Posted on 4/26/2017

Five Questions an Elevator Pitch Must Answer

Eric Davis

You’ve been there many times – in front of a potential customer or partner trying to put your best foot forward. The solution is laid out before them, yet they don’t see the value, leaving you perplexed. With every new encounter, the result is the same: you may have piqued their interest but the conversation doesn’t move forward. The pain is there, the product can relieve it, but the message doesn’t come across. Perhaps it’s time to revisit what you’re saying. Ask yourself, “Does my elevator pitch answer these 5 questions?”

Who is the target audience?

Different audiences result in a breadth of views on how a product can solve their need. The conversation for a CEO, the CFO or the consumer of a product or service will all have different messages. Your potential customer or partner can be broken down into three categories:

  • The decision maker is the one that decides what gets approved
  • The economic buyer is the person who manages the budget or pays for the product or service
  • The end user is the person that is directly using the product or service

In some cases, all three may be the same person. However, more complex offerings involve multiple people in the interaction. Be mindful that a CFO (economic buyer) may not be particularly interested in reducing the weight of a vehicle, but are more interested in increased gross margins. An engineer (end user), however, may be much more interested in vehicle weight reduction.

What is the customer pain that I’m eliminating?

Your potential customers are frustrated and your product or service is meant to alleviate their aggravation. The pitch needs to identify the exact pain points felt by your target audience in a manner that’s well understood. Take the following statement as an example of identifying the pain point of an end user:

“Sales personnel lack efficient tools to understand and track their customers’ needs, resulting in lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.”

The pain of the end user is identified – current customer relationship management tools on the market inhibit sales staff to effectively sell their product. The statement is clear and provides a cause and effect.  

What product or services do I offer?

In a few short words, describe what you are offering to potential customers. The target audience needs to understand how your product or service works from a conceptual standpoint. Delving too deep into the specifics of your offering may lead to confusion, especially for more technically advanced offerings. If you have multiple ways to service your customer, be sure to convey a statement that encompasses these services.  The audience will appreciate you providing a clear message of all that the company does. Also, their interest may be peaked enough to ask specific questions pertaining to their needs, creating a more focused dialogue. 

What are the key benefits of my offering?

A customer needs to see value in the work that your company provides. In your message, identify the key benefits your audience finds of greatest importance. Specifically, how does the product address their pain points? Keeping the list short and to the point will have a greater positive impact on the conversation. Expanding on the numerous benefits not related to the audience’s needs can be distracting and less engaging. 

How is what I offer different than the competition?

At some point, you’ve learned your competitor’s weaknesses and made them your strengths. The audience needs to know what makes your product or service different. Is it better quality? Lower price? New and disruptive technology? Succinctly identifying significant differentiators will go a long way in showing what unique value your company can provide the audience. Include the type of competition or specific well-known competitors, as your listener may have identified those same weaknesses through prior engagements. Hopefully they finally found the company (yours) that can meet their needs. 

As you tweak the message, you’ll see your conversations have greater quality and clearer outcomes. And if you don’t know the answers, that’s fine! Hopefully these questions will prompt you to do further research about your customers, market, and competition. 


About the Author

Eric Davis | Automation Alley

Eric Davis is Automation Alley’s technology investment analyst. In this role, he is responsible for providing in-depth analysis and insight on participants in the organization’s successful entrepreneurship program, the Automation Alley 7Cs™, where he is also assistant facilitator of the icube™ methodology and the Growth Readiness Assessment, giving companies the framework for growth. Eric also oversees activities related to Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Business Accelerator Fund, and manages the investment process for Automation Alley’s pre-seed fund. Eric has an extensive background in performing due diligence on both public and privately-held companies.


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