Developing an Effective Elevator Pitch

Melanie S. Green
An elevator pitch is a quick and concise way to communicate who you are, what you do, and why you can do it better than the competition.

An elevator pitch is a quick and concise way to communicate who you are, what you do, and why you can do it better than the competition.

Martin Dimitrov via iStock

An elevator pitch is a quick and concise way to communicate who you are, what you do, and why you can do it better than the competition. You should have an elevator pitch prepared for when you run into an acquaintance, when you meet someone new, or when someone asks what you do. Your pitch should be descriptive and catchy so you can keep the conversation going, convey your essential messages succinctly, and showcase your practice in a way that gets people excited and thinking.

Why Is an Elevator Pitch Important?

When you don’t have an elevator pitch ready and you give short, non-descriptive answers to introductory questions, the conversation dies, and developing the relationship becomes difficult. For example:

Q: What do you do?

A1: “I’m a lawyer.”

A2: “I’m an employment lawyer who helps advertising agencies comply with state and federal wage and hour regulations to avoid costly penalties and litigation. I’ve counseled several international agencies on proper employee classification and kept them out of court at a time when many agencies were facing expensive lawsuits.”

Q: How is work going?

A1: “Busy” or “fine.”

A2: Right now I’m focused on guiding a medical device company during a product recall. Fortunately, I assisted this client with due diligence before the product launched, so we are prepared with the proper documentation, recall plan, and employee training to help our client weather this setback while minimizing financial and reputational harm to the business.

Tips for Your Elevator Pitch

Make It Memorable

Describe your core service from a client’s perspective and tell why you and the firm are unique.

Solve a Problem

Explain what needs you meet.

Turn Adversity into Opportunity

Lay out your prescription for the problems you solve. Boil down the unique elements of your approach into one or two sentences.

Lay Out the Benefits

You’re not pitching a great idea, team or product. You’re pitching what your idea, team, and product will do for clients and businesses.

Conclude with a Call to Action

Different audiences prompt different requests. Ask clients and contacts if they know anyone experiencing the problem you solve, working on something similar or working in the industry you counsel. Ask if they will make an introduction or tell them you will follow up next week.

Make It Tangible

Talk in tangibles, not abstractions. Kill JD, MBA, and tech-speak. Keep it short and at a level people can understand. Include client names as appropriate.

Show Your Passion

Let your passion be evident as you describe solving clients’ problems. Get them excited about your work.

Questions to Consider When Developing Your Elevator Pitch

  • What problem(s) do I solve?
  • For whom do I solve those problems?
  • How am I different or how is my work compelling?
  • What is a good-fit situation for my work?
  • Why should this person care?
  • What do clients say about me?

For assistance in developing your elevator pitch, contact your group’s business development and marketing liaison.

Reprinted with permission from Building Rainmakers: The Definitive Guide to Business Development for Lawyers by David King Keller ©2016 by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

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Melanie S. Green

Melanie S. Green is the chief client development officer at Faegre Baker Daniels and is responsible for developing and managing strategic marketing and business development, including the client feedback program.