The Art of the Elevator Speech

One of my favorite sales books in the world is Selling to VITO: The Very Important Top Officer by Anthony Parinello.

In it, the author teaches entrepreneurs that in order to close sales and make connections with people who matter, one must always go straight to the top.

Very early on, I took that guidance to heart and integrated this into my sales approach. If I ever needed to know someone or make a connection, I always sought one person and one person only: the CEO.

Doing this not only helped me grow my business and sales much faster, but it also elevated my game and made me see that we are very powerful creators of our businesses.

As a CEO, I see myself on equal footing with other CEOs or business owners, no matter how far the gap is between my organization and theirs. All CEOs share a similar mindset and face the same challenges. Likewise, a parent of one child and a parent of ten children share very similar emotions and experiences.

Many a times, I’ve walked right up to the CEO to introduce myself and strike up a conversation. I might find a common ground we share or offer them something of value.

That’s how relationships begin. This brings me to the topic I’m teaching you today — the art and finesse of the elevator speech.

The way I see it, the elevator speech was a concept created by venture capitalists and angel investors, who made it a rule that any idea should be encapsulated within 30 seconds.

The goal is, by the time someone gets off the elevator, the prospect will be sufficiently intrigued to invite the entrepreneur to a longer presentation meeting.

Elevator speeches are structured so that the person giving them tries to get something by the end of it — usually, a meeting, more time, or a piece of business.

Entrepreneurs in traditional businesses rigidly embrace this rule. But how does this apply in a non–traditional, heart–based, one–woman operation?

I don’t know about you, but to me, the traditional elevator speech feels awkward, unnatural and very get oriented. There’s a more spiritually advanced, feminine way of turning this around and here’s how:

Rather than trying to get something out of it, let’s look at trying to give something instead.

The feminine way of approaching the elevator speech is incidentally the same way CEOs strike up relationships with other CEOs.

Those at the top leading their businesses think alike, feel similar emotions and they are also secure in their own skin. The energy of get doesn’t prevail as much at this altitude.

So, when you are speaking to someone or meeting that person for the first time, and you are asked, “So, what do you do for a living?”

Here’s what the traditional elevator speech might look like:

“I’m an inventor and I just created a new piece of technology that’s all about beauty, stability and functionality, and we’re currently in phase 2 of raising funding and we’re looking for people to get in on the ground floor of this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Boy, have I heard that too many times before and I hate it.

In comparison, here’s what a heart–based entrepreneur may respond with:

“My company helps people live longer and safer lives. We dedicate all of our energy to creating crucial pieces of technology. Did you know that something we created saved 35 lives last week? It was amazing. By next year, we will have saved 3,500 people around the globe, all due to our patented technology.”

The traditional elevator speech was about get, get, GET. The heart–based response was about self–expression, creating meaningful dialogue, connecting with people’s hearts and exchanging valuable information.

What’s also different is that the traditional elevator speech was very me, me, me oriented, while the heart–based approach started off with the words “my company”.

Even if you are a one–woman operation, you can get into the habit of addressing your solopreneurship as “my company.” It elevates how you are perceived by others and you also honor and respect your own work at the same time.

But of course, your speech changes depending on who you’re speaking with. When you are approaching a CEO or VITO, one of the best ways to open that dialogue is by offering something truly of value to that person. Whether that is sharing a vital piece of knowledge, telling a worthwhile story or helping them solve their problems or expand their market share — these are conversations that all CEOs love to engage in.

When you are speaking with a sales prospect, the idea is largely the same — you give something of value to that person, whether it’s an idea, suggestion, a thought, or something to just pique their interest to get them thinking. You might tell a story or share something you’ve learned. For a moment, you just need to bring them into your world.

In sales, teachers talk a lot about creating an ideal customer profile or about stepping inside your prospect’s situation in order to create empathy and establish rapport.

All of that is important, but what’s equally paramount — and this is not really discussed — is that you ought to bring your potential client inside your world for a moment and let them glimpse around. You do that by showing them the bigger picture of your vision, generating excitement in your world, or simply by hinting at an element of mystique.

For years, and I still do this because I hate answering the “What do you do for a living” question, my elevator speech is only 3 words long: “I’m a __________.”

Granted, the work I do has always had an air of glamour but I hardly ever say anything more. Why? Because I confidently know that a steady stream of follow up questions will come my way.

It is infinitely more powerful to be answering people’s follow up questions than to deliver a scripted elevator speech, whether it’s solicited or not.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to finesse it and bring some swagger to the game.

Make it easy to repeat your value

When you are creating your response, you’ve also got to look at your value and capture it succinctly. To me, what’s more important is not the time of 30 seconds. What’s more important is that you encapsulate your value so precisely that it’s very easy for others to remember you, and then to talk about you.

When you capture your points of differentiation in a few words, you’re telling people upfront what’s unique about your product or service. They don’t need to figure this out on their own. Most importantly, you use this to control the word of mouth: people who talk about you should know exactly what to say about you because you’ve already given them the specific verbiage.

So, think about your elevator speech, whether it’s 30 seconds or 140 characters long. Let’s recap the important points when creating your response:

• Give something of value
• Create an element of mystique
• Entice follow up questions
• Make it easy for others to repeat your value and differentiation

Hi, I’m Ana Coeur

I teach entrepreneurs how to create their business straight from their soul. I offer a complete Intuitive Business Suite to help you create, design, write and sell all from your intuition. Here’s the services you can take advantage of to empower your business: Intuitive Web & Brand Design, Intuitive Copywriting and Intuitive Selling. If there’s anything I can help you with, I would love to hear about it! You may email me at

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