The one piece of advice that has stuck with me since earning my MBA in 2014, is that the elevator pitch will make or break you.
You only have a first first impression.
Screw up your elevator pitch and no one is going to choose you, let alone decide to invest in you.
But hit your elevator pitch out of the park like the homerun champion you are – and prospective investors (clients/customers included) will be lining up at your doorstep or show up in your digital inbox.
Nope. No pressure at all.
So then why is it so hard to come up with 60 seconds worth of material that will grab your audience by the ears and make them open their wallets?
Not your typical step-by-step
This article is not going to be a step-by-step on how to write your elevator pitch. There are thousands of pages that will tell you exactly how to do just that.
I help <blank> with <blank> by doing <blank> so they can <blank>
That is an oversimplified statement but that’s the gist of the pitch.
Here are some handy google search links if you are looking for a more in-depth elevator pitch formula:
- “Elevator pitch”
- About 23,300,000 results (0.57 seconds)
- Monthly searches: 27,100
- “What is an elevator pitch”
- About 39,900,000 results (0.96 seconds)
- Monthly searches: 3,600
- “importance of an elevator pitch”
- About 8,860,000 results (0.77 seconds)
- monthly searches: 10
- “how to write an elevator pitch”
- About 8,400,000 results (0.52 seconds)
- Monthly searches: 1000
- “why is it so hard to write an elevator pitch”
- About 7,110,000 results (0.61 seconds)
- Monthly searches: 0
This is going to be an article focusing on that last search result – why it’s so hard to write an elevator pitch.
This article is going to be a step-by-step on how to get in the right mindset to finally write your elevator pitch.
This is also not an article for people who have never had problems selling their vision, or who claim the spotlight as their natural environment when all eyes are on them.
This is an article for people who can’t get out of their own way.
This is going to be an article about how to push through the mental bullshit for those of us who have never sold ourselves before; for those of us introverts who just want to do the thing, wishing the thing didn’t include marketing.
This is going to be an article for those of us who can rehearse and rehearse until we are blue in the face and can spit out our statement verbatim in our sleep.
Yet when the spotlight is on us – we word vomit, ramble, mix up our words, and maybe even blackout.
This is an article to help you get in the right mental headspace so you can confidently tell anyone who you are, why you do what you do, how you do what you do, the problem you are going to solve, and the people you are going to help.
Not necessarily in that order.
So let’s begin.
What is an elevator pitch?
As a refresher, an elevator pitch is only 30 to 60 seconds long. If that.
Imagine you have only an elevator ride with a prospective client or investor and you must sell yourself before the doors open and you lose their full attention.
You only have 30-60 seconds – to pack the most important information in the time it takes to ride in an elevator.
If it helps, think in terms of one tweet of character limits and not one Facebook story.
If you can’t sell yourself confidently and concisely within that period of time – back to the drawing board.
But let’s break this down a little bit more. Elevator pitches are not as scary as our brains try to convince us they are.
Elevator pitches happen constantly in our life. Not just in the elevator or a board room. They happen anytime someone asks, “so what do you do for a living?”
They also happen whenever you are trying to persuade someone to do the thing you want them to do. Or trying to win an argument as to what should be for dinner.
Like persuading your friends to go on a road trip. OR pitching your case to your spouse about bringing home another animal. OR convincing yourself that you deserve that extra slice of ooey-gooey chocolate lava cake.
(side note: you only live once, treat yourself)
Elevator pitches are not reserved for business purposes only.
But when we are trying to get people to spend their hard-earned dollars with us – the anxiety and the imposter syndrome tend to kick into high gear.
It doesn’t matter how passionate we are about what we are doing, selling, providing – when we are reaching outside of our comfort zones – it feels impossible to come up with the right combination of words to condense our often grand ideas into thought-provoking simplicity.
Again, no pressure. None at all.
Why is it so hard to write an elevator pitch?
If you aren’t used to selling your ideas, your product, your services, your business – coming up with 30 seconds of material – let alone, 60 seconds – can be frustrating, exhausting, and paralyzing.
On top of figuring out the words you want to use, you have to make sure it:
- isn’t too formal
- doesn’t ramble
- isn’t too rehearsed
- focuses on the “so what” rather than your idea
- doesn’t neglect your market
- does not lose your audience after the first sentence
With all those parameters, no wonder it can be hard figuring out your USP, your Unique Selling Proposition.
But once it does click – everything else will fall into place. I pinky promise.
Until then, I am not going to lie.
Creating your elevator pitch can be overwhelming, intimidating, and panic-inducing.
Unless you have someone that will find your next clients, you are going to have to learn how to sell yourself. Not your soul, but your self, your idea, your why, and your how.
The moment you start feeling like it might be easier to just quit and give up because imposter syndrome is creeping in, trying to make you believe that you are a nobody and who would buy from you…
Take a step back. Take a moment to breathe. If you can’t get your brain to stop ruminating on figuring out how you are going to position yourself in an often crowded market – force yourself to do something else.
And then come back and put everything on the proverbial table.
Speaking from experience, I forced myself to take a nap. It was the only way I could shut down my brain for a little bit and just relax.
Is the elevator pitch overrated?
In the most simple answer – no.
Did I wish it wasn’t necessary? Yes.
Do they suck to create sometimes? Yes.
Put me in the spotlight with all eyes on me and I forget my body can move.
Basically, I am a deer in headlights, and either I jump straight into oncoming traffic to end it all, or I blackout and hope I made it across.
Elevator pitches are here to stay.
I am writing this because I just put myself through mental hell trying to put my passion to solve people’s problems – into words and then package that into a fancy bow-topped present to put under the Christmas tree.
I had quite a few well-meaning people tell me that I shouldn’t focus so much on my elevator pitch.
That it was just a piece of the pie (and now I want pie).
And that’s true. It is just a piece of the pie. But I am a neurodiverse business owner who needed to figure this piece out before I could do all the things I want to do.
Without it, I felt like I was baking a pie without flour.
I am who I am, and I don’t fault anybody for the need to hyperfocus on a piece of the overall picture.
Because once it finally clicks – whatever you are working on solving – the rest falls into place.
Like where to find your prospective clients or the messaging you need on your website for SEO analytics.
No pressure – but everything rides on your elevator pitch.
OK, all the pressure.
Having a clear idea of what you do, the problem you solve, etc parts the fogs on the sea so you can see where you are going.
When things get tough, and they will when you are running your own business – your elevator pitch is there to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
Much like your personal “why” that helped you decide to open your business, your elevator pitch is your company’s “why”.
I started my own business because I wanted to spend more time with my kids and follow my dreams. But I created my business to help business owners like you – gain the confidence to follow their dreams as well.
Here’s a secret: the cool thing about an elevator pitch – and even about your company’s mission – it is not written in stone. Your elevator pitch – much like your website – is a living, breathing piece of you that has the ability to evolve right alongside you.
As I started building my business and learned more about who I was as a person – my company’s “why “changed 3 times.
And that’s because I crafted the first two versions when I became what I thought the industry needed me to be. I wrote two that were boring. Two that were as sterile as an operating room.
They weren’t me. And because of that – I had zero confidence in telling anyone “what I did for a living.” I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write and get paid to write. But I didn’t know whom I wanted to write for. I didn’t know what problems I was going to help. I didn’t know how to combine my soft skills with my hard skills.
I picked a niche I was told by all the experts was one of the top moneymakers. I struggled to find my good enough’s, the “why choose me’s”.
You have to start somewhere.
You only have a first first impression
Getting it right can mean money in the bank. Getting it wrong means you will be fighting an uphill battle while treading in the deep end – it’s exhausting and I 10/10 do not recommend it.
If anyone tells you that your elevator pitch is just a piece of your overall positioning – they aren’t wrong.
An elevator pitch is the tip of the iceberg.
But if you can’t figure out your elevator pitch – if you can’t summarize in 30 seconds or 2 sentences who you are, whom you help, why, and how – you are walking on shaky ground hoping it doesn’t give way.
The only thing constant in life – is change.
Figuring out your elevator pitch doesn’t have to be as hard as your brain is making you believe it is.
It’s about merging your passions and your customer’s problems.
Easier said than done. I know because I have been there. I spent 4 days in my own mental hell because I couldn’t figure it out.
If you think you know what your customer’s problems are but have never done any research to back those “think’s” up – you may have a feeling, but you don’t actually know for sure.
Go straight to the source. Search Reddit subgroups, Facebook group pages, Youtube comments. Grab their language – read how the people in your niche (or the niches you are interested in) are talking about their problems – their obstacles, their desires, their wishes, their goals, their dreams.
If you can’t put yourself in their shoes – what’s the point?
On the other hand, if you have already done the research and are still not able to come up with 2 sentences – then it’s time to be honest with yourself.
Maybe the niche or the problem you want to solve – isn’t what is in alignment with who you are. It’s OK to change course. Just because the experts say to pick a niche, focus on that niche, and become the expert in that niche – does not mean you have to stay there forever.
The only thing constant in life – is change.
Do not feel ashamed for changing it up, finding what resonates with your soul.
So much underneath the surface and behind-the-scenes, rides on figuring out why the hell you are in business.
Every business decision you make – is rooted in your elevator pitch.
Selling your services – can be intimidating. So it makes sense that when faced with needing an elevator pitch – analysis paralysis can come out to play.
5 steps on cutting through the mental bullshit holding you back
If you are feeling the pressure, finding yourself becoming best friends with analysis paralysis, or just feeling like your current elevator pitch you cobbled together because you just needed to pick something – I have a few tips to help you clear the fog.
- Write down everything you are passionate about, your morals, your values, your traits, your non-negotiables, your hobbies, everything – in keyword format – i.e. psychology, travel, blogging, parenting, mental health, authenticity, etc
When you think you have written everything down, go back and break the bigger topics into smaller pieces. i.e. mental health > depression > youth depression, etc.
- Write a list of things that your family, friends, and clients come to you to get help for – i.e. asking for advice, clarity on a project, troubleshooting, recipes, etc
Go to google trends to see what the strength of that keyword is and then – this is my favorite part by the way – turn it into a competition to see if there is a less broad keyword with a better strength i.e. work/life balance vs Depression vs Mental Health vs self-care, etc
- Throw out the term elevator pitch and just talk about the problem you see and why you want to solve it. Open a new Word document, flip to a fresh journal page – and just write.
Write what you are passionate about, and see if you can solve the puzzle and figure out how they connect. The results might surprise you.
That’s how I came to the realization that I don’t need to keep the different parts of me separate and ended up merging my love of psychology and business and mental health and a helping hand.
- Force yourself to step back, take a break, do something else…like take a nap Humans weren’t programmed to be awake for 12+ hours straight. Naps are our bodies signal it needs a soft restart (I don’t actually know if this is true because I am a storyteller, but it sounds legit).
- Enlist a trusted friend who won’t sugarcoat anything. Have them help you bounce ideas around, or have them listen while you hear yourself talk through “what you do for a living”.
Sometimes it just takes a fresh perspective from someone you can trust who will not steer you wrong. Before the thought crosses your mind, you are not a burden to anyone. Your friends want to help you. So let them.
Elevator pitches are hard. Trusting who you think you are, is hard. Selling yourself, your company – is hard. Recognizing that you are the person your audience needs to solve their problem – is hard.
Hell, running your own business, starting your own business, building your own business – is hard.
If all else fails – believe in yourself. Believe that something will click. That the right words in the right order will come to you at the right time.
If you need someone to help you bounce some ideas around, or just need another ear to help strengthen your shaky pitch – Hire Me. I will be your sounding board, your idea bouncer, and together we will piece 30 strong seconds together.
If you already have a good elevator pitch but the rest of your company messaging is on shaky ground – Let’s connect. I will help you find the squishy spots and together we will create a cohesive, concise, confident – brand story.
In the meantime, Adventure on with Curiosity,
-Kelly Steele, MBA (she/her)