The Elevator Speech

By Jack LaRue

An elevator speech is a description of your business that you can rattle off in thirty seconds or less, which is about the amount of time you'd have if you found yourself sharing an elevator with a sales prospect or key decision maker. And no matter who you are, you need a good speech.
Your elevator speech is a vital tool for introductions at networking events, cocktail parties, conferences ‒ anytime you have an opportunity to talk about your business. It should capture attention quickly, be memorable, and leave your audience open to asking for more information.

Selling Your Services

Not everyone who needs your firm's services is ready to buy right away. In fact, most buyers proceed through a series of stages before ultimately deciding to purchase from you. First, they must:

  • Recognize they need what you have to offer. 
  • Develop a sense of urgency. 
  • Be aware of your firm. 
  • Realize that your firm can solve their problem. 
  • Remember your firm's services when they finally become ready to buy. 
  • Determine that your firm's services meet their needs. 
  • Find it easy to buy from your firm.
‒ Barbara Bix, Principal of BB Marketing Plus
You can have a slick website, a beautiful brochure, and an impressive logo, but if you don't have a well-thought out and practiced elevator speech, you're missing one of the most important (and least expensive) sales and marketing tools out there.
Designing a Well-Crafted Elevator Speech
Mark Twain once wrote, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." It's a challenge to write a compelling description of your business and the key benefits you offer in thirty seconds. That's why you need to think it through carefully. Most good elevator speeches are made up of four key components:
  1. Who you are. This is the easy part. You give your name and the name of your firm.
  2. What service you provide. Give a brief description of the service(s) you provide. It's important to keep this brief because it's still about you, and prospects really don't care about you. They really just care about themselves and their business.
  3. Who your ideal customer is. You may be tempted to say everyone, but you don't serve everyone equally well. You're looking for a descriptor that potential customers can either relate to now or aspire to in the future.
  4. How your customers benefit from your services. This is the most important part of your elevator speech - what benefit your customers will get. It must be expressed in the customers' terms.
Here's an example of a reasonably well-constructed elevator speech based on the above:
"I'm John Smith from Smith and Jones Accounting. We provide a full range of accounting and tax services for small and midsized businesses that want to grow and increase their profits. We work with our clients to set aggressive but achievable financial goals and meet with them at least quarterly to review their progress. Last year, more than two-thirds of our clients fully achieved their financial goals."
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you've constructed your elevator speech, you need to practice it. You want to ensure that you're comfortable telling it, that it rolls of your tongue with ease. You want to sound confident and sincere. 
Once you have your elevator speech written and rehearsed, try it out. Feel free to tweak it as you see fit. Just make sure you stick to the thirty-second maximum time. And remember, if it's only about you, the response will likely be a silent but deadly "So what?" But if you can talk about the benefits that you deliver to your customers, the response is more likely to be the magical "Tell me more." 
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About the author:
Jack LaRue is the senior vice president, myPay Solutions, at Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.

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