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Sales: The importance of the one-minute pitch

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Friday, June 01, 2007

BusinessPitch.jpg“We are here to make happy fish. Happy fish are profitable fish.” Did that statement get your attention? Presented at the University of Oregon’s New Venture Championships recently, it’s an example of an elevator pitch. An effective one should capture the listener’s attention, make her interested in hearing more and take up no more than a minute of her time. Or the amount of time you’d have in an elevator ride.

Distilling your business plan in advance into a one-minute pitch is a good way to be prepared for a chance meeting with someone who could help your business grow. “There’s going to be that opportunity, short in nature, to inform someone,” says Randy Swangard, managing director of UO’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.

Bernie Hansen, founder and manager of Business Diagnostics LLC, a consulting company in Tri-Cities, Wash., says a good elevator pitch is a concise, clear summary of a company. “It’s like a good joke,” he says, easy to tell and understand but most importantly, “the listener should remember enough to reasonably communicate it to a third party.”

A pitch should communicate the following about your business, and do it in 60 seconds:  

Identity: This can be as straightforward as a simple introduction or as elaborate as setting a specific scene in the listener’s mind. Keep the introduction short to allow plenty of time to dive into the main argument — why the captive audience should be interested in your company.

Purpose: “Be very clear on what are the essential elements of the business,” says Hansen. Keep explanations simple, as time is limited. Technical terms and jargon can come in subsequent meetings. “Detail will only trip someone up,” says Hansen. However, remember to include what he terms “take-aways,” key information you want a person to know. Simple metaphors can save time and help an audience make a quick connection.

Business plan: The speaker needs to be convincing and credible to allow the listener to understand and repeat the message. This is an opportunity to explain the necessity of your company’s product in the marketplace. Swangard says it’s important to outline your company’s potential to solve a specific problem. Time permitting, briefly define your company’s business model. Swangard says you need to explain, “Why is it that you can do this when no one else can?”

Financial needs: Now it’s time to drive your request home by clearly stating how much money you need and how you’ll spend it. “We are looking for $500,000 to expand statewide,” gives an investor a better idea of their contribution’s value than, “We need $500,000.”

A unique edge: This is what Swangard calls the “secret sauce.” “It’s something unique that gives you a competitive edge,” he says. “No one bets on the horse, they bet on the jockey.” At the conclusion of the pitch, your audience should understand why your company deserves an investment. If you’ve been successful, you should have a business card in your pocket before the elevator doors close. 

— Colleen Moran

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