Elevator pitches, or elevator talks, have received considerable attention recently in the media and business press. Elevator pitches got their name because they were originally associated with the scenario where an entrepreneur had the time it took for the elevator to go from the lobby to the executive suite (about two minutes) to convince the would-be investor of the value of his/her business or invention. The concept has evolved and now is used to fit a variety of important interactions that can influence your business. The original elevator pitches were about two minutes long, but today the length will vary depending upon the particular situation and the audience in question. An important point is that the time to make your point is limited — so advance thought and planning is critical.
While the original elevator pitch was associated with convincing a potential investor to finance a new venture, the concept has now extended to include interactions with potential customers, with leaders in your community, with representatives from regulatory agencies and with the general public. In short, an elevator pitch occurs anytime you (or another individual from your feed and grain business) have a short window of opportunity when meeting someone to, (1) make a good first impression, (2) convey two or three key points, or highlights, about your business, and (3) bring closure to the conversation so that follow-up contact may be initiated when appropriate.
Different elevator pitches for different audiences
There are many different audiences where you, or someone from your firm, may use an elevator pitch. Even the most loyal of current customers need to hear why your firm is offering them the best value so they don’t take their business to the competition. The casual meeting of a current customer when he/she stops by your business can be an important interaction —especially if that customer has been searching out the competition. Potential customers will require a different approach although many of the points associated with the value that your firm offers will be the same as those for current customers. Potential customers must be convinced to switch away from your competitor and the opportunity to begin that discussion may be when you happen to meet the individual in the grocery store line or at the coffee shop.
While conveying your value as a feed or grain business to customers is important, don’t discount the value of being able to communicate clearly and effectively with other influencers. These include input or service suppliers with whom you do business, public officials (on issues like zoning, economic development, job creation and stability), regulatory officials (on issues such as health, safety and labor management), and, perhaps the most difficult and oftentimes intimidating audience, the general public, which may have nearly no understanding of what you do or why it is important. In some cases you may know when you are going to need to use an elevator pitch (e.g., the scheduled visit from the regulatory official), but in many cases the opportunity will just present itself and you must be ready to deliver your elevator pitch. Never underestimate the importance of those conversations while watching the little league soccer game — where others learn about the contributions your firm is making to the community. Similarly, conversations at the golf club or at the local coffee shop can be the opportunity you are waiting for.