3 Modern Alternatives to the Elevator Pitch

In 2015, the elevator pitch is no longer the best way to express an idea or make a sale.
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The elevator pitch has been a staple in traditional business communication for decades, but is it still relevant today? Years ago, an elevator ride might’ve been the only opportunity for an employee to “sell” any projects he’d been working on to an executive. But does its merit hold up in the age of text messages and nonstop communication?

Many argue that the elevator pitch is dead. Gone are the days of rigid corporate hierarchies where high level bosses might only converse with their underlings in the elevator. Today, many business environments are collaborative and technology allows for easy communication amongst colleagues and clients. People shy away from the idea of a slippery salesman, and favor instead honest conversation between buyers and sellers of a given product or service. There’s less of a need for the traditional sales pitch, but what is its modern day successor?

According to Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human, pitches remain an important part of how people do business. The way people sell, however, has changed. Selling a product or idea can take place anywhere--in traditional meetings, on the phone, through email, or even through social media. Pitches are no longer a one way street. Instead, the most successful sales interactions are rooted in simplicity, honesty, and a collaborative exchange of ideas.

Let’s explore a few of Pink’s modernized pitches that work in the digital age.

1. The one-word pitch

A pitch made up of only one word. Though it may seem like a gross oversimplification, it’s surprisingly effective, especially with a strong brand. Not to mention ideal for those with even the shortest attention span. For example, what comes to mind when you hear the word “friend?” This once ordinary word referring to a childhood pal or colleague now has a whole new meaning thanks to Facebook. While this technique may be a bit more difficult for a smaller company without a lot of brand awareness, if a business is unique enough, a single word may be all that’s necessary to describe its mission, a feature or a product.

2. The question pitch

Questions are a powerful persuasive tool. They’re often more effective than statements or declarations; they warrant responses while statements can elicit silence. Take the following example: an insurance salesperson pitches, “Many people wouldn’t be prepared if a disaster were to strike.” Her clients sit quietly, perhaps nod in agreement, but assume they’re already adequately prepared to handle a severe storm on their own. Or she could ask, “What measures do you have in place if a tornado were to hit tomorrow?” In this case, the salesperson starts a conversation with her clients, they exchange information and ideas, and the clients realize they’re not as prepared as they would’ve thought. In the end, they actually would like the insurance coverage. By simply leading with a question instead of a statement, a collaborative discussion unfolds, and both parties feel involved in the exchange. This makes it much more likely to lead to a sale.

3. The subject-line pitch

There is no doubt that email is a vital tool when it comes to business communication. Even in a small business setting, it’s not uncommon for an employee to receive hundreds of emails per day. In a world of overflowing and often cluttered inboxes, subject lines become increasingly important, as they serve as a filter to determine which messages to read. In order to effectively “sell” your email, that’s to say ensure that the recipient opens it, it’s important to choose the right subject line. Pink cites two factors that compel someone to open up a business email: utility and specificity. Say, for example, a small beverage supply company is looking to sell to local businesses. In this situation, simply saying “Why hydration is important” is a less effective pitch than “8 reasons to stay hydrated at work.” The latter provides a specific detail, and relates to a corporate environment, which, according to Pink, will increase its odds of being opened.

All in all, the elevator pitch may be dead, but so is the traditional definition of a salesperson. In 2015, businesses must adapt to new ways to sell products, services, and ideas to a diverse group of consumers. So forget the traditional elevator pitch--instead, ask questions, start conversations, and use technology to your advantage; it may just lead to better sales.

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