How To Not Suck At Your Elevator Pitch

Jul 23, 2021
Author: collin stewart

Have you ever created a great product, ensured it had all the latest integrations, and it  has even won awards, and then you get asked the dreaded question, “so, what does your company do?” 

You launch into your elevator pitch, but the response you get in return is just a dull stare, or a deadly silence if you’re on the phone. In addition, everyone on your sales team is saying something different, and it’s affecting your demos, cold outreach, and your company image.

Rajiv Nathan, aka RajNATION, Founder at Startup Hypeman, has always been obsessed with communication in its various forms. For the past 5 years, he has been bringing his hybrid background in marketing, branding, sales, and entertainment to build and deliver presentations that stand out to an audience and stand apart from the competitors. 

It’s fair to say that a potential prospect doesn’t normally walk up to you and say, “tomorrow I’ll come back to hear you talk about your company, and yes I’m giving you a 24 hours heads up to practice it”. You have to be prepared, even on the spot, and have a pitch ready that you can deliver effectively. 

When you pitch your product or service, you might immediately start worrying about that 60 second limit we usually impose on ourselves, not knowing what to say, and just generally not feeling eager to do it. I will bet anything, most salespeople have felt this way at some point in their careers. 

So how do top revenue professionals craft an elevator pitch that turns heads and gets customers, partners, and stakeholders to say, “wait, tell me more!”? 

Man sitting on a desk having an online meeting with a woman

THE POWER OF HAVING A VOICE

Rajiv believes that everyone deserves a voice, and the power of having a voice. This will then  influence how you come up with your company’s strategies, your elevator pitch, and your business communication.  

Rajiv’s background includes being a hip-hop artist, a yoga instructor, a professional announcer at Emcee, and doing a lot of work around messaging development and pitch development at Startup Hypeman. Coming from such a mixed background, he explains that we must start looking at messaging from an artist’s perspective.  

I think (messaging) is one of the most important things to focus on, and it gets glossed over all the time…You have to say something that lights up a part of their brain…I think most companies fail at it, and that’s probably why a lot of them actually fail (overall).

-Rajat Bhargava, Serial Entrepreneur, Co-Author of The Startup Playbook

It’s fair to say that your product won’t mean anything without a compelling story. 

BUILDING YOUR STORY STACK

Your elevator pitch unlocks a scalable narrative for your company, which is key for your company’s growth. Rajiv makes the observation that companies get by on a good product for a little bit, all of the sudden, they have 50 to 100 employees, and then everyone in sales is saying something different, nobody has a clue about the value proposition, and every new person they add, just muddies the water more and more. 

So you want to have a scalable narrative? Rajiv has built his framework for scalable narratives based on what he calls a Story Stack. This includes different layers of messaging that your company leverages.

Think of it as your mix-tape. What you will see here are all the different tracks on your tape, and the elevator pitch is track #1, which sets the tone for the conversation. And then, you pop that mix-tape into your boom box and it plays your company’s soundtrack loud and proud.

That’s what a scalable narrative does for your company, and you can’t get it without first figuring out the elevator pitch. And as Rajiv puts it, understand that it’s more than just the networking interaction, it’s about how you present your company. Whether it’s utilizing it in your cold email strategy, or using it in your demo calls to give prospects an upfront understanding of what your company can offer.  

WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK? 

A lot of salespeople feel like they’re just not getting the right message out. We know we care about the end goal of making a sale, creating economic impact and driving revenue. And we know it’s important, but we’re still feeling tongue tied. So what’s holding everyone back from delivering the right elevator pitch? 

Rajiv calls it the messaging treadmill

The idea behind this is, that whenever salespeople make an effort to work on their messaging, their elevator pitch, they take one step forward and one step back. And the one step back is for one of these 3 reasons: 

  1. Too in the weeds: to think about how you would talk about this to someone who has never heard of your company/product before. 
  2. Too technical: you know the product very well but you’re not clear about the right communication.
  3. Too caught up in the day-to-day: you’re being pulled in a million different directions, so it’s really hard to sit down and think about the messaging strategy.

THE MINDSET SHIFT TO DELIVER AUTHENTIC AND DIFFERENTIATED MESSAGING 

Stop thinking like an executive, stop thinking like an entrepreneur, stop thinking like an SDR or an AE, stop thinking like a CEO or CMO and start thinking like an entertainer instead. 

An entertainer is concerned with one thing, and one thing only: making their audience feel something. They create an emotional connection with them and are able to move them. 

An entertainer has their set-list that guides them and helps them create. And they curate that set-list by thinking, “How do we make the best connection with our audience? How do we get them buzzing?” Having a set-list allows for the random guitar solo, or freestyling on the spot. They know what they’re working off of. 

And that’s what you’re trying to do here with the elevator pitch, create your own set-list. A musician won’t play every single song in their catalog at a concert. An actor might cut lines out of their script if they’re not fulfilling the larger story they’re supposed to get across that takes away the feeling they want the audience to have. 

This is why Rajiv urges you to start thinking like an entertainer, create your own set-list that will get your story across and meet your audience where they are to break through. 

Blue neon sign that says "what is your story?"

THE SUPERHERO POSITIONING STRATEGY™

You have to look at your company as a superhero. And what do superheroes do? They help and save people from something. Does your company help and save a certain subset of the market from something they’re experiencing? 

Rajiv likes to take Batman as an example of his superhero strategy. Batman didn’t have any cosmic abilities, he was just a regular person who combined his access to capital with technology to serve the public good. 

If you’re familiar with the comics or the movies, then you know Batman will put on his cape and come to the rescue, whether a bank is being robbed or the Joker is blowing up things. He will always save the day.

But what you will never see is a perfect day, people having fun at the park with their kids, taking their dogs for a walk, without a care in the world – Batman does not swoop in and go “I’m here to save you!” –  in that deep, almost eerie voice of his. 

If he did, people would definitely get a totally different impression of him. They would wonder who this creepy dude in a cape is, and hide their children and dogs in fear. 

This is exactly what so many companies are doing. They are trying to swoop in and save Gotham City from a sunny day. But the city doesn’t need saving. So if you’re Batman, you need to find a Gotham that actually needs saving first, before you come in with your pitch. 

So the Superhero Positioning Strategy says that in order for a superhero to exist (ie. your company and your product), there has to be 3 things in place first: 

  1. A person in distress
  2. A village on fire 
  3. A superpower 

The combination of these 3 elements will allow you to swoop in and save the day!

And just in case you wanted it In business language:

  1. Your target audience
  2. Their core problem
  3. Your approach to that problem 

And ultimately, your solution

This framework is vitally helpful towards figuring out not just your elevator pitch but all of your messaging. By emphasizing the damsel in distress (your target market), and the village on fire (their core problem), what you’re effectively doing is allowing yourself to get into a communication mode where you provide context for your superpower (your business solution). Above all, don’t forget to lead with empathy. Empathy is key for this entire equation. 

THE QUE PASA ELEVATOR PITCH™

The Que PASA Elevator Pitch, is Rajiv’s most powerful formula when it comes to communication. If you don’t know any spanish, “que pasa” translates roughly to “what’s up?” or “what’s happening?”. 

Problem: looking back at the previous analogy, why is the damsel in distress? 

Approach: the company’s ultimate brand promise 

Solution: description of the product or service and the benefits it provides

Action: call to action – what do you want them to do? 

This is actually a great formula for your home page, you can map out your entire page based on this formula. In that case, your call to action would be something like “click to request a demo” or “click to book a meeting”. 

When you’re on a call or in person, it would definitely be weird if you finished your statement with “click to learn more”, but you might want to just ask a question in that space, like “has that ever happened to you?” 

By following this formula, you’re guaranteed to lead a more empathetic conversation with your prospects and not become the weird, creepy Batman that tries to save Gotham on a sunny day. 

If you’d like to learn more about Rajiv’s elevator pitch strategies, watch the replay to his live workshop here. 

DON’T MISS THE REST OF OUR WORKSHOP SERIES WITH RajNATION!

July 29: How To Not Suck At Personalizing Cold Emails

August 26: Demo Calls That Don’t Suck (brand new training!)

Sep 24: Sales Presentations That Don’t Suck

Save your spot, it’s FREE! 

Did you know 82% of SDRs are responsible for way more than just prospecting?  

We teamed up with Bloobirds and surveyed over 75 SDRs to get behind-the-scenes insights straight from the source. Inside this report, you’ll find benchmarks and relevant trends to guide you as a fearless sales leader. 

Get the full report!

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