Everyone Needs a Finely Crafted Elevator Pitch

To say every company needs an elevator pitch sounds cliché, but you never know when one of your employees will be standing next to a potential customer. You need to ensure they know how to express your unique value proposition when they only have seconds.

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[caption id="attachment_11335" align="alignright" width="110"]Jennifer Anaya, vice president of marketing, North America, Ingram Micro Jennifer Anaya, vice president of marketing, North America, Ingram Micro[/caption]


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By Jennifer Anaya

Do your family and friends know what you do? If you’re like me, when asked by an unsuspecting friend or family member they probably say something like, “…something with computers.”

We in the industry like to think everyone knows what we do and how we do it. We create entire business value propositions around quality, reliability and expertise based on this presumption that everyone in our organizations also know what we do and how we do it.

The challenge is your people know too many things about what your company does. There’s a high chance your people could consistently say something in layman’s terms other than a brief “we work with computers” or “something to do with the cloud.”

Conveying the right message is an essential part of your business success. Employees -- from the CEO to the receptionist -- must be able to give a consistent elevator pitch at a moment’s notice. You never know when you’ll have a chance encounter with just seconds to tell your story and capture the interest of a would-be buyer.

Intel has an interesting approach to value storytelling. They call it 30-3-30: You must be able to tell your business value proposition in 30 seconds, 3 minutes and 30 minutes. These are the average times any person has to pitch their business or product to a would-be customer.

For the average person in your organization, the 30-second increment is probably the most they’ll ever have to tell your story. This makes the fabled elevator pitch extremely important to hone and imprint on every employee in your organization.

A few years ago, Ingram Micro’s Marketing Services Agency conducted an experiment in developing elevator pitches for a solution provider. The process required steep introspection of what people in this organization thought of their business and discovering how well-developed their value proposition was. We learned a lot from the experiment. Here are a few lessons.

  • Create a video of what your employees think your value proposition is. This fun exercise will reveal a lot about what your people think your company’s value is. Walk around the office with a smartphone and do short, 30-second videos with random people. You will hear amazing things about what people actually tell others about what your company does.
  • Do the same exercise with your customers. You would think customers have a firm understanding of what you do, as they are the ones giving you real folding money for your goods and services. But they’re probably not fully aware, and their perceptions could help you focus your elevator pitch. Moreover, getting customers to understand and pass along your value prop to others is extremely important in word-of-mouth marketing and sales.
  • Soul-search on what you do best. It’s easy to say you work with computers, or you provide IT services, or you’re a SMB specialists, or you’re a certified Microsoft Gold partner. These are not deep enough. Your value is defined by what you do that no one else can. Ask your customers what you do that they couldn’t get or buy anywhere else, and you’ll start to hear some themes.
  • Keep it simple and get to the point, fast. When crafting an elevator pitch, ask yourself: “What is the one unique thing I want to communicate about how my company servers customer needs and produces better outcomes and high returns?” This is more than what certification or vendor partnerships you have; it’s about describing something as unique as your fingerprint.
  • Train everyone on your elevator pitch. A value statement or elevator pitch does no good if it’s a secret. Make it a part of the employee orientation and annual training. And make it fun; perhaps even do a contest on the best pitch master. An elevator pitch doesn’t have to be dry and static; let people personalize it so they don’t sound like robots.

It almost sounds cliché to say your company needs an elevator pitch. But think about what your people will say about your company when they’re standing next to a potential customer -- the benefits of this exercise become crystal clear. The last thing you want them to say is “we work with computers.”


Jennifer Anaya serves as vice president of marketing for Ingram Micro North America. She’s responsible for directing the activities of Ingram Micro’s marketing organizations across the U.S. and Canada. With nearly two decades of marketing experience -- eleven of which have been spent working with and for Ingram Micro -- Jennifer is regarded as one of the “Most Powerful Women in the IT Channel” by CRN Magazine

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