When I first start working with a new client, I often ask them to tell me in 60 seconds: “Why should I do business with your company?”

What I’m asking for is their elevator pitch. However, all too often they don’t have one, and may not even be sure what an elevator pitch is.

So, let’s define it first. The term “elevator pitch” is credited to two journalists, Ilene Rosenzweig, and Michael Caruso. As journalists back in the 1990s, they often (purposely) bumped into someone they wanted to interview, so in about 60 seconds, they would tell them who they are, why they want the interview, and hopefully win them over.

However, elevator pitches serve another purpose as well. For cleaning contractors and business owners, it helps define exactly what makes them different from their competition and the value they bring to the table.

Further, you don’t have to be in an elevator to make an elevator pitch. They are perfect at networking events, conventions, social events, you name it.

In order to develop an effective elevator pitch, we need to do the following:

Ramble
Get a pencil and paper and just start writing briefly about what makes your company unique, and the solutions you offer that a prospect might be interested in. This is the value you bring to the table. Let yourself ramble. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that an elevator pitch is not a sales pitch. It’s an .It’s a “taste” that moves them to want to know more about you and your company.

Highlight
Now go through your rambling ideas and highlight the key words, concepts, and phrases you want to include in your elevator pitch. Disregard those of less importance. This part of the process is referred to as “edit, edit, edit.” In 60 seconds, you should be able to slowly but clearly say your elevator pitch.

Presentation
Once an elevator pitch has been finalized, practice it until it flows naturally. Ask someone to critique it and offer suggestions. Give your elevator pitch to a young child if possible. Someone once said that if your elevator pitch makes a 10-year-old yawn, it’s not working. Your presentation should keep someone interested, help make a connection, and most importantly, a positive impression on a prospect. Further, when you practice, stand up straight, sound energetic, smile, and make eye contact throughout the presentation.

Remember
An elevator pitch is only effective if you truly believe in what you are saying. Sincerity and enthusiasm Is what motivates.

Flexibility
The elevator pitch should be flexible so that with quick thinking on your feet and a little tinkering, it can address different types of prospects. For instance, an elevator pitch for an office building manager would likely not be the same elevator pitch you would give a school administrator.

Call-to-Action
Our goal with an elevator pitch is that it is so compelling that the prospect wants to meet with us again. However, sometimes, it needs a little nudging. This is where a call-to-action comes into the play. Picture yourself in an elevator. The door is opening, and your prospect is about to step out. Quick. Offer your business card, ask for theirs, and then say you will contact them in a couple of days. Don’t allow the time interval to be too long; we want to get them while they’re “hot.”

Elevator Pitch Blunders

There are some things we need to avoid when preparing and delivering an elevator pitch. Let’s call these “elevator pitch blunders.”

One we mentioned already and that is turning it into a sales pitch. Sometimes contractors will add dollar signs to their elevator pitch such as “I promise you we can lower your maintenance costs by 30 percent.” Most prospects turn away from pitches like this.

Other blunders include the following:

• Criticizing your competition. We want to highlight the value we bring to the table, not criticize our competitors

• Talking too fast. Be able to clearly, slowly, and comfortably say your elevator pitch. If you need more than 60 seconds, 90 seconds is fine.

• Holding them at the door. As soon as they get to their floor, start your call-to-action if necessary, but don’t keep them waiting to walk out.

• Not asking for their business card. Always ask for their business card so that you can email additional information. Don’t hand out hard copy brochures. It’s important today that the prospect knows yours is a sustainability focused organization.

Will we win new clients with an elevator pitch? In a roundabout way, yes. But this is not our ultimate goal. An elevator pitch is a door opener. We’ve given a prospect a compelling reason to want to meet us again. Once the door is open, it is the follow-up meetings that can land us the contract.

Janaína Diniz is part of the marketing team at Segura & Associates. She has a degree in graphic design and has worked with many contract cleaners in North and South America, helping them with graphic design and digital marketing. She can be reached at contact@seguraassociates.com.