Sandler Training’s Rochelle Carrington on How to Perfect the Elevator Pitch

You’re on an elevator ride with a higher-up who turns and asks, “How are you?” Or you’re at a networking event when you meet someone who can help your company. In both instances, you can either come off looking like a chump—or a champ. That’s the difference between having a well-crafted “elevator pitch” and, well, not having one. We enlisted Rochelle Carrington, president and CEO of Sandler Training in Mount Kisco and Stamford, Connecticut, who’s been training business professionals for years, to help us hone yours.

➤ Elicit conversation.
When meeting someone, “the first thing you want to do is ask them what they do, which helps you figure out how to tailor your ‘commercial,’” says Carrington. They’ll always ask you the same in return, which leads to your pitch.

➤ There’s no “I” in elevator.
An elevator pitch isn’t meant to sell yourself. Instead, target three problems your audience may be experiencing and explain how you can fix them. “Prospects are more interested in their situation than they are about you.”

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➤ Stand out.
“The problem with most elevator speeches is that they all sound the same: The person says their name, company, an explanation of what they do, and how long they have been in business. Yawn,” says Carrington. To stand out, she recommends using a “pattern interrupt”—a catchy phrase that makes people remember you. Carrington gives us her own example: In her pitch, she tells people that her clients call her their “sleep therapist.” Says Carrington, “I work with a lot of business owners who are losing sleep these days, because they are worried about how they are going to meet their sales goals in 2013.”

➤ Avoid jargon.
Don’t go littering your speech with jumbled industry speak. “Usually people don’t know what it means, but they will never admit it.” Speak as if your audience knows nothing about your industry, suggests Carrington.

➤ Keep it brief.
An effective elevator pitch lasts just 30 to 60 seconds. “In that time, you can do your intro, pattern interrupt, mention three targeted problems you can fix, and ask a question,” says Carrington.

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