Quick! If you had 20 seconds to convince a venture capitalist that your business is worth investing in, could you do it?
You never know where you could meet your next investor – or how much time you will have to share your company vision without coming across as a used car salesman. This is why it is important to master, not only, your elevator pitch, but also your ability to deliver it without sounding like you’re trying too hard to sell yourself.
Knowing what to say and how to say it could help your business identify – and cement – important connections. Here are five proven tips you can use to improve your elevator pitch.
1. Do your homework.
The basis for a good elevator pitch is knowing your audience. What is important to the person you’re speaking to? What information will resonate with your listener?
Hundreds of books have been written about the psychology of influence, persuasion, and how to make your networking pitch sound natural. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; look into the different approaches to learn in-person marketing tactics that work for you and the psychological process that are associated with them.
2. Write it down.
Outline your company overview on paper and read it out loud. Does it roll of your tongue easily, or are you stumbling over the “jargon”? Does it sound like something you might say in an actual conversation?
You don’t need to have a perfectly-rehearsed pitch, but you do need to show you understand every aspect of your business, in a manner your audience will understand. Have a couple of basic bullet points in your head that you can refer to when discussing the possibility of a collaboration or investment in your company, but still be able to keep the tone conversational enough so as to not make your pitch sound too buzzword-y.
A good rule of thumb is to approach the conversation as if you were talking to your grandmother over tea. If she can understand what you’re saying, it will be palatable to a wide audience.
3. Practice your pitch on friends and family.
You’re probably familiar with the adage — practice makes perfect. Enlist the help of your friends and family to help you role-play potential networking situations and encourage them to provide honest feedback.
How would you describe your business or product to someone you’ve just met – and you’re not sure of their industry background or knowledge? How would that conversation be different that one with someone who you’ve been trying to crack for a long time? Work out these kinks with family and friends to ensure that you build the confidence necessary to deliver it when you need to.
4. Always keep a business card on-hand.
That 3×2 piece of paper in your pocket could be your most powerful asset, believe it or not. Reserve a place in your car, be it the glove compartment or trunk, to always have business cards, as well as all related networking materials, on hand.
Giving someone a business card is a stress-free way to exchange contact information. And oftentimes, a business card can break the ice to a bigger conversation such as: “Oh, you have offices in San Jose and Austin? How did you decide to expand there?”
5. Make your elevator pitch personal.
Pitching a product to someone the easy way (through phone or email) is hardly the best way. Not only are emails extremely easy to delete by nature, they keep the transaction highly impersonal and forgettable.
Make the effort to meet a prospective investor in person, especially for a first-time interaction. Putting a face with a name can only help your cause!
While these tips can help you gain more confidence while pitching your business, the most important thing to remember is to be genuine. Take advantage of opportunities, even if you’re taking the night off. Knowing how to pitch someone your idea in any situation — without turning them off — will remain a valuable asset in your personal toolbox.
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Jennifer Friedman is the Chief Marketing Officer of Small Business Legal Solutions at Wolters Kluwer, which include the CT and BizFilings brands. Jennifer has a strong track record building brand awareness, acquiring customers and growing revenue – nationally and globally – with big brands like American Express and Time Warner Cable, as well as at startups including TOA Technologies and Clear (a biometric-based identification program for airport security).