On simplifying your elevator pitch . . . for success (with a nod to Michael Katz)

At a small, socially distant networking event recently, I encountered two entrepreneurs, with two different entrepreneurial approaches, to offering the perennial “elevator pitch.”

Both entrepreneurs knew the importance of word-of-mouth marketing and were doing their best to introduce themselves clearly.

One of them, a financial planner, kept his “elevator pitch” to one sentence. But it was a sentence with at least three clauses (i.e. naming the major services he provides and for whom). The other person, a professional coach, used a simpler, single clause description of how she works to increase her clients’ sales.

As someone who likes precision and detail, I sometimes struggle to be succinct, myself. Until recently, my own pitch needed simplifying! I revised it, knowing the reality that, as marketing consultant Michael Katz says, “a one sentence description of anything meaningful will necessarily be an oversimplification.” 

Instead of dreading this, solo professionals need to work with it. In our world-of-mouth, entrepreneurial culture, the choice you have is to tell your prospect every kind of service you can offer (which will be forgotten immediately) OR to oversimplify.

Since an elevator pitch is intended to invite the listener to reply, ask further questions and potentially discuss a sale (of some kind), a single sentence is all you need. Oversimplification is necessary.

Everything else gets lost.

The same holds true of promotional emails and letters of introduction, in which an entrepreneur is sometimes tempted to sketch out a whole project. (That too will be experienced as over-kill and be immediately forgotten!)

“I help professional speakers close more sales by writing their marketing materials more effectively” is a good elevator pitch.

But “I help small and medium-sized businesses to do A; I help newcomers to Canada to do B; AND I tell stories about how companies do C“ (a version of my own elevator pitch) will only cause your prospects’ eyes to glaze over. Prospects shouldn’t have to take notes when you introduce yourself. 

It’s a best practice to keep your elevator pitch simple, so that it will invite your prospects to share a conversation, not summarize everything that conversation could (or could not) address.

And now it’s your turn: What is your elevator pitch and does it simplify your product or service for your prospects? What results have you seen?