northeast Ohio. Before starting his own business, Nemeth spent years as a salesperson and practiced his elevator pitch over and over again. He now hears more than 100 of these pitches from entrepreneurs every month at JumpStart, a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier.
“Looking back on my experience with elevator pitches, I realize how bad I was at first,” said Nemeth. “Crafting a good pitch takes practice and remembering the key fundamentals of engaging with another person. You should be simple, precise and get to the point quickly.”
While Nemeth’s advice may seem like common sense, he says the biggest stumbling block for entrepreneurs is developing a simple, one-sentence description of what they do. In fact, it can take weeks to master a good elevator pitch.
Here are five tips from Nemeth that all aspiring entrepreneurs should use when crafting their elevator pitch:
- Focus on the audience: The biggest pitfall for new entrepreneurs is forgetting about the audience and what they want. You need to convey the value of your company and make someone want to learn more or have a follow-up discussion. Use terminology the audience understands and identify the value they’re looking for before you ever start talking. Don’t get too deep with the technology and industry jargon. Show you understand your audience’s problem and have a solution.
- Embrace your difference: Whenever anyone hears a pitch from an entrepreneur, they automatically try to compare the idea to a company that already exists. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to convey why your idea is better than whatever is currently available.
- Go for the ask: Make no mistake — if you are talking about your idea with a CEO, you are trying to sell. You’re not just giving the person information and hoping they follow up with you for more details. You need to take matters into your own hands and conclude every elevator pitch with asking for another conversation or meeting. Try asking them to coffee or if you can visit their office for a tour. Even getting their phone number to continue the conversation can lead to further developments
- Use a tactful approach: It seems logical, but don’t interrupt someone who is already in a conversation so you can give your elevator pitch. On the flip side, however, don’t be afraid to approach someone who’s available and start a conversation. Have confidence in yourself and your idea so you don’t come across as timid. That can be distracting and will become apparent in conversation. Always ask the person for permission before launching directly into your elevator pitch and don’t be scared of rejection. If you don’t take some chances, you’re never going to find opportunities.
- Don’t be scripted: Yes, you need to plan what should and should not be included in your elevator pitch. You should not, however, appear to be reciting something you’ve memorized. Infuse your personality into the conversation and speak sincerely. You’ll come across as a much warmer person and make the person receiving your pitch more receptive to your idea.
According to Nemeth, there is no set blueprint for an elevator pitch. In general, however, you should always start with a greeting and a handshake. Acknowledge the individual you’re speaking with and identify yourself and where you’re from. Then dive into what your idea is and how it will help their business, whether that is increased return on investment or a jump in sales. Next, explain how you’re different from what already exists on the market and pause for questions. Finally, close by asking for a follow-up conversation.
Use the tips above to craft an elevator pitch that will deliver results. Test your pitch on your friends and family and ask for honest feedback. Mastering this first step in entrepreneurship could be the key to starting the business of your dreams.