3 Best Elevator Pitches

An elevator pitch is how you respond to the question “So, what do you do?” But most elevator pitches don’t work. Who wants to be answered with this 60 second infomercial:

“I’m Regional Vice President of Sales for Puffery Manufacturing. We manufacture office furnishings, electronic casings and belt buckles out of recycled asbestos, so you know your dollars are going toward making a greener planet. And we have manufacturing partners across the United States and Asia, which means we can ship finished product to your warehouses faster than the competition. Here’s my card. Maybe we can set up a time to meet and talk about your office furniture or belt buckle needs.”

Fortunately, I’ve found 3 elevator pitches that actually work. They are different than the boring 60 second “talking brochure” because they are:

1. CONVERSATIONS.  The goal is not to deliver your 60 second advertisement; it’s to have a two-way conversation.  A successful pitch is where the other person relaxes and says “Interesting. Tell me more.”

2. SHORT. 60 seconds is a long time to talk uninterrupted. An elevator pitch is NOT a sales pitch. Think 10 seconds, not 60!

3. EVERYDAY LANGUAGE. Avoid words like “synergy”, “optimize”, “efficiency”, “ROI” and so on. These words SCREAM “sales pitch” and will have your panicked prospect looking for the exit signs.

In fact, here’s a tip: write out your pitch, then take a red pen and cross out all the cliches and marketing-speak. Replace them with one-syllable words.

 The Three Best Elevator Pitches

#1 Brian Walter


Brian Walter is one of my favorite speaker coaches. And his elevator pitch method — the WOW, HOW, NOW approach — is the simplest and most fun.

1. WOW. Say something intriguing (even puzzling) that will make the other person want to hear more. A creative summary of what you do that demands some clarification. Ideally, the prospect’s reaction will be to cock their head and ask “what does that mean?”

2. HOW. Answer the stated (or unspoken) question and explain exactly what you do.

3. NOW. Shift into storytelling mode, giving a concrete example of a current customer. The key phrase is “Now, for example…”


Prospect: So, what do you do?

Me: I help build PowerPoint muscles.

Prospect: Huh?

Me: I teach people how to use PowerPoint more effectively in business. Now, for instance, I’m working with a global consulting firm to train all their senior consultants to give better sales presentations so they can close more business.


#2 Chris Westfall

Chris is author of The New Elevator Pitch.

1. Start with a story/humor/news/etc. Don’t launch into your company spiel. Instead, start with something you expect to hear in a conversation: humor, a story, referring to recent news. Choose something that highlights a problem you help customers solve.

2. Add an emotional benefit statement. Say “That’s what I do.” Then summarize the RESULTS you achieve for customers. It should be an emotional benefit, not a hard-headed business benefit.

3. Quantify your success. Now you add the proof of your benefit statement, using numbers if possible.

4. Use the “velvet rope close”. The velvet rope close suggests your offer is only accessible to certain types. For example, if you’re an investment advisor you might say “I normally only talk about investing in gold with my high net worth clients. But I think it might be right in your case.” Rather than closing like a hungry dog, inappropriate for a social meeting, let the prospect come to you. In your elevator pitch, the key phrase to use is “I’m not sure if I can help you, but…”


Do you remember about 10 years ago when the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed on re-entry? It turns out the engineers tried to warn NASA about the danger. But the PowerPoint slides they used were  a complete mess and no-one understood the danger.

That’s what I do. I train people how to make sure their PowerPoint slides aren’t a complete disaster.

For instance, students who attend my workshop can create slides that are 50% more clear and 50% more convincing by the end of the training, based on scores students give each other before and after the workshop.

I’m not sure if my training could work at your company. It really depends how much you use PowerPoint and what’s at stake if your PowerPoint is unclear. But I’d be happy to talk to you about it.


#3 Richard Fouts

Fouts is a Gartner analyst who created the S.I.R. Framework based on storytelling principles: creating conflict, escalating the conflict and then resolving the conflict. It’s a bit too much of a monologue for my tastes, but it does feel more conversational than the “talking brochure” approach.

1. Situation (conflict). Illustrate the pain current customers face.

2. Impact (escalate conflict) – Explain the impact of that situation. How is this affecting profits, market share, customer loyalty, or anything else the prospect is concerned about losing.

3. Resolution – Explain how you solve the problem. Focus on benefits, not products and services.


You know how most business people use PowerPoint but most use it pretty poorly? Well, bad PowerPoint has all kinds of consequences – sales that don’t close, good ideas that get ignored, time wasted building slides that could have been used developing or executing strategies. My company shows businesses how to use PowerPoint to capture those sales, bring attention to those great ideas and use those wasted hours on more important projects.


Those are my top 3 recommendations for building your own elevator pitch because they are conversational, short and use everyday language. Which methods would you add to this list?

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

22 thoughts on “3 Best Elevator Pitches

  1. I particularly like the S-I-R and the WOW-HOW-NOW. I use both quite often. I use the WOW-HOW-NOW method when speaking to mid- to low-rank potential clients and the S-I-R method when speaking to senior execs.

    Exaggerating the situation in the S-I-R method leaves the individual feeling like he’s in some kind of trouble [or has a need or faces a potential problem] that he doesn’t yet realise but which I go on to calm his nerves with my solution. This method works for senior execs since they tend to have rather huge egos yet appreciate someone who brings them workable SOLUTIONS to existing/anticipated PROBLEMS.

    With the low- to mid-rank execs with the more humble egos, WOW-ing them first creates expectation. The ‘huh?’ effect [you can’t get this with the chief execs with their egos getting in the way].

    Overall, a good elevator pitch must SHOCK ATTENTION OUT OF THE LISTENER within the first two sentences. This is easy to understand if you could just remind yourself that an elevator pitch is not meant to help you close a deal [if you do, you’re simply lucky].

    The aim of an elevator pitch is simply to establish a CRAVING INTEREST in whatever product/service you offer. That interest is then expected to be ‘carried over’ into an APPOINTMENT for a later, more comprehensive, discussion. It should leave the prospect feeling, ‘I need to know more about you/your product/your service. Here’s my card, call my office for an APPOINTMENT at…’

    When you strike that craving attention and win that appointment for further talks, the elevator pitch has done its job. Start preparing for your MAIN presentation!

    1. Thanks Bruce & Jonas!

      This a very useful summary of different styles of elevator pitches to create, and also some great tips about when and with whom to apply the different versions. I wish had I read this earlier!

      After an unexpected investment opportunities popped up in casual conversation, I found my impromptu Wow-how-now type of pitch just didn’t seem to hit home with this particular person. Lucky enough we had several hours to get to know each other, and when the business came up again he brought up the problems he was facing that my business could solve. Self selling is great, but could have to light much earlier and easier than it did at the dinner.

      So next actions are to create several elevator pitches from the outlines above, take a best guess with which people they should work and try them out!

      Thanks again,

      1. Hi Mathias – That’s a good insight – create different elevator pitches for different audiences. Wouldn’t we all like to be that well-prepared for any conversation with different potential customers?


  2. The comment by Jonas Ezeanya sheds even more light and creates a sense of urgency and yearning for your value solution. I believe I retain a teachable mind for constant growth. Today, you have lightened me further still.

    I thought I knew enough about the elevator pitch until I read the entire article.

    A thousand thanks to Bruce Gabrielle who wrote the article and commentary contributors, Sophie Blas and Jonas.

  3. Many thanks for the excellent article and the comments. I certainly learned many useful tips just in the last 10 min reading this page, more so than some 3-day workshops!


  4. Right on. This is exactly what I was looking for. It’s hard to find good examples of an elevator pitch. Especially because I’m a visual learner. This is what the doctor ordered though.

    Thanks for taking the time to write it.


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