203: The Perfect Elevator Pitch | Master Sales Series

You’ve got your #1 prospect on the phone, what do you say?

George Leith delivers the six components in crafting the perfect elevator pitch, and tells a story of an elevator pitch he created years ago that is still working to this day.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

It’s the Conquer Local Podcast. And we’re in the “Master Sales Series.” We’re knee deep in it. We’re going through various tactics that will make you a better salesperson. And this week’s edition, we’re talking about crafting the perfect elevator pitch. It’s something that’s taken me years and I mean 30 years to come up with the way to do this. And I’ve been constantly evolving this process. And it’s something that, you know, I’ve had the privilege of teaching sales teams all over the world on how to come up with that elevator pitch, those key components that you want to message to the client so that they understand the message you’re trying to deliver. And we’re going to take you through the steps, how to build the perfect elevator pitch. Plus I’m going to show you how to identify your goal and how to practice and edit and edit and re-edit until you come up with the right thing. And then to hold your team members accountable so they know the perfect elevator pitches in your organization. And then I got a great story from Fort Worth, Texas on an elevator pitch that I use that continues to resonate with the people that were in that room to this day. It’s all coming up as we help you craft the perfect elevator pitch on the Conquer Local Podcast “Master Sales Series.”

I remember the first time that I started training a team on what an elevator pitch was. To drive the point home I actually took them and put them in an elevator and we went to the basement and then we went to the fourth floor. And thank God the elevator went kind of slow, because we were able to get about a, you know, a 90-second pitch or a 60-second pitch. The other way that I’ve had this…that I’ve had it presented to me is you’re on a plane and you’re sitting next to the CEO of the company that is your number one target. It is a game changer for you if you can land this deal. And the person actually leans over to you and asks you a question about what you do. How are you going to craft that message to engage that person and to take the conversation to the next level? What an elevator pitch is meant to do is not close the deal. What it’s meant to do is lead to the next steps where you can clearly identify what the opportunity is and clearly identify what the needs are. So I think some people when they’re crafting an elevator pitch believe I got to get the signature on the piece of paper and I need to do it in 90 seconds. That’s not what it is. What it is, is a way of clearly identifying what you’re trying to deliver for the potential prospect. And it explains what you do, and it does it in a compelling way that leads to the next conversation. That, in my mind, is the perfect elevator pitch.

So to say, “Well, I only have one elevator pitch.” Well, then you’re not a very good bloody salesperson because you need to have elevator pitches for various pieces of the sales process. And if you’ve got a very complicated solution, you might need to have 200 elevator pitches to explain whatever it is that you’re trying to talk about. And I think that the person that communicates the message the clearest, if we were to look at Webster’s and what the definition of communication is, it’s not one person talking. So look it up. Go to Webster’s right now, communication, and does it say number one, one person speaking? No, it says giving a message to somebody that they understand. So it involves the person communicating, the person delivering the message and the person receiving the message, understanding what the person delivering the message was trying to say. So that has to be in the back of your mind when you’re crafting your elevator pitch it. If at the end of the elevator pitch, the person on the elevator looks at you and they’re even more confused about what you do than when you started, you have a shitty elevator pitch, not a perfect elevator pitch.

1. Identify Your Goal

So first off, what do you do? You need to identify your goal for elevator pitch that you’re going to build. What are you trying to accomplish with this 90-second little item that you are going to put in front of a potential prospect or customer.

2. Explain What You Do

Then explain as clearly as possible what you do without using too many words. So identify the goal and explain how what you do is going to meet that goal, and then communicate your unique selling proposition.

3. Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition 

So the thing that you have that no one else has that you’re really good at that you can back up with testimonials, that you can just get somebody on the phone that would say, “Yes, that is the…they’re the best in the world at this.”

4. Engage With a Question

And then you want to ask a question inside the elevator pitch. And this is a real art. You want to ask a question that leads to the next part of the conversation. An elevator pitch is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. It’s the piece that hooks the prospect where they go, “Yes, I want to talk to that person more. There’s something here, there’s something in it for me, there’s a reason that I would want to communicate with this person.”

5. Put it all Together   

And then you need to put it all together. And this is going to take practice. After practice, you’re going to throw pieces away. I remember somebody said to me, “You need to edit, edit, and re-edit, and then edit some more, and then maybe throw the whole thing away, and then try it on some people.”

6. Practice!

And so that’s the whole putting it together and practicing it over and over again. You’ve heard me say this. I might have even said it on last week’s edition where I said, I have very strong convictions loosely held. No, it was two weeks ago. But what I mean by that is, yeah, this is the perfect elevator pitch until I write one that’s better. And that might happen in 10 minutes.

So you constantly need to be coming up with these elevator pitches. It really is…I’ve actually started testing in the interview process when I’m interviewing sales reps. And when I go in to do training and sales teams, I sit down with the sales manager and I say, “Let’s talk about some elevator pitches.” And if the sales manager has no bloody clue what I’m talking about or can’t even come up with an elevator pitch, I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me inside the sales organization on teaching them how to do that. But it is a game changer if you can get a team that can come up with a great elevator pitch.

Test Your Team

So here’s the next piece to this, you’ve got an elevator pitch, or you’ve got 10 of them, or you’ve got 12 of them, or you’ve got 30 of them, depending upon what it is that you’re selling, or what your business is all about. What you want to do then, is you want to start testing your team. And the best way to do this is to just put them up in front of everybody. “Hey, Justin, stand up in front of the team and give me the elevator pitch around X.” And Justin’s on the spot, and he’s going to stammer, and he’s going to screw it up, and he’s going to talk about stuff that you don’t even sell and it’s going to prove to you that you haven’t really driven it through the organization.

So this is the key: identify the goal, explain what you do, your unique selling proposition, come up with some sort of a question for the prospect that moves you to the next level. Put it all together, practice it over and over again, and then have multiple elevator pitches for the various items that you’re trying to sell or the various solutions that you’re selling. And then challenge your team at every turn on how that elevator pitch is going. Make sure that they’re using it. If they’ve got something else that they’ve been doing, or there’s something else that has distracted them, they’re just going to go to that. I call it the squirrel. Oh, there’s a squirrel. They’re onto something else. You need to bring them back to no, we have an elevator pitch. We have a message. And this is really important if you have organizations with, you know, in multiple markets with hundreds of sales people. How do you make sure that John over in Wichita has the same sales pitch as Susie in Ballarat, Australia? It’s by getting these elevator pitches together and then training the crap out of it and then measuring what you expect by testing, getting them to deliver those elevator pitches around your unique selling propositions inside the solution.

Fort Worth Example

Let me show you an example. I was working with an organization and this elevator pitch had nothing to do with being customer facing. I use elevator pitches all the time. I practice them to the steering wheel of my vehicle when I’m driving through traffic. That’s where I do some of my best writing. And I come up with…this is gonna be on my pitch today. And I remember I was working with an organization in Fort Worth, Texas. I love Fort Worth, Texas. It’s got that old Texas charm to it. You know, Dallas is very cosmopolitan with [SP] Dallas, but Fort Worth, there’s going to be some horns hanging on a truck in that town. And we’re at Fort Worth, Texas at the Fort Worth Club and we’re working with a newspaper organization. It’s one of my favorite topics. I got a lot of friends in the newspaper space. And newspaper people sell advertising. And if I could do it with a Texas accent, I would. And what I had to do was to come up with an elevator pitch as to why newspaper people needed to be selling something other than advertising. Because they’ve been enormously successful selling advertising. There’s very few organizations that sold more advertising over the years than newspapers. They really had a monopoly on the market. And you’ve got to beat through that, you’ve got to… There’s a wall there. It’s like I’ve been good at this and I’m really good at this and I don’t need… It’s that, you know, the thinking of there’s nothing else that I need to be learning. You’ve got to break through that. You’ve gotta come up with a way to show them that there’s a new way.

But what we came up with in the elevator pitch was I was going to link it to their advertising. What we’re trying to do is get them to sell digital marketing solutions. Sell a website to the customer, sell listings to the customer, sell review response to the customer, sell loyalty programs to the customer, sell them a whole bunch of stuff that’s not advertising. By the way, you’re going to have to train your sales people through hours upon hours of intensive training on how to sell all this new stuff. It might upset the advertising that you’re selling a little bit too, but at the end of the day there’s going to be this pot of money at the end of the rainbow. That was the, you know, in my mind, I gotta somehow get them to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So what we came up with was we were going to tell a story that would make their advertising work better. The way that they fed their kids was with advertising. So if we can come up with a way to make that advertising work better… And the other thing that I knew for a fact was that salespeople were under attack on every call after they sold some advertising. And I’ve been on these calls, it’s not pleasant. You go into the client, and they say, “Yeah, that $2,000 I gave you for that advertising, I don’t really know if it gave me any ROI.” So I knew that that was a point of pain for the group that I was speaking to. And we came up with this elevator pitch, and it was all about we’re going to make the advertising you sell work better. It’s probably one of the more successful elevator pitches that I’ve ever crafted because to this day, and I know the folks that were standing in that room, they still use it. They still use it when they’re talking to people that sell nothing but advertising. They have, you know, drank the proverbial Kool-Aid on it. But the reason that they drank the Kool-Aid was we communicated a message to them that struck them, it hit home. Sometimes if you can find the pain and you can solve the pain, that’s where you get the most effective elevator pitches. But the other piece too is if it’s something that just made a lot of sense. So really crazy ass elevator pitches like the one Elon Musk came up with when he was going to tunnel under Los Angeles, when you first hear it you’re like, “Well, that’s a crazy thing, the Hyperloop.” But if you’ve ever been in Los Angeles traffic, you think of the Hyperloop, you’re like, “That’s genius. Let’s build that tomorrow.” So the elevator pitch that you’re writing has to come up with solving the problem and then lead to the next pieces.

The Fort Worth Pitch:

So here is the elevator pitch that I crafted to solve that problem that I was facing in the client call.

You know, you folks have sold a lot of advertising, I have as well, I’ve been in the advertising business for about 30 years selling print and radio and pounding the pavement just like you have. And, you know, one of the things that I know is we’re…our teams are coming under attack. When we go out on a sales call to go see a customer, the first question that we get or the first statement that we get is, “The advertising I bought from you isn’t working as well as it used to.” And the problem actually isn’t our advertising by the way, it is the customer’s problem because they’ve got broken listings, they’ve got reviews that aren’t very positive, and they’ve got a website that’s a horrible experience, takes forever for it to load on my phone. And there really isn’t a good virtual doorway around that business. And what I like to do with the solutions that we’re talking about is flip that call on its head and say to the client, “You know, what we’ve discovered and doing some research around your business is that you have a listing problem, people can’t find you.” Well, first, let’s back up a little bit. Those of you standing here right now when you see an ad what’s the first thing that you do? You do some research isn’t it? You don’t just walk into the store blindly. You do some research to see if they’re open or if the traffic is going to be pretty thick, which I know it is here in the Dallas Fort Worth area and you can’t quite get to the store that has the product that you’re looking for. So you just go somewhere else.

So there are various things that happen after the advertisement has done its job, driven top-of-mind awareness inside that research phase that’s blocking the sale. And what we need to do, rather than teach our sales people how to pivot around that conversation of advertising doesn’t work, is give them some new tools inside their toolkit so they can fight against that and help the client so that the advertising works better. Imagine if they could go to a customer and give them a solution and say:

Here’s all this advertising, it’s just going to work better because you have a better virtual doorway than your competitors. The other thing that we want to do is to tell those clients that if they don’t do it, the competitor might, and that competitor of theirs is going to gobble up all the advertising that they spent for their business. Now that’s a compelling story. I can make your advertising work better and I can make your competitors advertising work for you. If you just do the simple things: listings, reviews, social media, by the way, I’m gonna take care of it all for you and send you a report every month that it’s working. 

So that is the elevator pitch that was used about four and a half years ago with a group of individuals at the Fort Worth Club that now continues to resonate because I’ve heard those individuals use a variation of that presentation even to this day.

Final Thoughts

So that’s just an example of an elevator pitch that was written. It was written on the fly, because up to that point, I was dying on that sales call. I’m gonna give you a recommendation of a book that I read that has really helped me in writing messages that resonate with the audience. And it’s by the Heath Brothers, Chip and Dan Heath, it’s called “Made to Stick.” I highly recommend it for anyone in the sales business and anyone in marketing. If you’re trying to come up with a message that resonates with an audience, you need to get it to stick. And the Heath Brothers tell some great stories. You know, one of the best stories is the person that wakes up and they’re in a tub, ice all around them and they’ve got stitches in their side and they’re missing a kidney. It might of happened, but it’s an urban myth, it’s a story that resonates with you that you remember, it’s made to stick. And that’s what our elevator pitches need to do. They need to stick with the prospect so years after years they’re still communicating that message.

I hope this has been helpful. We are striving and the “Master Sales Series” from The Conquer Local Podcast to help conquerors all over the world become more effective sales people. This edition has been all about coming up with the perfect elevator pitch. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.