The idea behind an elevator pitch is simple: You happen to be in the same elevator as a dream prospect. You have sixty seconds to gain the prospect’s attention. What should you say?
The pitch you make needs to be well prepared and rehearsed. You need a succinct six-sentence summary of your customer value proposition, and what you are asking for.
What are the six magic sentences?
- Hook: You need a one-sentence hook that will catch the prospect’s attention. Your business idea may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it needs to matter to the prospect. It needs to be conveyed in terms that appeal to the prospect. You may enjoy chocolate mousse, but if you plan to go fishing, you will catch more fish with worms as bait rather than the finest Swiss chocolate.
- Need: What problem is your customer trying to solve? A customer needs a quarter-inch hole, not a quarter-inch drill bit. People want to build a home or a driveway, they do not want to buy cement, per se. Step into your customer’s shoes and feel her pain. Then describe that pain in the customer’s terms.
- Approach: How are you alleviating that pain? Are you going beyond merely a faster or cheaper solution? Do you have a substantially better way to solve the problem? Vinod Khosla, ex-partner at Kleiner-Perkins and now founder of Khosla Ventures, looks for 10x solutions: solutions that are 10 times better than what is currently available in the market. When I was VP of marketing at Corvis, a Kleiner-Perkins funded startup, Vinod pushed us to think big. Don’t just be slightly better than the competition — be an order of magnitude better.
- Benefit: Most entrepreneurs think in terms of features. What matters to the customer is the benefit. What customer benefits does your solution provide in customer’s own terms? Most car buyers don’t care how many cylinders a car has, or whether or not it is turbocharged – but they do care about having enough power to pass safely and to have an enjoyable driving experience. Always describe the benefit in terms of how it meets user needs, and not in terms of product features.
- Competition: Why are the benefits you provide better than those of the competitive offering? Customers have choices. You need to be able to connect with the customer in terms of a substantial competitive advantage. Just being slightly cheaper or faster is not going to cut it. A customer needs a significant reason to switch brands or solution providers.
- Ask: This is the most important piece many entrepreneurs forget. What are you asking for? Make it short and memorable. “We are seeking $1.5 million in first round funding” is a better way to state your “ask” than just saying, “we are currently raising our first round.”
Once you have written down these six sentences, practice delivering your pitch until it becomes second nature. Seek feedback from your colleagues and mentors. Iterate until you have the perfect pitch. Now you are ready for that chance encounter with your dream prospect.
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