Why elevator pitches don’t work

Posted 29 April 2024 by John Dashfield

It might sound as if I’m in a grumpy mood, but what prompted me to write this piece was reading an article published by work management platform Asana. It said:

“A good elevator pitch can be the difference between landing your next big opportunity or falling short of the competition.”

Really? Does this stack up? Let’s find out.

What is an elevator pitch?

The idea of an elevator pitch is that you have a pre-prepared, pre-rehearsed, and compelling summary of your product or service.

And you would use it whenever someone asks you what you do.

I was told that the original idea of the elevator pitch came from the tech world. The story goes that if you were to get into an elevator with Bill Gates or someone of similar standing and they asked you, “What do you do?”, you would reel off your brilliant pitch.

At this point Mr Gates gives you his card and says, “You’d better call me.”

I have never heard of anything remotely like this ever happening to anyone. Have you?

Does pitching work?

You could be asked about what you do in a whole variety of situations.

For instance, when you’re networking. This could also include times when you’re required to give a short pitch or description about you and your business.

I attended weekly breakfast networking groups for over ten years. Every week you were required to give a short pitch to the other members.

It was true that some people had created some very clever hooks and ways of presenting their business.

Yet does a clever, engaging pitch win you business?

I remember Michael Neill, the successful coach and author, telling a story about randomly bumping into someone he went to school with. They shared what they were up to now and the guy mentioned he had won the world elevator pitch championship. I know, it’s hard to believe there could be such a thing, but apparently it’s true.

Michael asked him how much business this amazing pitch had won him. The guy said actually none, but winning the championship had resulted in some business!

Should you spend time creating an elevator pitch?

I’m not against having some ways that you can describe what you do. So, putting some thought into this can be time well spent.

Yet is it what really matters?

My experience is that the first thing a client buys is a relationship.

Therefore, the most important thing is first establishing a real human connection and conveying trust. Without these the relationship is going nowhere.

Is this best achieved with a snazzy elevator pitch?

For me, the answer is no.

This is because every person you meet, and every situation you’re in is different, so you’re far better off simply responding in the moment.

How? This could be in a whole variety of ways. It may include sharing what you do in a way you had previously thought up. But equally it may not.

What tends to be better than trying to be interesting is being genuinely interested in people and finding out about them.

But that’s my view. What do you think?

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John Dashfield

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John Dashfield