Catch me in the lift...

Catch me in the lift...

Ah, the “elevator pitch”. Probably the most over-used phrase of the last few years – everyone talks about it, but very few can do it. As a CEO I was ‘pitched at’ countless times. Those who caught me in the lift generally wanted to talk about improving my processes, integrating my systems or the technological breakthrough they had brewing. Did I care about that stuff? Absolutely not. What kept me awake at night was my bottom line, improving productivity and increasing revenues - everyday challenges for the average CEO.

In five years not one person came to me with a pitch that told me how their company could improve my bottom line. While many New Zealand start-ups are developing world-class technology, they can’t get through the door to customers and investors because they are trying to sell “what it is” as opposed to “what it does”. I didn’t really care about the solution. If your offering to my company was compelling enough from a business perspective then I would have found a way to implement it.

Let’s go to the elevator.

Firstly, learn to articulate your pitch from a business perspective. I don’t care about your product or the whiz bang technology that drives it. I care about whether YOU can help my business do better – which means making it more profitable. Can’t do that, then my door will remain closed.

How do you put “the business” into your pitch? If you have customers – talk to them. Ask what finally made them decide to buy your product or service. When you have a consensus on whether it was more cost effective to operate, cheaper to buy, saved them money or simply enabled them to make more money (and believe me, it will be one or a variation of these things) then use that as the basis for your pitch.

If you don’t yet have a customer, then tell your story to someone who understands how a business works. You need them to articulate back to you what you are doing and how it will improve a company’s bottom line. Then test their view with your business partners and some prospective customers.

What you come up with should be easy to say – don’t use big words. Easy to understand – test it on your parents or your kids (if they get it, everyone else will). And above all, make sure you get someone’s attention when you deliver the last line.

To see what I mean, take:

Acme Company has developed this really cool product that can solve all the logistical needs of your courier company. It’s far better than anything else in the market as it has all the bells and whistles, is scalable and does a whole lot of additional things that will answer every need you have.

And change it to:

Acme Company manufactures a logistics system for courier companies. It tracks not only your trucks and their loads, but every single box, packet and envelope contained within that load. This is proven to significantly reduce the costs arising from misdirected goods and maximises your profit on every single run.

When you analyse the “pain” you solve for your customers, you should be able to identify one or two key benefits that will improve almost every prospective customer’s bottom line. That is the key to your pitch.

Once you have 30 seconds that works don’t keep changing it – you can tweak it for different audiences, but the essence should remain the same. Make sure every single member of your team can give their variation of the same pitch and that you all use it every opportunity you get; at a barbecue, the supermarket, other people’s sales presentations, on your website, at the airport, to your bank manager. It is very much like stealing a kiss – the unexpected opportunities that come your way will often be the most productive. You can’t plan for when it will happen – but you need to be prepared for when it does.

An effective lift pitch: • Start with your company name • In the first sentence state what your company does eg:

Builds software solutions for….

Manufactures a hand-held device for….

Is an IT Service provider specialising in…. • In the next sentence deliver your unique business benefit(s):

Smart application that will…

Enables you to…

Creates the opportunity to… • In the last line state how you will improve the bottom line for your customer:

More cost effective than competitors…

Improves productivity, making more profit for less cost…

Opens up a whole new market…

This is the first in a regular new guest editorial piece by former Reseller News publisher Bob Pinchin. He is now director of, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email:

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