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Why your Elevator Pitch is important, and how to master it

Why your Elevator Pitch is important, and how to master it

Many people often hear the term Elevator Pitch and see it as a quick sales pitch to try and get your foot in the door. However, there is much more to it than that but first things first, what is an Elevator Pitch?

An Elevator Pitch is a quick, well-crafted (and often memorized) speech designed to sell a product, or yourself, in a very short time frame. It’s name, often credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso, is derived from the idea of bumping into a senior staff member in an elevator and having to try and win them over by the time they’ve reached their floor. Thus Elevator Pitches tend to last between 30 to 90 seconds, and, when successful, end with an exchange of contact information and a continuation of the discussion. 

“The purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.” – Seth Godin

Why is it important?

So now you know what an Elevator Pitch is, the question is what makes it so vital to success within the world of work? There are several reasons:

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It Doesn’t Make Them Yawn

You may think you have the best idea in the world, or you are the best candidate for the job, but don’t overestimate the amount of interest they will have in you or your product. Your elevator pitch acts as a buffer, giving you the in and shows the value of you or your idea in the smallest timeframe possible.

It Organizes Your Thoughts

If you’ve ever been asked to describe something to someone without preparation, you’ll more than often find that you ramble on adding ideas here and there, or referring back to previous points. This makes explanation a tedious and lengthy process, even if they’ve explicitly asked you for the information. By preparing an Elevator Pitch not only do you have a script ready for whenever the opportunity arises, but it allows you to put down in writing why you think you’re the best candidate for the job, or why your company or product is the best of its kind. It organises your thoughts and allows you to critique the key points that you think make it/you a success. 30 seconds isn’t a long time, so making sure you include the points that’ll sweep someone off their feet is crucial.

Not only that, but still considering the personal element: by having an Elevator Pitch prepared it eases the anxiety of having to interact with someone new, and prevents you getting caught off-guard when someone asks “What do you do?” or “So, what’s your company?”

It Helps Identify Your Market

So you’ve decided on your dream job, or the sort of investor you would like, and now you’re on the hunt. Considering an Elevator Pitch allows you to question the language you need to use when talking to those you want to impress, as well as what sort of arguments and ideas will impress them. After all, language is a social construct tailored to every form of group, and in order to join the group you’ve got to speak the lingo.

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We’re In The Digital Age!

With the growth of social media, the internet, and fast-paced information, it has become more and more difficult to make new professional relationships. By crafting an Elevator Pitch it allows you to have a prepared script for developing new relationships. After all, it’s intention is to continue conversation after the 30-second timeframe, and to allow networking. It’s great to be prepared for the few minutes you might catch someone without headphones in their ears or reading their Kindle.

How to Put Together an Elevator Pitch

Now you know the importance of having a pitch ready, there are a few guidelines to consider when putting together a pitch to make it awesome. Not all of the following points are necessary, but all can be more useful in prompting further conversation:

Show them what you can do

If you’re representing a company, it’s normally best to open with the problem that the company solves as it offers something that might be of potential interest. If you’re representing yourself, it’s often best to open with some of your key qualifications or experiences. An example for a company may be:

Don’t you hate it when your internet keeps cutting out? We’ve offered internet services for 5 years, and have a 97% uptime – the best of all companies within the local area.

Problem, and solution! Or an opening for an individual may go a little like this:

Hey, [INSERT NAME]. I’m a post-doctorate studying the psychology of shopping behaviour.

A short sentence combining your area of expertise with your qualifications.

This isn’t a sales pitch, promise!

Disarm the recipient by making clear that your intentions are to continue the conversation more than to hard-sell them. This can be done by either stating what you can offer without asking if they have need for it, or if you’re selling yourself, by simply saying what your desired position or field of work/study would be. This is normally more easily highlight with an example, and so continuing from our internet provider analogy:

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Many of our customers seem to be very happy with the consistency and speed of our internet services.

You’re from Derby? Me too!

Drop hints and potential links to organisations, locations, and institutions. This allows for the potential to have something in common with the recipient – you may have studied at the same University, or grown up in the same town – but also allows for potential future networking as it allows them to consider people they may already know from these links.

How about you?

Not forgetting that the role of the Elevator Pitch is to entice future conversations, it is normally best to end asking a question or for the opinion of the recipient. The easiest is often, “What about yourself?” but it could be more specific to what your pitch is related to. If we continue with the Internet provider example, you could end with the question, “Do you ever have problems with your internet?” or “Out of curiosity, which provider are you with? And why did you choose them?” These tend to be less successful than the more open question I mentioned formerly.

And there you have it – you’ve crafted your pitch, rehearsed it in the mirror, and are ready for any opportunity the world may throw at you. Half the success of sales, or gaining investments or work, often lies in seizing opportunities. Master your pitch, and become the person you want to be. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.imgix.net

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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