Is your elevator pitch ready?
Sometimes you only have a few seconds — for example, the length of an elevator ride — to make a good impression. Can you summarize your business and its value to a potential customer confidently and quickly? If not, you need to work on your elevator pitch.
Follow these steps to get the attention of prospective business connections.
Plan your pitch: The first step is to figure out what you want to say. An effective elevator pitch doesn't just tell people what you do; it tells them how you can help them. Don't say "I own a bakery." Instead say "I can make custom decorated cupcakes for your next reception that your customers will never forget." Follow it up with proposed next steps and contact information like "Drop by next week for a free sample at our store at the corner of Main and George."
Test your elevator pitch with friends and family: The idea of trying to persuade someone you've just met into becoming a customer can be intimidating. Test out your elevator pitch with friends and family first. For example, tell Uncle John about your latest business venture at the next family get-together, or ask a friend to listen to your pitch and give you feedback.
Attend a "speed dating" style networking event: A lot of cities now have networking events that are set up like speed dating events. You have a short period of time to get to know the person sitting across from you, and then you move on to the next person. These events can be a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and practice your elevator pitch.
Customize your pitch: If you have a bit of time with someone, ask questions first to help you customize your pitch. You'll show interest in the individual and you can gather intelligence to tailor your pitch accordingly. For example, if you own an organic farm, your pitch to a busy mother of four should be different than your pitch to the top chef at a restaurant featuring local fare.
Practice makes perfect! If you only attend one networking event per year, you might end up stumbling over your words. Attend events regularly and make a habit of introducing yourself to new people whenever you get a chance. You never know when you'll make an important business contact.
Check out our section on Sales and customer relationship management for more tips on creating the right message for your business.