Nine top tips for a great lift pitch

August 8, 2022

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Picture the scene... you've just step into a lift heading to the top of the Shard. Unbelievably the only other person in there with you is super angel investor Mark Cuban. Now, imagine he just happens to ask "what do you do"? Could you explain what your startup does to him in the time it takes you to get to the overpriced cocktails at the top? No... then this post is for you.

The “lift pitch” is, as I'm sure you're now aware, a short form pitch that typically takes between 30 seconds to a maximum of 3 minutes to deliver.

It’s what you use when you’ve got a bit of time to explain what your start-up does but not enough to present a deck. Think of it as your everyday interactions pitch.

This aim is to explain clearly what it is you do, why you do it and how it works. Give the listener enough information to understand the big picture but keep it high level enough that they will want to know more and continue the conversation.

As with most advice it's everywhere and there’s a lot of examples of how to build the “lift pitch” but generally there are a few well established points to include.

1. Introduction – this should be conversational. Tell the listener a bit about yourself and perhaps a personal story about how you got going.

2. Problem – explain the main problem your start-up is trying to solve. List some of the pain points your ideal customer faces.

i.e. most small businesses can’t afford to hire a Lawyer. However, as they scale and look to raise money, they need help as they lack the skills needed to make important and informed decisions on their own.

3. Solution – be clear about what your solution is (i.e., if it’s SaaS say it’s SaaS). Describe briefly how it works and the results the users can expect. Keep it at a top level as now is now the time to get technical.

i.e – We’ve created an easy-to-use SaaS platform that allows anyone to build custom legal documents, like a term sheet, in under 30 minutes. This helps businesses to get funding ready without the pain and cost of lawyers.

4. Your journey – it is important to state where in the business lifecycle you are. Ideation, beta, post launch, revenue generating are a few examples of things you can talk about. Show off where you can… if you’ve won a big brand name or an industry award then brag a little.

i.e. – we’re post launch and at the beginning of our revenue and growth phase. We have around 200 small businesses using the beta and are signing up 10 new customers a week.

5. The Team – People love to hear about those making the dream come true so always make sure you should discuss your experience and why you are the one(s) to make this business successful. If you have teammates you should mention them here as well.

i.e – I was a lawyer for 10 years and my cofounder is a tech genius who’s launched and sold several successful businesses over the last 5 years. She built the proof of concept after we discussed the idea over coffee.

6. The ask – if the audience and mood is right then close with a call to action. Let the listener know what it is you’re currently most focused on and invite them to find out more if they desire.

As well as what you should do there are a few things you shouldn’t

7. Sticking to a script - because the lift pitch can occur in any situation its best to avoid having to rely on a script. The best thing is to memorise the main points and practice changing the flow. Different people will want to focus on different elements so keep it fluid and smooth.

8. Talking too much about the product - it’s common for founders talk about the product for 90% of the time. Don’t. Give equal time to each of the parts of the story and let the listener ask for more details on whatever aspect they find most interesting.

9. Being too pushy – try not to put people off by being overly salesy. Keep the information top level, the conversation casual and focus the ask on getting a “second date”.

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