The Art of the Elevator Pitch
We’ve all been there: You’re standing in an elevator with another passenger, wondering how to pass the time from floor No. 4 to the parking garage. Often, such situations lead to roughly 30 seconds of virtual silence, while you both stare mindlessly at your smartphones.
If you’re the owner of a body shop, though, this is time that could be used to provide positive word-of-mouth marketing about your company, in the form of an “elevator pitch”—a concise statement or sales proposal. The term traces back to Vanity Fair in the 1990s, when editor Michael Caruso had to give an ever-busy boss quick story pitches in the time it would take them to ride an elevator.
When you’ve got a captive audience, it’s an ideal opportunity to expand your customer base, or develop a working relationship with an industry peer.
“I think there’s a ton of value,” says Richard Fish, owner of five Fix Auto franchises in California, with regard to elevator pitches. “It’s as much about providing comfort as about stating a value proposition.”
Elevator pitches should illustrate that you, as a shop operator, are a genuine, relatable person; that your business is credible; and that your facility offers superior service. Ultimately, the pitch should express something that sticks with your audience, leading to a possible exchange of business cards, and a follow-up conversation.
Fish, a veteran of more than 30 years in the auto industry, offers his tips for making an effective elevator pitch.
You want to identify what you do, and why you think you bring value to the table, quickly. It’s kind of a flash—like the equivalent of a sandwich sign. It’s quick and dirty, gets an initial message across, and you’re done. To me, elevator pitches are, “I’m in the auto body business, this is what we try to do to bring value to the customers.”
You’re informing people. It depends on the constituent. Here we are in the auto body business, so who are your constituents? They’re customers driving cars, they’re insurance carriers, they might be fleet folks, claims administrators, and things like that. So the pitch would vary slightly.
You should ideally encapsulate the essence of your value proposition in 30 seconds or less. You appeal to common traits that almost any human has, like the safety of their families and their children, at least in our business. You know, “We would repair vehicles quickly, but with a keen eye toward making sure your family and your children are always safe in your vehicle.” After you have crafted a well-thought-out value proposition, the elevator pitch will flow from that.
"You need some experience in communicating value propositions, features and benefits."
Richard Fish, Owner, Fix Auto Oceanside
You need some experience in communicating value propositions, features and benefits. You have to be somewhat adept. At a minimum, you must have the confidence that you know your value proposition, and you believe in it, and you can articulate it. Get out of the comfort zone, and enroll in any number of speaking, presentation courses that are out there. You know, give yourself some confidence to engage people.
Key items that should be considered for your pitch are location, length of service, value proposition, and results of your efforts (i.e. CSI, cycle time, OEM certifications, existing clients, etc.). Example: “Our five award-winning southern California locations have been producing industry-leading CSI and cycle time results for the last 12 years by implementing Lean Six Sigma techniques, having a fanatical focus on process, and a real delight in wowing our customers.”