You are more than likely familiar with Entrepreneur’s popular show “Elevator Pitch,” in which entrepreneurs pitch their company to a board of investors during a 60-second elevator ride. If the investors like the pitch, the elevator doors open and the entrepreneur is invited into the board room to potentially make a deal.
This show’s premise is of course inspired by concept that people in business have embraced for decades now: that a truly good idea can be summed up in the span of an elevator ride.
But this poses a significant dilemma. As an entrepreneur, you’ve likely been toiling away at your idea for some time, possibly even years. How are you supposed to cram all of the value you’ve created in so little time? And if you’re making a pitch in order to attract investments, how can you describe your work in a compelling way, while demonstrating viability in the marketplace, while asking for capital?
You may be surprised to find out that there is a way you can craft your elevator pitch to not only create greater interest in your product or service, but actually give people chills in under twenty seconds.
How people usually do elevator pitches
Among those who put thought into their elevator pitches, there tends to be two basic formulas:
Formula A: Introduce oneself and the name of the company, then describe the product or service in the context of the customer or industry’s pain point. Then, at the end, make the ask.
Formula B: Identify the pain point before introducing oneself and the name of the company. Then describe the product or service, followed by the ask.
While I’m adamant that the only hard and fast rule of communication is that there are no hard and fast rules, I favor Formula B. People are most likely to embrace a solution when it’s provided within the context of a problem they care about solving. By starting with a pain point, the entrepreneur is speaking to what an uninformed audience cares about right away thus making sure that the first thing their audience hears has intrinsic value to them. This helps the audience become immediately invested in solving the problem, which helps the entrepreneur to build some momentum.
What further helps with this momentum is identifying a hole in the marketplace. Sometimes this hole is defined by a new need as dictated by circumstance (e.g. the invention and commercialization of the Internet led to a sudden need for accessing it), while other times it’s defined by the inadequacy of existing solutions (e.g. introducing broadband Internet connectivity as a superior alternative to dial-up). Still other times the hole is defined by a problem that the audience doesn’t actually know they have (e.g. how to access the Internet without wires when the marketplace was introduced to Wi-Fi).
What all of these different holes have in common, however, is that they are highlighting the typical solutions that don’t work — or that don’t work as well. This helps the entrepreneur to build momentum because it highlights why the pain point is as powerful as it is — why it’s seemingly so hard to make that pain go away.
However, there is one ingredient that nearly every entrepreneur overlooks. It can redefine not only elevator pitches, but presentations, speeches, webinars, articles, and even books.
And this ingredient can make your captive audience in that elevator get chills in twenty seconds or less.
An example from an unlikely source
You may remember the 2011 film Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Based on a true story, Pitt plays the general manager of the Oakland Athletics in 2002. His and Hill’s characters implement a fundamentally different approach to building a Major League Baseball team, and eventually win twenty games in a row, the most consecutive wins in the American League at that time. What is perhaps most significant about their season, though, is how they tied the New York Yankees for the most wins in the American League with a roster that cost a small fraction of the New York roster.
Toward the beginning of the film, Hill gives a little speech to Pitt that can be considered an elevator pitch of sorts — he has a short amount of time to capture Pitt’s attention.
Hill explains to Pitt that there is an “epidemic failure” in how the leaders in most Major League teams manage their teams. He explains that by filling their rosters with expensive star players, they are fundamentally misunderstanding what it takes to have a winning ball club.
Where the conversation becomes interesting, though, is that he then describes this flawed approach as baseball clubs’ desire to buy players. He states that the point shouldn’t be to buy players, the point should be to buy wins. And to get wins one needs to get runs.