Better Elevator Pitches

You meet a prospective client at a networking event and they ask you “so, what do you do?”

You know you have about 3 minutes before they move on and mingle, but you really do want to leave an impression. But what do you say? This is where your “elevator pitch” comes in.  Proverbially, the elevator pitch is supposed to take place in an elevator but that rarely happens. More typically, you use an elevator pitch when you run into a potential customer at a conference, trade show, or social event and you have a brief period to convey what you can do to assist them.

So, let’s go back to the first questions; you manage to meet a prospective client and are sharing a drink with them and they ask “so what do you do?”

If you reply “I’m in sales” or “I work for ABC,” the conversation will devolve into social chit-chat. Instead, if you have prepared one, now is the time to you use your elevator pitch to move effortlessly into a conversation that might eventually lead to a sale.

The elevator pitch consists of three parts:

The Benefit. The reason the customer might want what you’re selling.
The Differentiator. The reason the customer might want to buy from YOU.
The Query. Where you ask for a meeting with the customer, if the customer shows interest.


1. The Benefit

Don’t think that the benefit is the product that you’re selling, its not. The benefits is the positive result or effect or impact that your product could have on the customer’s own business.

For example, suppose you’re selling an app based inventory control system for small businesses,  a piece of software that helps retailers keep track of their stocks.

That description is what you’re selling; it’s not the benefit. The benefit must be something specifically and directly relevant to the customer’s business, ideally with a financial metric.


“We sell inventory systems.” (That’s not product, not the benefit)
“We sell inventory control systems that save you money.” (Benefit OK, but not specific)


“Owner-operator retailers use our system to reduce theirstocking costs by 50%.”
“Businesses hire us to streamline their stock holdings, saving on average fifty to a hundred thousand dollars.”

2. The Differentiator

This is where you briefly explain what makes you or your firm different from everyone else. If there’s no differentiator, you’re selling everyone in your industry, not your product. Without a differentiator, there’s no particular reason to buy just from YOU.

Strong differentiators should contain a fact that is independently measurable rather than unsubstantiated claims or just opinions. Differentiators don’t refer to your emotions, which are irrelevant to the customer.


“We’re industry-leading and best-in-class.” (Says who?)
“We can save you money faster than the competition. (Says who?)
“We’re excited about providing you with best service!” (Who cares?)


“We have a patented app that works with your system and ensures your stocks are delivered the day they’re needed.”
“The Business Times says our App holds the industry record for the most money saved by retailers.”

3. The Query

The worst mistake you can make in an elevator pitch is trying to get an order. It’s way too soon for that.

Companies wont change what they are doing just after 2 minutes with you. They won’t think of spending money without having a few meetings, usually with a range of people involved.

At this point, all you want is that first but all-important fact-finding meeting, where you can assess the customer’s needs and mutually decide whether you can meet those needs in a cost-effective way.

Why can’t you just take the guy aside there an then and have a discussion where you can find out whether you can benefit them. That’s great for you, but probably not good for the customer as you’re at a social gathering, remember. Your first step is to schedule a real business conversation, which means it must take place where actual decisions are made.


“Here’s my card. Give me a call if you’re interested.” (Failing to ask for a follow up.)
“I can send you a quote, now.” (Asking for the business too soon.)


“Maybe we could run some numbers on the benefit to you. When are you available? Is Wednesday morning or Thursday afternoon more convenient?”
“Great, you seem  interested, what’s the best way to arrange a meeting?”

If you’ve got a strong enough benefit, and if your differentiator makes sense, you’ll probably get the meeting.

Three last points- as you are typically in social environments, keep your elevator pitch conversational. Aim to sound like a colleague or a consultant, and not a fast-talking salesperson. Remember to keep it simple. No technical jargon as it will confuse the customer. You’re here to get a meeting not to impress the guy with your vocabulary. Finally, write your pitch down, and practice it in the mirror until its word perfect. Think of a few benefits and differentiators to use on different types of potential customers.

With practice, your elevator pitch can win you new customers wherever and whenever you might bump into them.