Goodbye Elevator Pitch (You Bitch!)


Did you know I used to be a butcher at the Safeway in West Seattle?

I was also an appliance heiress – you might remember me as Mary Kenmore. Oh, and my best friend was Sally Maytag – yes, THE Sally Maytag of the Maytag empire.

And I was also a proctologist who went by the name of Dr. Heather Donovan.

And no, these were not characters I played while role-playing (those characters are another story).

The butcher, Mary Kenmore, and Dr. Heather Donovan were all characters I made up so that I wouldn’t have to tell people I was a stripper.

Were they a bit far-fetched and outrageous?

Absolutely, but if you’re going to make up a story – so you don’t have to tell the truth – it might as well be entertaining (HINT: the more specific you make a story the more believable it is).

If I could have captured the look on the dude’s faces when I told them what Dr. Heather Donovan did, it certainly would have been a YouTube sensation.

My characters were intentional – to lead people’s thoughts in a completely different direction so that I didn’t have to tell them what I actually did for a living.

Not that I was ashamed of what I did, but it wasn’t something that I really wanted to talk about when I was out and about having a good time.

Back in the 1990’s this was my version of an elevator pitch.

In 2005, when I started my own business, I thought I HAD to have an elevator pitch. 

I don’t know where I got the idea that it was ‘critical to my success’, but I did – probably the same person who sold me on USPs.

So it won’t surprise you that I have had no less than 276 elevator pitches since 2005. No lie.

I’d write one up, quickly memorize it, run to the living room to recite it to Chad, wait for a big smile on his face, to see if I had nailed it.

Guess what?

I’m still waiting for that smile on his face.

It’s still incredibly difficult to describe what I do in 60 seconds or less.

And guess what else?

I’m not selling hot dogs, and for what I do, an elevator pitch is completely unrealistic – in the same way that speed dating doesn’t instantly lead to marriage.

Here’s the truth: people do business with people they know, like and trust – and that covers everyone from solo-preneurs to mega-corporations. 

Your bottom line has nothing to do with the line you’ve pitched yourself in the mirror.

So let’s deconstruct the myth of the elevator formula.

MYTH:  You’ll get instant business IF you can master the elevator pitch.

FACT: When was the last time someone whipped out cash to hire you – or buy your product sight unseen – on the spot?

MYTH: If you don’t master the elevator pitch your business is doomed to fail. Forever.

FACT: When did you last make a purchase based on someone else’s elevator pitch?

MYTH: Business is based on formulas, rather than people. I do this – perfectly – and therefore I’ll get this. Elevator Pitch + Captive Audience = Instant Sales For Life.

FACT: You prefer people who don’t treat you like a transaction. You are more than their elevator pitch.

Get ready to ditch the pitch – here’s how:

Next time you’re out and about, instead of trying to explain yourself in a single line, look to build a connection with that person and not in the standard form of, “So what do you do?”

Try these instead.

  • Do you have any pets? Tell me more!
  • What’s your favorite app? Tell me more!
  • What are you passionate about? Tell me more!
  • Any plans for shoe shopping anytime soon? Tell me more!
  • Have a favorite recipe? Tell me more!

You get the gist.

Be curious about people and then ask for more.

People LOVE to talk about themselves.

I know I do!

So, instead of creating a small-talk situation – which nobody likes – you’ll suddenly find that you have the ability to make a real connection in a very short period of time.

We, as people, are more alike than we are different. The UPS guy who comes to your house, the barista at the corner coffee shop, the jeweler who made your wedding ring, the CEO of an international company all have points in common, and points in common with YOU.

All you have to do is ask.

And when it comes time to do business, who do you think they’re going to remember? The person that pitched them a one line formula hoping to get a sale? Or the person with whom they had a brief, but intense, conversation about a mutual interest in miniature pot-bellied pigs?

You know the answer.

Elevator pitch?

So long, Bitch.