How to develop a strong elevator pitch

Learn how to quickly and easily convey who you are and what you do with these tips from small business expert Melinda Emerson.

Melinda Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is one of America's leading small business experts and is a paid contributor for Wells Fargo. 

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Published: September 05, 2013
Updated: January 12, 2017

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TEGAN JONES:

Hi. I’m Tegan Jones for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today, we’re discussing elevator pitches and how they can help business owners quickly and succinctly convey who they are and what they do. Joining me is Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady and author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Thanks for joining me, Melinda.

MELINDA EMERSON:

I’m so happy to be here, Tegan.

JONES:

So Melinda, I hear the term “elevator pitch” tossed around a lot in business conversations. Can you tell me how you would define an elevator pitch, and how you think it can be useful in business?

EMERSON:

Your elevator pitch is essentially your verbal 30-second commercial for basically what you say if somebody asks you, “What do you do?” or, “Who are you?” It’s basically based on the time it takes for you to ride up in an elevator. That’s why it’s about 30 to 60 seconds.

As a business owner, you’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling your products and services. Being able to introduce yourself and explain what you do in any situation can help you gain business opportunities, develop relationships with other professionals, and really just demonstrate what you can offer to someone who’s never met you before.

JONES:

Right. I mean, you never know when you might be talking to your next customer. So what should business owners keep in mind when they’re crafting their pitch?

EMERSON:

Every business elevator pitch should contain some fundamentals. First of all, you should be clear and concise. Highlight only what’s really important for that person to know. Keep your sentences pretty short. You don’t want to overwhelm them with information. You also want to avoid industry jargon and acronyms. Remember, the person you’re talking to will likely not be an industry insider. Make a great first impression. Practice your pitch so that you’re comfortable and you don’t sound like a rehearsed robot. You also want to engage the person you’re speaking to rather than simply talk at them.

Here’s my pitch I use when I introduce myself: “Hi, I’m Melinda Emerson. I’m a national small business expert and best selling author of Become Your Own Boss in Twelve Months. I specialize in helping women start and grow profitable and sustainable small businesses.”

JONES:

That’s a great example – very to the point. So how can other business owners write a pitch that will make an impact in only 30 to 60 seconds? How can they leave that lasting impression?

EMERSON:

Open your pitch with the results you can create for people. People will be interested to know more about what you can do for them if you start by explaining what you’ve done for others. So do so by answering these questions about your pitch: always say your name, title, and any external validation you have, such as being a published author, some specialized education that you have, like if you’re a doctor or lawyer or something like that, or if you’re a 20-year veteran in your industry, definitely say that. These are all things that give you instant incredibility.

Then you want to identify who your target customer is. For example, we work with Fortune 100 companies in the healthcare industry. Highlight the benefits you provide and how your product or service is unique. For example, we are the only U.S. manufacturer of crystal models to teach molecular chemistry. That’s a distinction. If you’re the only manufacturer that does something, you absolutely want to highlight something like that in your elevator pitch. Provide a brief customer list, too. This can add to your credibility and gives you a way to talk about your business’ success.

And finally, always leave them wanting more. Try closing your elevator pitch with a question. Mine is: “Do you have a small business or know anyone who is trying to start one?” Also, casually offer your business card as a way to keep in touch. You might suggest meeting up in a week or two for coffee or lunch.

JONES:

That’s great advice. Thanks so much for your time today, Melinda. You’ve given us some helpful strategies business owners can use to develop a strong elevator pitch.  

EMERSON:

Thanks, Tegan.

JONES:

And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo Business Banking can help you visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime we wish you continued success.

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