I’m often asked by salespeople and business owners alike about ‘the pitch’: “How do I create an elevator pitch that actually generates more business?”
If you spend time thinking about your elevator pitch, I have bad news for you: you’re wasting your time.
My problem with the elevator pitch is that nobody cares about you or your product or business.
People are selfish. They only care about what they’re experiencing, what they’re trying to achieve, and how they’re going to get through the next day, week, month, or year. They don’t care about helping you hit your sales target so we, as salespeople, need to come to terms with that and change our approach.
Today, salespeople need to be two things; 1) incredible listeners and 2) great storytellers.
On my team at HubSpot, we’ve seen tremendous success by leaning into these two plays. We begin the journey with our prospects in discovery mode asking open-ended questions about their goals and challenges and then we use their answers as the script to their story.
Let’s check out what that looks like and how you can implement it for your team.
Imagine you’re feeling unwell. You go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong and get some medication so you can start feeling like yourself again.
Now imagine that doctor doesn’t examine you or ask you about your symptoms. Instead, she assumes you probably just need some antibiotics and sends you on your way with a prescription. You could get lucky and need what she has given you but the chances are slim. Not only are you not getting what you need but you’re also not going to trust that doctor to diagnose you or your family in the future.
A person’s needs and challenges are unique to them and can change at any given time.
A salesperson’s role is to uncover the unique needs of every person they speak to and offer them the best solution available.
The questions you should ask your prospects are not unlike those a doctor would ask a patient, for example:
|How are you feeling?||How are things going right now?|
|Where is the pain?||What challenges are you facing?|
|How long have you felt this way?||How long has this been a challenge?|
|Has anything happened to cause this pain?||Why do you think this is a challenge for you?|
|Are there any other symptoms?||What other obstacles are you facing?|
|Are you taking any other medications?||Are you using any similar solutions?|
|Do you have any allergies?||Is there anything we need to be made aware of at this point?|
|Who is your next of kin?||Who else do we need to be communicating with?|
Once you have uncovered enough information in your discovery you’ll be well-equipped with the words you need to write a story that resonates with your buyer. It’s also OK to start telling your story from the end and work your way backwards. You need to get your prospect’s attention early and present the most valuable part first, get them hooked, and then tell the rest of the story from there.
Painting the before and after picture for your prospect is such an instrumental part of being successful in your sales pitch. However, without a good discovery you simply won’t have the information you need to make this work.
It’s also important to note that using their words to paint this picture is going to be much more effective than taking what they’ve said and translating it into what you think they mean. When you use their words it shows you’re listening and you understand their situation.
Below is an example of how you might use the information gathered using the question examples from the last section to paint a before and after picture that can help you convert a prospect into a customer.
“Joe, your situation looks like it’s really taking a toll on you. [How are things going right now?]
It sounds like you’re coming up against X challenge time and time again and it’s been stifling your business’s growth for the last 12 months. [What’s the challenge and how long has it been that way?]
You’ve had to let three employees go and, having to pick up that slack, you’ve been working late evenings and weekends and that’s having its own ripple effects. [What other challenges are you facing?]
You’ve tried solving it with Product X but it didn’t work out because it lacked Solution Y and that’s vital to your unique business needs and system requirements. [Have you tried any other solutions and is there anything else we need to be made aware of?]
“Joe, I think I can help you. Product X didn’t offer what you needed but that’s actually one of our product’s strengths. We can tailor our system to make sure it works with your unique requirements. [Present highest value solution first.]
“From what you’ve told me about the numbers, if that obstacle hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have needed to let those three employees go, in fact, you would need to hire an extra person to keep up with demand, is that right?” [Reaffirmation of what they’ve told you.]
“It looks like if we implement our solution in the next two weeks, you’ll be able to hire another person within three months. How would that impact things for you?” [Paint a positive outlook with a tangible timeline and get feedback.]
From the example above you can see how we’ve linked data with emotion to tell Joe’s story.
He can clearly see the before and after picture of working with us and if he’s bought in, we’ll need to make sure he isn’t the only one we need to convince. This is when you can ask if anyone else needs to be involved in the conversation.
It’s always a good idea to give examples of how businesses with comparable needs were affected by a similarly challenging environment – the before scenario. Then include how these businesses improved after using your solution – the after scenario.
Your product pitch must be powerful enough to break through your prospect’s bubble of indifference. Adding this contrast into your story will compel them to convert especially when you have explained how your product can help them better survive and adapt to their specific challenges.
Sticking with our analogy, when a doctor takes the time to fully understand your situation and proposes a solution, you trust it. There is no way you’re going to walk away from a thorough medical exam and not accept the medication prescribed. After you’ve told the before and after story to your prospect, make sure you summarize with very clear and prescribed steps based on their unique goals and challenges.
For your prospect to accept your prescription, it’s important to create an emotional connection in the same way a doctor would with their patients because at the end of the day, without trust, your pitch is going to fall on deaf ears. Approaching your pitch as a collaboration rather than a scripted sales pitch will really help to gain that trust with your prospect.
Your audience will be eager to take the prescription of what you’re selling if they know that you understand their needs and can see that your solution will help them. If you’ve done a good job exploring with them and recounting their story back to them using their own words, this part is going to be very smooth.
Failure to convert may result from the buyer feeling that what you are pitching does not align with their needs. This either means you haven’t sufficiently explored their needs with them or your product does not meet their needs.
You have two choices here:
- You can overcome this misalignment by clearly summarizing the prescribed steps forward and how this will add value to them now, or
- You can be honest and tell them they are not a good fit for your product. This option means you lose this sale, yes, but selling to bad fit clients can cost your business an exorbitant amount in the long run. On the flip side, happy customers stay and bring their friends, which is ultimately more valuable to you.
One elevator pitch is never going to be the thing that makes our revenue sore and customers line up outside our doors. The truth is simple. To be successful in sales we need to stop pitching and start having conversations. We need to find problems before we present solutions, and we need to be collaborators who help other people, not ourselves.
Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Michael Pici is the Director of Sales at HubSpot. He now runs a team of 70+ salespeople and managers and is responsible for growing HubSpot’s sales product from $0 to more than $10 million in revenue. You can see him in action as our host of Inbound Sales Day and The Get Sh*t Done Sales Show.