To technology enthusiast Chris Van Dusen, an elevator pitch is the most important instrument in the entrepreneur’s toolbox. A clear, concise, easily understood pitch can open the door to capital and customers; a poorly crafted pitch can scuttle interest in even the most innovative startup.
Van Dusen, co-founder and president of i-FFICIENCY, and business development and new media director for Rief Media, shared his tips for constructing a valuable elevator pitch with a Calit2 audience at this week’s TechPortal Entrepreneurs Series lunchtime lecture.
“This isn’t your grandfather’s elevator pitch,” he said. “It’s your value proposition. It’s what you offer that no one else does.”
Van Dusen said we’re living in a social-networking, 140-character type of world, complete with constant white noise and short attention spans. People want to get information quickly and move on,” he said. To compensate, entrepreneurs must think of their personal value statement like a headline – something that “grabs ‘em by the lapels and doesn’t let go.”
The best way to do that is to set yourself apart from the competition.
“What’s my special sauce? What makes me different? That’s what we want to focus on,” he said.
He gave the audience a what-not-to-do primer.
• Give enough detail but don’t get carried away: “not too macro, not too micro.”
• Don’t make crowded pitches, in which you talk too fast and include too much information. This can cause your potential customer to stop listening.
• Learn to walk away if you sense someone is not interested.
• Don’t be boring.
Van Dusen emphasized the importance of a first impression. “It’s how you’re perceived. It’s everything you figure out later, minus the later,” he said. “Your elevator pitch closes deals before they ever get started – good or bad.”
He suggested beginning with a “wow” factor – something that will pique curiosity and evoke further questions. Follow that with a “pain statement,” which details the problem you or your company will solve, and close with your value proposition. “How will you solve the problem? What sets you apart? What’s your special sauce?”
It’s a good idea to customize your elevator pitch, he said, depending on who your audience is. Potential clients need different information than venture capitalists do. Be succinct, easy-to-understand and “greed-inducing,” which Van Dusen referred to not in a monetary sense but as the ability to evoke and answer the unspoken question: what can you do for me?
Most importantly: “Grab their interest and get them to want more.”
-- Anna Lynn Spitzer