If your elevator pitch is simply a way to pass 2-3 minutes talking about how great you and your company are, I would say that the answer to “Do you really need an elevator pitch?”, is NO.

This may well contradict traditional sales thinking, however, the trouble with an elevator pitch is they quite often miss the mark. However, if you can master the art of telling compelling stories about the benefits other customers have gained from your product or service, and those benefits are tied to the outcomes your intended client is hoping to achieve, then like Charlie’s great glass elevator, you will have lift-off!

Why traditional elevator pitches don’t work

1) Hands up who likes being sold to?

Imagine you’re at home one evening and the door or phone goes and a salesperson is trying to get you to change your broadband provider, they instantly hit you with a pitch, one you didn’t ask for. You are most likely very unreceptive to this approach. The first reason is it is an intrusion on your time. The second is that they have tried to control you. They employ tactics to keep you on the phone and in pushing their message are only interested in getting your money. They most likely offer you cheaper broadband even though you really aren’t interested. This goes on until you politely end the call.

2) They sell the wrong benefit.

In the example above, as someone whose business needs good internet connectivity and speed, the approaches I get are mainly around price. In fact, the aspect of broadband I am least interested in is saving money, the benefit I am looking for is having comfort that I can rely on my service provider to maintain a dependable level of connectivity. If the conversation started with uncovering what is important to me, perhaps they could sell me the right benefits of their service.

3) They are too generic, like the “about us” section of your website.

Here are some phrases that will make your client cringe: We have strength in depth; We have 50,000 people; We are global; We have leading experts, etc. etc. Your client’s either thinking that sounds expensive, or more likely, “so what?”

How to tell compelling stories tied to your prospective customers’ needs

The first thing you need to do is understand what’s important to them. In relation to your product or service you need to understand what outcome they are hoping to achieve. In short, what benefits do they want from what you have to offer? To be clear on benefits within business, they come in three key areas: Time; Money; Comfort.

Once you understand what they are looking for, then you can tell them a “three-part story” of where your company has previously delivered the same benefit to someone else before. These “three-part story’s” follow the format below:

1. The Need

“Our client / customer told us they were looking for X…”

2. The feature

“What Bob and Sue from our team delivered was Y…”

3. Benefit

“The client told us that in this project / or from our product they saved time/money or got comfort from the work that we did. (Benefits are typically time, money or comfort in business.) This helped them to achieve their objectives of…”

To get this approach to work, you’ll need to get feedback from your customers so you know the benefits that you have delivered.

You’ll also need a bank of stories, your own and your colleagues that relate to all the different types of benefits. If you do, then you won’t need an elevator pitch but will be able to articulate a winning story linked to what your target client wants to achieve.

Ben Paul is a coach, facilitator and mentor, and the director of The Business of Trust New Zealand.

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