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How to Write and Deliver the Perfect Elevator Pitch

Legend has it that the “elevator pitch” comes from the golden days of Hollywood. Young directors vied for elevator space with studio heads, hoping to sell them on their movie idea before they reached the top floor. The art of how to create an elevator pitch still holds a rightful place in modern-day business. Akin to a live commercial for your business, carefully crafted elevator pitches are the perfect medium for gaining the attention of prospective clients.

The Insurance Sales Pitch: Not Just for Elevators

Any place that offers a “captive environment” – from waiting lines to commuter trains – presents a pitch opportunity aimed at one thing, according to Business New Daily: “The purpose of an elevator pitch is not to close a deal or a sale; rather, it's to make the audience want to continue the conversation.”

The element of surprise associated with traditional elevator pitches can work to your advantage if done correctly. According to Syracuse University professor John Torrens, “Often the recipient doesn’t even know you are about to pitch the idea…The point of the pitch is to generate enough interest from a potential investor that you get invited back to provide more details about the opportunity.”

With a small window of time, and to leave them wanting to know more, avoid “canned” presentations that preach rather than invite curiosity.

General Elements of Great Elevator Pitches

Fitting several important elements into a brief statement is possible to do without sounding like an announcer reciting all the terms and conditions on a commercial. Business writer Chris O’Leary suggests using the “Nine C's”:

  1. Concise: Use “as few words as possible, but no fewer”
  2. Clear: Avoid jargon and use easily understood language
  3. Compelling: Explain the problem you can solve
  4. Credible: Why you can solve the problem
  5. Conceptual: Keep it general, don’t get bogged down in details
  6. Concrete: But don’t be so vague that you’re unclear, be tangible
  7. Customized: Know who you’re talking to and speak to their needs
  8. Consistent: Even as you customize, keep the heart of your message the same
  9. Conversational: Use the pitch to open a dialogue, not seal a deal

An elevator pitch is not quite in the category of the Six Word Autobiography (such as Ernest Hemingway's, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”). Nonetheless, being succinct goes a long way in both gaining a potential client and in avoiding annoyed (and uninterested) companions. Therein lies the power of the elevator pitch for insurance agents.

Verbal Slaps, Stories and Hooks

Creating great pitches requires applying general pitch elements to your business and personal speaking style. Take a piece-by-piece approach.

Create a Purpose

Brainstorm, research, or ask a colleague for suggestions, but be sure you understand the selling-points of your business. Otherwise, convincing someone else of it is unlikely. Additionally, you must understand your purpose when creating the different talking-points of an elevator pitch.

Command Attention

Devise a title or headline for the pitch. Avery Manko suggests “an intriguing yet vague headline…something short and unusual.” Tim David of the Harvard Business Review calls it a “verbal slap” that gets their attention and breaks their expectations. Just make sure it is not so outrageous that it distracts your audience from your full message.

Introduce Yourself

Avoid vagueness and come up with a short (two or less sentences), crystal-clear introduction. Explain who you are and what you do. Make sure your introduction entices interest about solutions you provide for others.

Paint a Picture

Static, boring, rote-memorized pitches induce an array of responses, from boredom to anger. Be prepared to improvise about yourself, your achievements, and your business. Provide examples of experiences or even hypotheticals that make listeners want to learn more.

Devise a Hook

An elevator pitch works especially well with a hook placed near its end. Tim David, of the Harvard Business Review, calls it a curiosity statement, something that ends the pitch by circling back to the question that often started the conversation, “what do you do?” David even has a curiosity statement formula:

I help/teach ________ (ideal client) to ________ (feature) so they can _________ (benefit).

Just go easy on corny or overly “sales-y” words, or you may lose any traction you gained with the potential client.

Real Elevator Pitches That Work

It might take some trial and error, but mastering a great, intriguing elevator pitch isn’t out of reach. Business News Daily listed a few gems that you can use for inspiration (and proof that these short pitches can be successful):  

  • We provide pre-divorce planning services. You might think of me as a wedding planner except the focus of planning is on divorce. – Nancy Fagan, a divorce planner for Divorce Help Clinic
  • I help academics with limited practical business knowledge to take their research and get it applied in the private sector. – Andrew Neitlich, operator of Institute for Business Growth
  • I work with companies who want to stop losing money and be more productive by taking better care of themselves and their employees. – Marc Tinsley, health, fitness, and wellness expert with Fitness for the Rest of Us

With some time and creative thinking, you can create a pitch as interesting and eloquent as any of these.

While people may not think of it, insurance agents are problem solvers and protectors. They’re there to clean things up when something goes wrong. That’s a pretty powerful position and, if you frame it correctly, a compelling argument to make people want to know more about how you can help them. Now you just have turn what you do into a catchy, concise, compelling, and clear elevator pitch that will make the people you meet realize that they definitely need to talk to you.


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