325: The Art of the Elevator Pitch | Master Sales Series

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A powerful Elevator Pitch can be magnetic. If it’s engaging enough, you can sell anything – whether it’s a product to a client, an idea to an investor, or convincing an employer that you’re the right fit.

We held a live Elevator Pitch competition at Vendasta headquarters. Our astonishing host, George Leith, was one of three on the panel of judges. We bring you the eight elevator pitches from the competitors, and George provides feedback on each. Who do you think will win? The objective of an elevator pitch isn’t to close a deal, but to convince someone that you have something worthwhile to offer! George’s career in sales and marketing spans more than three decades. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people across the world at conferences and through seminars, helping businesses to overcome their difficulties and transform them into digital sales and marketing experts.


Introduction – Elevator Pitch Championships

George: Well, if you are a regular listener of the Conquer Local podcast, probably sick of hearing about me use the term elevator pitch, but I believe that the elevator pitch is one of the key components to being a successful communicator. Can you take a complex concept and articulate it in the time that it takes to go from floor number two to floor number six? And the concept is you arrive on an elevator and you’re standing next to the prospect that you’ve wanted to close for years. The CEO of that company that is, if you were to get the deal, it would change your life. So there are high stakes and now you have to very clearly in an elevator pitch, get the opportunity to speak more about your concept. So we had the opportunity to bring in some individuals in a pitch competition recently and we had a lot of feedback from listeners of the Conquer Local podcast saying, “Is there a live stream? Is there a way that I could consume this information? Can I see the pitches and see the judges’ feedback?” So today, we are going to dissect some of those elevator pitches from our live pitch competition a couple of months back. Dissecting the elevator pitch, coming up next on the Conquer Local podcast. 


Pitch One: Optimizing Social Media 

George: I know you’re waiting with bated breath to hear the subjects that we will be judging. And I actually was told after the live version of this that I was too nice, so maybe we might change that up. Let’s start with our first presenter, Tannis Miller.

Doug: What’s your elevator pitch on the subject?

Tannis: It’s about social media and not being awkward and off-side like a lot of people are.

Doug: Can we give her countdown officially to start her clock? Three, two, one.

Tannis: Hey, would you shake someone’s hand while picking your nose? Obviously not but I mean, first impressions aren’t even made that way anymore, but you very well could be picking your nose online and not even know it. Hi, I’m Tannis. I’m the social media expert and marketing strategist at Downtown Saskatoon, and I’m basically paid to scroll for a living, okay? So I’ve seen it all. That’s why I’ve created Bevvies and Branding. It’s a super Instagramable niche event at local hotspots, where I show you exactly how to navigate the waters of social media etiquette because first impressions are truly made online these days. I mean, it’s true, you wanna rock your dating life, you go to Bumble, right? You wanna make your old high school flame jealous? Probably Facebook. Social clout? Instagram is there, you start with that. Okay, so Bevvies and Branding is kind of like if.

Doug: Thank you Tannis. 

George: Well, that’s Tannis’s shot at her elevator pitch. Let me tell you about the things I liked. I liked the opening hook. I like the thing that she said around the picking, and you’ve got my attention now, because nobody wants to pick their nose, either in public or online. The second thing is, she gave me a reason to care right after that, where she talked about what her experience was and she’s a social media expert. When I was listening to this and I don’t have the ability now to see Tannis delivering the message, I’m just listening to the audio, did you kind of get the feeling that Tannis was like every YouTube star that you’ve ever watched? Where they’ve got this thing and her tempo and her tone, her delivery was the same? Stanza after stanza after stanza. Some of the tempo I liked, but the fact that she wasn’t changing it up, kind of got me to the point where, if you keep singing this thing to me because she kept always going with a rising inflection when she was trying to deliver her points. It’s, Brent, our sound engineer and I, we’ve worked together over the years, it’s something that’s a bit of a pet peeve. The other thing was, her timing was off. And I think that a little bit more practice and I can almost tell that she practiced with herself, and didn’t use either an audience even if it’s four or five people just to get the feel of an audience or to get some critical feedback from somebody. But I’ll tell you one thing, as far as opening hooks are concerned and giving me a reason to listen, I think that she did that as well as anybody else. Getting the timing wrong now, that’s something that you know you’ve got X number of seconds is one of the key deliverables of the elevator pitch, you pretty much need to get that right. And one of the other no-no’s of an elevator pitch and I think this is just a deal-breaker, when I’m doing the elevator pitch and I’ve got that CEO, and I’ve got him for five floors, I do not have time to go into my bag and pull out a script. Plus, it’s gonna completely get us away from what the elevator pitch is all about. So know the value proposition of the message that you’re trying to articulate, keep it super simple and please don’t use a script. 


Pitch Two: Solutions Through SPILT, Social Problems In Live Time

George: So our next contestant, in the pitch competition is a student from the beautiful capital of Saskatchewan, Canada. And she’s gonna talk about a new social media platform that she’s thought about thoroughly, please welcome Nola.

Doug: Countdown, three, two, one.

Nola: I’m Nola Olukayode and I’d like to share with you my new social media platform called SPILT, Social Problems In Live Time. How many times have you searched on Google for advice, and you find an old blog with generic feedback with no real-life example but with SPILT, your questions, your social problems are answered in live time. Through people posting their personal experiences with the problems they have dealt with as well. On my app, posts are posted anonymously, why? Because 34% of Canadians feel, don’t like posting because of the fear of online harassment or judgment or backlash, that’s why I created SPILT. A way for an outlet for people to share their opinions without judgment through this app.

George: All right, our student from Regina, Saskatchewan, Nola, contestant number two in the pitch competition. Here’s my overview. I thought that she was not bad for preparedness. There’s a bit of an issue with the timing. So let’s go back to what we just talked about with Tannis, you pretty much have to get the timing right. She was nervous, which is okay to be somewhat nervous. It’s quite an intimidating situation, one of the keys that we brought forward on those nerves and I’ve experienced it as well, a number of times, I think if you’re not nervous, you’re not understanding what the, you know, the severity of the gravity of the situation is. You’re in a room, a couple of thousand people, a bunch of them are customers, might be customers, you gotta get that right. But by breathing, and you notice that Nola was searching for her breath, it’s actually a really easy way to get even more nervous because now your body is like, “I’m in peril,” you stop breathing and now you just look even more nervous. So by just taking some really deep breaths at the beginning of the presentation and before we even get up to stage, that your body is ready to breathe. And then during the presentation, taking some long breaths after you to deliver a key point, so you’re in the middle of the elevator pitch, you wanna deliver a key point like, “32% of Canadians say they don’t wanna put their name against something online because they’re afraid of being bullied.” I love that data point because now she looks like she’s done some research around this. And keep in mind what the goal is, is to learn more about this social media platform. There was enough in there, she could have just probably come up with a slam line and been done and dropped it and we would have had it. But I think she was going too far and explaining something that’s quite complex. She could have just talked about that problem. The problem is, is most people don’t want to ask questions, look stupid, get bullied, blah, blah, blah. I’ve come up with an anonymous network that will help you to solve that problem. I think that she might have had a winning delivery if she could have hit the time and kept it really simple in articulating her complex idea. 


Pitch Three: Financial Planning to Reach Goals

George: Now, on to contestant number three. And let me tell you in the preliminary rounds, I thought this was the guy to beat, ladies and gentlemen, Tre, our wealth management advisor.

Doug: Three, two, one.

Tre: So I’m a financial planner, I’m a certified financial planner, and I work with people typically in their ’30s and ’40s and they have high income but with that high income, $200,000 plus as a household comes a lot of big goals, a lot of big dreams, and I get the privilege of helping them meet these goals and these dreams. Unfortunately though, the biggest mistakes I see people make isn’t to do with investment advice, it’s to do with cash flow management, and how they manage their monthly expenses. So what I do is I provide the place for my clients to explore their cash flow and work out how to help themselves now and how they help themselves in the future and meet these goals. Then once we have cash flow management down and perfected, then we switch to a more traditional advisor relationship, one with investments but with the caveat of education. I think education is so important and it’s something that my industry misses, so my personal goal is to make sure that all my clients understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and all the options.

George: Well, listen, how do you feel? You just listened to that elevator pitch, are you willing to go for coffee with Tre, to see if he can help you? And that’s the question at the end of the elevator pitch is are we willing to move to the next step and here’s what I liked. I love the fact that he clearly articulated a problem that he knows how to solve, he also knows that this problem is an important issue with a larger audience. He’s setting, he’s sending the lead out there, he’s putting the hook out in the water saying, here’s the problem that I’m able to solve, here’s the length of time that I’ve been solving it, here’s the path that I take, would anybody like to grab this hook? And looking at the response from the audience and looking at the way that he stood there with, and we had the ability to listen to him here, but when I was able to see him live and in person, he stood with a lot of confidence. Tre is one of the front runners in the delivery of these elevator pitches from this competition, great work. 


Pitch Four: Food Truck Wars Festival Searching for an App

George: And up next, one of the guys that I thought was a front runner from the preliminary rounds, I wanted him to do so well. Here is Rick Mah, let’s see how he performs, telling us about the Food Truck Wars Festival Corporation.

Doug: Three, two, one.

Rick: I’m the founder of Food Truck Wars, soon to be Saskatchewan’s largest food festival. And I’m looking for a partner that will develop a software application that we can use at Food Truck Wars. The application will be designed to have the 100,000 festival visitors be able to vote for their favorite food vendor on their mobile phone. The benefit of that application is you get to own that application, that’s yours. You have instant credibility with the Food Truck Wars name behind you. Now, all of a sudden you can market that application to other festivals. I can’t think of any food festival that wouldn’t want that as part of their festival. I also organize the YXE Beer Wars. So right away, you can have.

George: Well, Rick Mah, an early favorite in the preliminary round and way better in the preliminary round but guess what happened at about 10 seconds into that elevator pitch, you could just sense he tensed up. He started to psych himself out. He started to look in the eyes of his audience and start to doubt his message. I think that he had a very clear message from what I saw in the preliminary rounds but there was a moment in there where he completely went off-script. He had lost the message that he was trying to deliver and then the timing went out, started to wonder whether he actually believed in it. I think the idea is simple enough. We’re gonna bring all these food trucks, we’re gonna have a festival, it’s gonna be great. We’re looking for a partner that could develop the app, they might have an opportunity of selling it to other food festivals around the country but you just notice, you just feel him, the doubt start to creep in. The nerves start to creep in. He really psyched himself out about 10 to 12 seconds in and then the entire train went off the track. So know the thing that you’re trying to communicate, practice it over and over again, have something go wrong. You’ve heard me on this podcast talk about when you do a presentation and you have a slide deck, the projector broke, now you still have to do the presentation. So, just an example there with Rick of where he was able to get in his own head and ruin what could have been an amazing elevator pitch. 


Pitch Five: Big Brothers Big Sisters Making a Difference

George: Up next, contestant number five, Colton Wiegers, speaking about Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Doug: Three, two, one.

Colton: I’d like to tell you about something I’m really passionate about called Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s a program aimed at creating mentoring relationships between adults and youth in our city. I’ve been involved for almost seven years now, matched with my little brother Darian since he was only six years old. He’s an only child, with a home to a single parent. And since I’ve been matched with him, he’s moved five different times. It’s new homes, new schools and new friends. My relationship with Darian has taught me how important it is for kids to have a mentor in their life and something that’s stable and there and constant. Since I’ve been matched with him, I’ve realized that, oh man, being matched with him has. There are 250 kids in Saskatoon waiting for a match right now, girls on average wait six to 12 months and boys two to three years. Any one person can make a difference.

George: Well, you know, I was there when Colton was delivering that message. And here’s something that can happen from time to time and let’s think about the, so elevator pitch. Yeah, you’re on the elevator with the CEO but let’s talk about other times when you’re speaking about something that you’re super passionate about and that you’re gonna get emotional. And I’ve always brought it back to, you know, one of the toughest speeches to deliver is a eulogy. Especially if you’re super close to the person that passed away. And when you watch somebody deliver a eulogy, sometimes they will get emotional, it’s totally, it’s gonna happen, so my thing is just own it. You know this is something that Colton is super passionate about. He’s been working with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He’s got this little brother that he really cares about, and he got emotional. And the good news was the audience helped him push through, and the feedback that I gave him at the end was that he pushed through and he finished it. Now he went overtime because he got emotional; he got off track. But also keep in mind that emotion is an amazing way to deliver a message that you truly care about. You want to have some emotion in there if it is something that you’re hoping that will, will touch the emotion of the audience. So you may want to move that elevator pitch in an emotional way but you just gotta be ready to recover from it, so that you can be vulnerable and show the emotion and then recover from it to deliver your final message. I think that if he would have come to that emotional moment, paused a little bit, let it marinate with the audience, and then deliver something that he had practiced over and over and over again. It’s called, if I start to get emotional, say this line. And he would have hit the one minute post on the whole thing and delivered an amazing elevator pitch, which would have left people in tears. That would have been a cool result to this. And I talked to Colton quite a bit after the presentation and he’s ready, if he ever delivers that message again, which he’s promised he’s going to do, because he’s very passionate about it, to get to the emotional moment because that was an amazing moment. He’d explain the concept that he was trying to articulate and then go to the training that you have, which is when I get emotional, pause and deliver this final line. And even if there were some tears, or even if he was choked up a little bit, and it was just one thing that he wanted to finish the presentation with, I think he would have nailed it. 


Pitch Six: Adventure Academy Exploring Mystery

George: Our next presentation comes from an experienced speaker, in fact, an actor and I know this because I saw him do a murder mystery, and he wants to talk about how he could bring that murder mystery and escape room experience to your home. Next, we have Kevin Kermack.

Doug: Three, two, one.

Kevin: Hello, hello, hello and my name is Kevin Kermackand I’m a teacher by day but that’s not what I’m here to talk about, no. I’m here to talk about my company Adventure Academy, and I have a very important question for you: do you want to solve a murder? Because with me, you can do that. In one single night, we combine the thrill of the murder mystery and the escape room experience, we put them together for a fun night. You can solve puzzles and riddles to figure out which of your friends is a cold-blooded murderer. But why should you care, money of course. I’ve been doing this for the past year and a half and I’ve made money and well money is pretty nice. And I’ve done it through both public and private events. In terms of public I’ve done it out of Mana Bar and Bartari and King me, in terms of a private event as lately as, Vendasta’s own Christmas party and coming up in two weeks, I’ll be doing a gender reveal party, you know, what better way to find out if it’s a boy or a girl? Through someone dying. But really why should you invest because social gaming is on the rise.

George: Well, there’s Kevin Kermack, pretty easy to see that he’s comfortable in front of an audience, of course, he’s a teacher and he does this murder mystery thing on a regular basis. I did get to see him and his colleagues on stage delivering the murder mystery shtick but let’s talk about his presentation. Let’s talk about that elevator pitch, and let’s talk about some of the feedback that was given to Kevin. I’m not really sure what he was trying to tell me. Was he trying to get me to come to a murder mystery? Was he trying to get me to be his partner and sell more murder mysteries? Was he kinda, did he want me to murder people? I don’t know what the thing was that we were talking about. Number two, is there such a thing as too excited? So I’m not sure but there were moments in there, I was like, I don’t know if this is as exciting as you’re coming across because everything that you delivered, every line was really exciting. There was no contrast to it. And producer Colleen is holding up our sign, that she holds up numerous times during podcast recordings saying, “Slow down.” And moments there, listening to Kevin, I wanted to use the same sign on him, slow it down. Now, when he wanted to deliver the message, cold-blooded murderer, he did that, stopped, let it marinate and then moved on to the next one. So there were some moments of greatness in that delivery. I think he was comfortable in front of the audience but I think some more work in editing the message, re-editing how simple he has to make it to get to the next stage and then removing that tempo that after and I have the, I was able to see him do a murder mystery; that’s the same tempo that he used the entire night on stage. So it’s deliver the message with this tempo. Deliver the next message with this tempo. Deliver, it was very similar, it was very similar to Tannis. She does it with the sing-songy up thing at the end, he does it with the I’m super excited and everything that I do is amazing and exciting. So, our feedback to him was a more simple message. I love the humor, that was great. Maybe tone down the excitement a little bit so that the things that you really are excited about, people go, “Oh, that’s exciting.” But when everything’s exciting, then nothing is exciting. 


Pitch Seven: Rediscovering Retired Athletes’ Life Purpose Through growYXC.com

George: On to presenter number seven, it’s Tara. And Tara was one of the people when I saw the preliminary rounds that I was like, I think this is one of the best elevator pitches. Let’s see how she does in front of an entire audience now, not just in the preliminary rounds, she’s in front of 250 people; the spotlight is on; there’s been a bunch of other presenters that have got hacked up by the judges and here comes Tara.

Tara: Are you a retired athlete? Since you’ve retired, do you feel disconnected, stressed, unfulfilled and exhausted? Do you want to reconnect with the qualities that made you a great athlete? I help retired athletes rediscover their life’s purpose, and I do this by helping them to be accountable, to create alignment with their mind and their body, to develop a lifestyle practice and to create a system to achieve your goals. My method stems from a combination of self-awareness tools, spiritual philosophies and science-based wellness concepts. My name is Tara Tse, I’m an exercise physiologist, strength coach, yoga teacher and holistic coach. I have a master’s in Business Administration, a bachelor’s of Science in kinesiology and if you’re ready to align your mind and body, to rediscover your life’s purpose, you can find me online at growYXC.com. I look forward to helping you navigate your journey.

George: So I’ll go back to the question I asked earlier on Tre’s presentation, do you wanna meet with Tara? Do you want to learn more about how she could help you the way that she’s helped other people? Let’s look at why that was a great elevator pitch. First off, she got super nervous. So you can tell that there are nerves in there but she continued to push through because she had a very clear message that she wanted to articulate, you can tell that she practiced a lot. And she had those moments where she might have been searching a little bit as to where she was going and her practice took over. You wanna get to a point where you could just deliver it without really thinking about it, because you may be thinking about the next thing that you’re about to deliver, so I like the fact that she told us the problems that she solves. I like the fact that she gave us a reason to care. And she said, you know, here, master’s and whatever. And she’s got all this stuff and you’re like, “Wow, she’s really good,” and then she talked about her business and if you would like to communicate with me more, so she put it back in the audience’s hand, saying, here’s my entire message; here’s my value proposition; here’s who I am and what I loved was at the end, she said her name again. It is no coincidence the way that professional broadcasters and communicators and speakers will have some sort of a slam line, some sort of a finishing line that becomes a part of their personal brand. And hers was growYXC.com, I’m Tara Tse, her name. And she also talked again about how, I’m a growth and personal development services coach. She did that a couple of times, it’s called structured repetition. She had it in her opening value proposition where she articulated the problem she solves, and then brought it back home at the end so that we remember that. Keep in mind, she was pitching for one minute, we barely even are gonna remember her name. I don’t really remember about holistic coaching from that, but I do want to learn more about Tara and the fact she could help me grow personally. That was the message that she wanted to leave. So great elevator pitch from Tara.


Pitch Eight: Artificial Intelligence Becoming a Digital Sales Consultant Through sMedia

George: And on to our final elevator pitch. I’ll give you a little bit of background on Lee Clark. I actually used to work with Lee and coached him a number of times on his delivery, so I had high hopes. He’s now moved on to another SaaS Company and is working in their sales department. He is going to give us the elevator pitch for a company called sMedia.

Doug: Three, two, one.

Lee: All right, quick question. Who here woke up this morning thinking, man, I really hope someone’s gonna sell me a car? No hands, perfect. All right, so we know that 87% of people dislike some aspect of shopping at a dealership. So what’s that mean? Well, consumers are shopping online, and they’re doing so anonymously. So dealerships know that they want to market to these anonymous buyers but how do they do it? Well, lucky for you, sMedia has a solution. So what we’ve been able to do is we’ve been able to develop artificial intelligence that can tell you how likely someone is to buy a vehicle based on what they’re doing online. Now, not only that, we also developed an engaged prospect metric that can tell you which campaigns you’re running today are effective, and which ones aren’t. So at the end of the day, we can become your digital sales consultants and help you sell more cars and excuse me but this is my floor.

George: So let’s dissect Lee’s presentation, you can tell that he presents on a regular basis, let’s pretend that I’m the sales manager and Lee is on my team, and I’m gonna give them some feedback. First off, be humble, so that the drop, the mic drop at the end of it, it wasn’t humble at all. And I think that if you’re a really good salesperson, and you’re good at presenting, you need something to kinda take away that, the audience thinks you’re arrogant, or that you’re a blowhard or whatever it might be. So, sometimes I’ve seen presenters that use some self-deprecating humor or something like that to make themselves feel real. The other piece of feedback and Brent sitting across me knows exactly where I’m gonna go with this, shoppin’, yap, yep, hey, doin’, runnin’, for, not fur, on your cat or your dog, I mean for as in I don’t, I didn’t pronounce for correctly. What are you doing? I just, I don’t get it. It’s a matter of cleaning that up a little bit and removing some of that slang because you listen to Lee’s presentation, he’s talking about artificial intelligence and how they’re improving the car buying experience. And that company has, they’re on a rocket ship; they are building something that’s really cool, that is benefiting lots of different customers but when you’re listening to the delivery of the message, there are just some simple clean up there that I think would have made it sound a little bit more professional. And maybe it’s just the broadcaster in me, and I know that if you’ve listened back, “George, you say yup and yep and hey,” and when we listen back to it, Producer Colleen whips me on those and we try to remove those, it’s just a matter of cleaning up the presentation a little bit. So first off for Lee, a little bit more humble would have been great. Number two, clean up the slang, so it sounds like it is artificial intelligence. You’re like, this thing’s all buttoned up. And then the last piece is, I love the hook, asking the question at the beginning, “How many of you woke up today and said, I wanna buy a car?” Talks about the problem that the solution is trying to solve and I think that it was, it really appealed to the entire audience, whether they were in the car-buying market or not, they’re like, “Oh, I wanna listen to this.” So by cleaning up some of those other components, Lee would be able to have a little bit better elevator pitch in explaining his solution. 



George: So those were our eight presenters in the very first-ever pitch competition, and it was one of the most successful events that we’ve had as part of our Ideas on Tap series. And it’s interesting to see that different walks of life of people that want to try their elevator pitches and what I heard from all of the people that presented, they were looking for that feedback and some of them were like, “You’re not even being critical enough.” Well, I don’t wanna make you cry but we’re gonna come back in a moment and give you the results from that first-ever pitch competition after these messages.

Colleen: We are counting down the days to Conquer Local 2020. It’s the must-attend conference for companies selling digital solutions to local businesses. This year we are driving growth, two days before the start of the Canadian F1 Grand Prix in Montreal. Our keynote speaker, co-founder and former CRO of HubSpot, Mark Roberge. At Conquer Local, you get to learn from an incredible lineup of industry thought leaders, network with our most successful partners, vendors and Vendasta experts and participate in hands-on workshops and leave with concrete takeaways that you can implement in your business strategy. For our loyal podcast listeners, we want to give you $300 off your ticket, with promo code, podcast300. Book your tickets today at conquerlocal.com

George: All right, drumroll, please. Let’s go to the audience, [they] were the ones that picked this. So the judges got to give our feedback and then the audience got to vote on it and the audience voted for first runner-up, Tre Bynoe from TCU Wealth Management. And the winner of the first-ever pitch competition, and we’d love to hear the feedback from you in the community if you agree or disagree was Mr. Lee Clark from sales at sMedia.com. When we first talked about doing this event, I was pretty excited, and then I got even more excited speaking to the various presenters. There were a number of people in the preliminary rounds that didn’t make it to the final round. And it was interesting, it didn’t matter what the business was all about. We have wealth management, we’ve got students that are aspiring software folks, we’ve got Food Truck War organizers, we’ve got financial benefits folks, we even have a substitute teacher, and they were all looking to improve their elevator pitch. It is one of the key cornerstones to delivering a message. It’s not just the sales thing, by the way, it’s delivering a complex message in a simple manner so your audience can understand and move to the next level. Thanks for joining us on this edition of the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.