What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Well, probably not much. But I can put my own twist on it.
You’ve probably heard and read a ton of stuff on 30 second commercials, or intros, or elevator pitches, or whatever kitschy name the latest “it” sales blogger has coined. Truth is, some of it is probably awesome material. But my approach to sales and business is like Bruce Lee’s to martial arts; study it all and then create your own form that works for you. And so I encourage you to do the same.
Let’s break it down. What are the key elements? What will make it effective? How should you put it together? And finally, how should you deliver it?
But first a story:
I watch a fair amount of Shark Tank and have gone to my share of pitch events etc… I really have no interest in getting funding, however, if someone came along and wanted to cut me a huge check and the deal was right, who knows. That said, I had a dream one time that I was in line behind Mark Cuban in Home Depot. Don’t ask me why Mark Cuban was at Home Depot, that’s inconsequential. The point is, I told him I would love to talk to him about business sometime and he said “Ok” and gave me that expectant look signaling “Alright, you’re on. Here’s your shot. Pitch me!” I froze. I started babbling. I tried, in vain, to build rapport. And as you can imagine, he was impatient, unimpressed and walked away with his bag full of fasteners and the corpse of my dreams in his plastic Home Depot sack.
I woke up in a cold sweat and started working on my elevator pitch immediately. Never again would I be caught with my pants down in a once-in-a-lifetime situation.
So how do you structure your pitch? How do you make it appealing and memorable? Well, here are some tips in no particular order.
- You may have multiple 30 second commercials. Write different variations for situations like being in front of an investor, being in front of a potential client, being at a networking meeting where there is no interaction (think leads group), being at a networking meeting where there is interaction (think happy hour). Each one of these will have a little different nuance to it.
- Understand your ideal client and what their needs are. Create your messaging with them in mind. Brainstorm what their biggest pains are. Remember them. Be prepared to work those pain points into your 30 second commercial. If you have a couple different ideal clients, be sure to remember pain points for each client and be ready to be quick on your feet.
- Get the other person to talk first if at all possible. Ask them what they do. Engage them in conversation. Not only does it give you an opportunity to show genuine interest in another person, it allows you to do some recon work about their business and tailor your 30 second commercial to hit ‘em right between the eyes! Imagine you’re selling credit card processing services and you find out they are the owner of a gym. When they ask what you do you can say “we specialize in recurring payments like membership organizations and health clubs.” It gives you the opportunity to laser target their pain points.
- Kick it off with a question and make good use of emotional words. For instance, in our previous example of selling merchant services, it’s not that sexy and it’s fairly commoditized. So throw a question out there. “You know how frustrating and time consuming it is as a business owner to handle recurring billing with all your clients? Well, my company solves that problem with easy to use software and a user-friendly interface that empowers your customers.” The question should be something you already know they have issues with. You’re not asking because you’re curious. You’re asking because you know it’s a pain point for them and it will get them engaged.
- Get to the point! And don’t use a bunch of industry jargon! If you can’t explain it in 30 seconds, your business is too complicated. Many a wise person has said, if you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself. So dumb it down and make it quick. If you do ever get the chance or challenge of pitching someone in an elevator, you’ll want to spit it out in a clear and concise manner.
- Memorize your 30 second commercial. You should be able to rattle it off at will, any day, anytime, anywhere. It should be automatic. You should be able to think about your grocery list and what time you have to pick your kids up and where you want to go on vacation next, all while reciting your 30 second commercial like it was the pitch of your life. Practice your speed, tone, tempo, voice inflection etc… It shouldn’t sound canned, rehearsed and uninspired. It should be enthusiastic and full of life! People are drawn to passion. Have a zest for your business and people will respond to it.
- Why does your potential customer care? They want to know what’s in it for them. What problem are they dealing with right now that you or your product or service solves? Make it all about them. Don’t do a features and benefits vomit session all over them. Use what you know about them and give them what they want. Solve their problem.
- Finish strong! That doesn’t necessarily mean close the deal. I mean, let’s be real, even Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross couldn’t close a dude in 30 seconds so what makes you think you can?! The goal should be to pique interest. To entice someone to engage you in further conversation or to accept a follow up call. You’re not getting them to sign on the dotted line. So close with a question to engage them. Again, going back to our payment processing example “I’m sure that’s not something you have any issues with is it?” I love this format of question for two reasons. A) It gives them an out and as such it is non-threatening. B) If you prepped well and listened to their needs/pains, you are going to hit them with something that absolutely is an issue and they will be wanting to know more.
- Iterate. This is a living document. Practice it, refine it, revamp it, feel free to experiment. Do what works for you. At the end of the day, people will remember the way you make them feel and how passionate you are. The actual words are secondary or tertiary.
I'd love to hear your tips and tricks for making your 30-second commercial memorable. Post in the comments! What has worked for you? What hasn't? Are there other ideas that you'd like to add? The great thing about the world we live in is we can crowd source answers to things like this and come up with the best version possible! Go get 'em!