Whether they're looking for money, customers, employees, suppliers or partners, entrepreneurs are always pitching. But they sometimes have only the length of time it takes an investor to guzzle a martini or a potential partner to ride an elevator to interest a prospect.

The point of an "elevator pitch" is to get your prospects interested enough in your company to get their card or refer you to someone else who might be. You don't need to reel them in; you just need to get them on the hook. Here are 10 ways to make sure your pitch gets a nibble from a big one.

  1. Be Concise: An elevator pitch is a clear, concise and well-practiced description of your company. It must be delivered in the time it would take to ride up an elevator - in other words, no longer than 60 seconds. That's time for about 150-225 words.
  2. Solve a Problem: Avoid sounding like a solution in search of a problem. Explain how your unique solution fills a "must have" need. If you aren't solving a problem or filling a need, you're in for a tough sell.
  3. Tell Them What They Want to Hear: Describe your product or service and its benefits succinctly. Depending on your audience, you may also have to:
  4. Speak in Plain English: Talk in tangibles, not abstractions, throughout your pitch. Bring it down to the man on the street. Even if your product is complex, you'll lose your audience if you use MBA-speak or technobabble.
  5. Grab the Listener's Attention: You might try developing a tagline to pique interest, something enticing that captures the imagination like It's not TV. It's HBO. Or, make an analogy between you and a well-known company. We're the Yahoo for teens is a good, short way to say that you're trying to create a search engine/directory/web portal for teenagers.
  6. Ask Qualifier Questions: To ensure that you're targeting the right person with the right message, ask a couple of questions.
  7. Tailor Your Pitch to Your Audience: To investors, the pitch focuses on your team and how you plan to make money. To customers, your focus should be on the problem you can solve for them. Potential partners want to know what you're building, why it's important, and why you're going to be a success.
  8. Show Your Passion: A good pitch makes your heart race. Show the fire in the belly and your passion to succeed.
  9. Conclude With a Call to Action: Always end your pitch with a call to action, but recognize that different audiences prompt different requests. You might ask friends and acquaintances if they know anyone who would be interested, anyone who's working on something similar, or anyone who's working in the investment world. On the other hand, ask angels and VCs if they'd consider investing. In many cases, you'll ask if they'd be willing to set up a meeting or speak by phone. If you're really in an elevator, offer to walk straight back to the office to talk more.
  10. Tell a Consistent Story: Make sure that your managers and other key individuals, such as investors and board members, can also give your company's elevator pitch fluently. Nothing sounds worse than fumbling, inaccurate or contradictory company descriptions.

Prepared by: Geri Stengel, president of Stengel Solutions, is a business strategist who writes business plans for growth companies. She can be reached at 212-362-3088 or geri@stengelsolutions.com. For more tips check out www.stengelsolutions.com.

Copyright 2001 Stengel Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

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Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2001 11:47 AM