Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider
Elevator pitches, and the reams of advice about perfecting them, have been business staples for decades. In his new book, “To Sell Is Human,” bestselling author Daniel Pink argues that there are two major reasons its time has passed.First, organisations are more democratic. It used to be the only time a lowly worker would ever encounter the CEO was in the elevator. Now, open plans, all-hands meetings, and email means that’s not the case.
Second, everyone — CEOs especially — faces a massive torrent of information. That means we need new and better strategies to stand out.
Pink offers six suggestions to replace the elevator pitch.
1. The one-word pitch
Attention spans are so short these days, especially for people who can’t imagine a world without the internet, that only “brutally simple” ideas get through. For example, when you think of “search” you think Google. When you hear “priceless” you think of MasterCard. That took a lot of effort.
One word, delivered forcefully, can go farther than many. But the idea, and the credibility behind it, have to be so powerful that more words aren’t needed.
2. The question pitch
Questions pack a big punch. When you make a statement, people can respond passively. A question requires a response, people have to process and think about the message.
A question prompts people to come up with their own reason for agreeing or disagreeing with you. When someone comes up with their own reasoning, they tend to believe more strongly in an idea and help sell it for you.
3. The rhyming pitch
The most famous example is Johnny Cochran’s “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” There’s a reason you remember that. Rhymes increase “processing fluency,” the ease with which our brains can take in a phrase or statement and make sense of it.
Rhymes are easy to understand, so we unconsciously see them as more accurate, and they stick in our minds.
4. The subject line pitch
Email is such a fundamental part of our life that it’s become routine; we rarely think about how to do it well. One of the most important parts of getting someone to open an email is the subject line, and the best ones use one of three concepts.
Utility — people are more likely to read emails that directly affect their work; make it clear that yours does.
Curiosity — when something doesn’t directly affect their work, a moderate amount of uncertainty drives people to open an email.
Specificity — be as specific about time, place, and content as you possibly can. That doesn’t contradict the curiosity principle, Pink gives a great example: “A mushy subject line like improve your golf swing achieves less than one offering 4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon.”
5. The Twitter pitch
This pitch has two advantages. The platform, and the 140 character limit. Approaching people this way forces you to summarize what you do and what you’re about very simply and concisely.
It also encourages people to take the next step — to click a link, to share the Tweet, to respond — and imposes a very low cost of doing so.
6. The Pixar pitch
According to Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar, every film has the same deep structure in six sentences, which has helped contribute to the studio’s massive success.
Once upon a time ____________. Every day, _________. One day _______________. Because of that, ____________. Because of that, __________________. Until finally ______________.
Try applying it to your favourite Pixar movie — it works. More than that, it lets you tell a business or other dilemma as a story, which is extremely powerful, and gives you a structure with which to do it.
So skip the elevator pitch, and give these new strategies a shot instead.
Find Pink’s book here
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