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The elevator pitch and its inventor

by | May 20, 2019

How does your elevator pitch look like? Discover the story of the elevator pitch and take inspiration to write your own, in an effective way.

As business developers, we often have to pitch our business in a very short amount of time. We only have a few minutes to catch the attention of our interlocutor and move the conversation forward. It’s crucial to have an effective elevator pitch ready to use.

But how do you write an effective elevator pitch? What should you include? And how can you do it fast?

Working with many businesses around the world I created a framework on how to write your elevator pitch.

But before we dive into that, do you know where the term elevator pitch actually comes from?

The story of the elevator pitch

There are many stories on how the elevator pitch was born, but the one I prefer is one that dates back to the 19th century. It’s about a brilliant idea from Elisha Otis, founder of the Otis Elevator Company.

He was working in a bedstead factory and wanted to use an automatic system to move the debris to other floors. Otis knew about the first elevators, but he also knew that they were quite risky to use.

In fact, if an elevator cable snapped, then the elevator would come crashing to the bottom of a shaft. It would destroy all of the contents inside of the elevator on impact and probably cause some injuries to him as well.

Just like him, many more people were fearful of riding in elevators, let alone installing them inside buildings. Business wise that meant one important thing: he found a big gap in the elevator industry to fill.

So together with his sons, Otis started thinking of ways to solve this issue. In order to ease the anxieties of the public, he created a set of safety locks. Basically, if an elevator was traveling past a certain speed, the locks would deploy stopping the elevator from free falling.

Like any new invention, people didn’t really believe that Elisha Otis could stop such weight within the time frame.

If this system didn’t there would be total destruction and this was not something people were willing to risk. Because of this fear, Otis was not able to drive attention to his new invention.

He had to do something to start selling his invention.

Otis understood that the way to convince people was to simply show them and let them experience what he was pitching. So he put on a public demonstration in front of a large group of people in New York City.

He created an exposed elevator shaft that the audience was able to observe, he stood on top of the elevator car and had his assistant cut the cable. Everyone gasped thinking Elisha Otis would be a dead man by the end.

But, right before the elevator reached the bottom, the locking system applied the brakes and Otis along with the elevator was saved.

The crowd erupted with applause and everyone was asking Otis how they could have these new and improved elevators in their buildings. They now believed in the concept, understood its value and quickly got how much time it would save them.

Shortly after this, Otis founded Otis Elevators. This is when the elevator pitch was formed.

Pretty effective if you consider that to this day Otis elevators transport 7 Billion people every three days and is installed inside some of the largest building in the world.

 

 

Otis free-fall safety demonstration in 1854

What can you take from this story?

For the entrepreneurs reading, the first important learning is that you can’t simply come up with an idea. Above all, you need to find that one idea that is actually going to solve a problem.

There are many people having the idea of the century every day. Most of them fail. And most of the times is because what they are trying to build doesn’t really serve a purpose.

Second, it’s very important to have very strong unique selling points. You have to make sure to show an immediate value of what you’re offering. If your potential customers understand the benefit, they’re going to buy much faster.

Lastly, just talking about how great you are is not going to bring you far. Try to prove and show how your product or service is actually going to help your audience.

The more your value is visible, the easier will be for potential customers to understand it and listen to you.

Read also: Golden Circle applied to business development.

How to create your elevator pitch?

So now, what should you include in your elevator pitch to make it effective? In the past years, I refined a simple formula that will help you include the most important elements in your pitch.

Step 1: Market Position

The first step is to think about the gap in the market that your product or service is filling.

In the case of Otis, the gap he filled was the lack of a safety system which made elevators mass adoption almost impossible.

Step 2: Unique Promise

Ask yourself what is the one thing people will believe they will get by working with you. 

Otis’s promise is that you and the contents inside the elevator will be safe and won’t be destroyed in case of transport cable failure.

Step 3: Top Benefits

Next, think about the main benefits your product or service bring to your clients.

In the case of Otis, the main benefits were the safety and security of humans and goods being transported.

Step 4: Big Unique Idea

What is the unique big idea that you can use in your marketing?

Otis’s unique idea was to do an extreme demonstration in front of a crowd to prove to them that it works.

Once you have this information on top of your head, your pitch will check all the boxes to convince your audience!

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