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Does your Elevator Speech Make People Run to Find a Fire Hose?

This post has already been read 1393 times!

And Ten Ways to Avoid IT!



I recently experienced the worst form of elevator speech possible. I didn’t run to find a fire hose but confess that I ended up reading the riot act to the person!

There I was at my favorite supermarket store. I had just been to a client meeting when I remembered that I had to pick up a few household items. So I went down to the toiletries and housecleaning products section. I needed to buy soap. My favorite brand had launched a new soap and my regular saleslady wanted to show it to me. An otherwise normal gentleman was standing in my way. Polite request to move led to a 3 minute monologue.

The gentleman started off with the fact that he wanted to sell a concept. Out of politeness I asked what the concept was. Out came the business card and the next thing I knew, I was avalanched by his entire bio-data, the fact that it had been a decade since he had launched his herbal range, the top places where the products could be found and how he was making the sales of his products improve in the store where they had launched the range 2 years ago. Name, place, animal, thing, I heard everything and more in 3 minutes. The fact that I had a glazed look in my eyes was no deterrent!

A polite nod of acknowledgement and a ‘that’s nice’ and back to the purpose of my shopping – soap. I decided to try the new soap and was about to move on when the gentleman intervened with the sentence

“Your hands are absolutely dry. Do you even use anything on them?”

(Fact: My hands were perfectly alright – the product or concept that he was launching was hand cream!)

Then followed the Riot Act and by chance, the owner of the shop was there and had the gentleman removed from the premises. You do not upset a customer of over 10 years standing for a hand cream sale.

I later learned from the Shop Manager that there had been other complaints and the owner was there that day to actually monitor the complaints.

Not sure what happened after I left but I did do a profile check on LinkedIn and found out that a number of assertions in the “Elevator Pitch” were false. Credibility check got a zero and I am not going to be buying the concept or the hand cream.


Is there anything that can make a prospective client or network contact run to find a fire hose?

So what does one do to keep it steady?


Basic Elevator Speech or USP template



We all have our own special elevator speeches and while I will not go into the details of creating one in this post, the above template would have helped him avoid my ire.

So here’s my shot at what he could have said, and no, I don’t have rhino skin hands, thank you.

I create Ayurveda based herbal products for busy ladies with rhino skin hands who prefer natural ingredients but don’t have time to go to beauty parlors create the spa experience at home and acquire smooth beautiful perfumed soft hands.


Some more pointers for your Elevator Speech


  • Keep it short and simple and time limit it to 30 seconds, or at least not more than a minute.
  • Maintain eye contact with the listener.
  • Make it sound sincere, effortless, natural and conversational.  It should not sound like a recorded message. Don’t ramble or go off track.
  • Make it interesting to engage the listener prompting him or her to ask more and keep the conversation going. In other words, avoid an Elevator Speech that makes the listener wonder “So what?” or go glazy eyes.
  • Be discerning about the time and place to deliver your Elevator Speech. Modify it for the occasion, if necessary.
  • Smile. Be warm, friendly and deliver your speech with confidence.
  • Consider incorporating examples in your Elevator Speech and avoid jargon when speaking to a non-industry person. So if you are in public relations and keep using the word “Premium” with a non-industry person without the PR part, you might get mistaken for an insurance agent. (Trust me, I’ve seen it happen at a networking event!)
  • Can you provide a benefit to the listener? Put it in your 30 second pitch.
  • Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition?  Put it in your 30 second pitch.
  • Your Elevator Speech is a work in progress. Update it as your situation changes.


Does your Elevator Speech meet the above requirements?

Contact me if you need help in drafting your Elevator Speech or think it needs to be tweaked. Better to be safe than hosed down!

Inside Workings Of An Elevator by Peter Grif


Update: This blog post was originally published in January 2013 and has been revised for new content and products to help the discerning professional/solopreneur crack the code to their brand Click here.



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26 Responses to “Does your Elevator Speech Make People Run to Find a Fire Hose?”

  1. Vanita says:

    Hi Vatsala!

    This was both informative and funny. I wonder if anybody other than sales persons use elevator speech seriously?

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Truth is often stranger than fiction! Sales and marketing professionals usually ace the elevator speech but for many professionals including those that are trying to get a job, a good elevator speech helps pave the way for future business and even job opportunities.

  2. An elevator pitch?? Vatsala – you were assaulted! Looks like this guy had a losing proposition in every way.

    Great way to deliver a good lesson and enjoy the soap.

  3. Debra Jason says:

    That was a hard core sales pitch, not an elevator pitch by any means.
    Great tips you provided to guide others in creating what I call the 30-second elevator spiel. It should be adjusted to the situation, be personal & friendly and by no means a sales pitch.
    Thanks. ~Debra

    • Karmic Ally says:

      You have a point there Debra which makes me wonder, did he get marketing concepts of sales pitch mixed up with an elevator speech? I found out everything about his CV and career track in the 3 minute spiel but nothing about the hand cream!

      Interestingly, I was at the shop today and saw him there at the aisle where his products are stocked! The lady attendants told me that he was still chasing customers away and sales in that area were being affected.

      I agree an elevator speech should be tailored for the occasion, a fact that many people overlook in the excitement of making a business contact. Thanks for reinforcing the point!

  4. Mark says:

    Great tips!

    And it sounds like this rather aggressive, although clueless gentlemen got what he had coming, in terms of being shown to the door!

    But the points you shared were extremely helpful! But I must also acknowledge that it was originally your incredibly intriguing and well written headline that definitely drew me to your extremely well written post!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you Mark. I’m glad you liked the headline – it came from the heart rather than applying headline writing technique. As a marketing expert you would appreciate that times have changed and pointing out possible and personal shortcomings is not the way to build trust. This chap was clearly not with the times. It reminds me of my student days in London when I accompanied a beautician student friend to a Beauty Fair to check out some gadgets and products and ran into one of her colleagues who told me that in their industry, the best way to sell was to point out every flaw, true or not, in a woman’s hair, face, hand and the works and promise miracles. Didn’t quite fit in with my Accountancy profession’s ethical guidelines. I guess this chap belongs to that vintage. 🙂

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. Gisele says:

    When I’m in my second meeting with a client who is coming to us for Branding services, I ask them to tell me what they do withing taking a breath. They always get a glazed look over their eyes and then I’ll say “you get on an elevator and Warren Buffet steps on. He’s going to the 10th floor and asks you what you do for a living”. After a few tries, we usually nail it so they can say “why” they do what they do in a calm steady breath without pushing one thing. No sales pitches allowed and always end it with offering your business card.

    Anyone that is aggressive in their sales pitch gets a black mark in my book. That just adds to all the crappy noise in the world.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      That is such precious advice, Gisele. Thank you for sharing it with the readers of my blog. Aggression is a put-off and people nowadays are short of time and patience to hear a sales pitch. Building an interest to lead to a dialogue is so important.

  6. Renee Fuller says:

    I need to take this advice and create my own for when people ask me what I do. I usually feel self conscious and then talk about something else. Great tips!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Glad you found the tips useful, Renee. Different situations require different versions of the core Elevator Speech. Trust your intuition and the situational context and you’ll do great!

  7. Tamuria says:

    Oh this brought back memories of my demo lady job in supermarkets. I really hated that job, but it gave me so much confidence to do the things I love. There was immense pressure on us to sell, but I always found that a big smile and asking questions was much more profitable then launching into a pre-rehearsed lecture.Insulting the customer (your hands are absolutely dry) was never an option, nor was continuing with the spell when the customer was obviously uninterested.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      That is so true, Tamuria. Your sharing your story brought back memories of my introduction to aromatherapy by an Australian sales lady on the ground floor of John Smiths in London way back in the late 80s. She had a lovely genuine smile and I was attracted to her stall because I loved perfumes and incense and agreed to have a look see at her stall for 5 minutes. She spent at least half an hour with me and made an awesome sale which included the burner, base oil and 3 essential oils! I also got 3 free sample bottles of other oils and I was a regular customer after that throughout my student days in London and even brought friends to her. In hindsight, her technique was one which online marketing coaches sell by the buckets called Education Marketing except that this lady knew how to befriend customers too.

  8. I probably would have been very open to listen to this gentleman, although it sounds like his passion turned to pushy for you and others he was selling to. The elevator pitch is a concept I’ve heard in the book business too, although the length of it varies. 30 seconds sounds perfect and I must admit, saying or writing anything short for me, is often a challenge. Lots to say, although I am very much into conversation and secondary questions, so I would be sensitive to someone if they weren’t engaging and conversing back. Pushy doesn’t work for me and at some point, that might just be someone’s personality showing in their presentation. There is something about being able to draw someone into the conversation by showing a sincere interest in them and having hem feel like it is all about them. Maybe this gentleman would have done well to engage people that way. Thanks for the tips Vatsala and I do believe it is time for me to dust off my “pitch” and hone it in case I am called to share it with someone.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      This guy did not do his homework or use the powerful skill of observation, Beverley and he got shot down. I actually had made purchases from his product range before to give as gifts and the range is good but now I steer away from them. You are right, had the approach been different, I might have paused for a few minutes and told him that the product is quite good but to run after someone and use a shoddy tactic is bad salesmanship and definitely negative branding. 🙂

  9. Deb Nelson says:

    What a painful experience – and, unfortunately, they happen every day!! Maybe not at the grocery store, though! Short and sweet does it – with focus just as you’ve outlined, letting people know quickly what you do, and who benefits.That way people can quickly identify whether they might be a good fit for learning more. If not, maybe they can identify a prospective client. And all without hearing the life story of anyone:)

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Short and sweet is the key, Deb, well said! If one can add a bit of intrigue to get their attention then yes, a further dialogue does develop and who knows, if the person is not the right client candidate, they might just do a referral because they know all the right things about you to make that referral with confidence. Thanks for the extra tips.

  10. Most people get to practice their elevator pitch at networking groups. Most do not capture the audience. The best advice I ever heard was to start with a hook. My favorite one was, I sed to start getting dressed by deciding on the shoes I need to wear to get thru my day. Now I start with my jewelry & I point to my neck.

    I think it takes a lot of practice to speak an elevator pitch where it doesn’t sound rehearsed. Good little formula above & enjoyed your story.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      That is an interesting hook, Roslyn and so good for your jewelry business. I love it! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Edger Allen Poe was correct when he said that truth is often stranger than fiction. 🙂

  11. K. Lee Banks says:

    Great advice! I first heard about an elevator pitch when I took a business course for women entrepreneurs here in Maine. It is an important verbal “calling card” to have mastered!

  12. I have heard of “elevator pitches”, but you have explained it so well…Thank you! What an awesome idea Vatsala! This is so important for network marketing to ensure that people know who and what you are all about 🙂

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks Joan. Many folks often get the elevator pitch confused with an opportunity to do a Shakespearean monologue without realizing that the other person is no longer paying attention. 🙂

  13. I am still laughing! Nothing like being trapped in an “elevator” with someone forcing their sales pitch on you. People don’t want to feel sold. I was recently a vendor at a book pavilion and one of the topics included the elevator pitch. Each of us had the opportunity to practice. Someone had a 3 minute pitch! Thanks for sharing your experience as it helps put into perspective the importance of a short and concise pitch.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I absolutely agree with you Sharise. I mentioned the aromatherapy lady in another comment earlier and the fact is that she managed to sell to me on our first meeting and improved the life time value of my patronage by not shoving essential oils down my throat. 🙂

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