from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

Elevator (or Dumbwaiter) Pitch Can Define Success August 2, 2010

Filed under: Entrepreneurial Tales — pickettwrites @ 8:08 am

To mix some metaphors, into everyone’s life a little defining moment must fall.

After five decades, I have had my share … but I was reminded of one today as I read the “HP Small Nation” LinkedIn post from Rieva Lesonsky that detailed effective elevator pitches as an important sales and branding tool.  It’s something I (wrongly assumed) every entrepreneur knew; it seemed like “small business 101” kind of stuff.

So, the epiphany came when I was in a business development meeting a while back with a business owner who was directly asked by a prospective client, “What sets your business apart … makes it unique?” In my head, I heard, “Cue music, elevator pitch … go!”

Instead, what I heard was a lengthy pause, a bit of a stammer and a “well, it really depends,” followed by a string of ill-put-together words that really made no sense. The epiphany? Business development without a solid elevator speech is well illustrated with the phrase “cart before the horse.” At that moment I realized that this particular business was going to have immeasurable trouble signing and retaining new business. Entrepreneurs, particularly in the service business industry, must remember that they can’t possibly help someone else’s business if they don’t have a clear vision of their own.

Meanwhile, the Harvard Business Review blog suggests in this fast-paced communications environment, elevator pitch may well be passé; perhaps what is needed is the “dumbwaiter pitch.” HBR blogger Umair Haque suggests boiling it down to ONE word. The goal, he writes, is to strip an organization right down to its bones and see how compelling it really is. I particularly find this statement extremely profound: In simplicity lie the seeds of explosively powerful propositions; in complexity, only confusion, incoherence and uncompetitiveness.

Try it! Share with me and fellow Pickettwrites blog readers YOUR “dumbwaiter pitch!” We can’t wait to hear!

p.s. If you are actually looking for a REAL dumbwaiter (or if you really weren’t sure what a dumbwaiter WAS), check out panhandleelevators.com/dumbwaiters/.


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