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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 4 years ago

The perfect elevator pitch

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How to use 'red light, yellow light, green light' approach like a pro.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

In 2016, Jacqueline Darna participated in a speed-dating type format of pitches to big- box retailers at a home health and durable medical supply show.

Out of the 60 buyers who heard her quick pitch, 59 wanted to carry her product: NoMo Nausea, a line of anti-nausea wristbands and related products.

It's example No. 1 why Darna is asked to give talks worldwide about her elevator pitch — and how to do it right.

In delivering the perfect pitch, she says, one of the first steps is to know your audience and adapt your pitch to humanize your product. For example, “if you are speaking to a pregnant person, you would never make mention of hangovers,” Darna says. It's possible that you might walk into an event expecting one kind of audience, but you should be ready to address another, she adds.

Darna says she follows a “red light, yellow light, green light” approach to her elevator pitch. She introduces herself, gives three examples of what her company does (tailored to the audience), and then follows with repeating her name and the company she represents.

The red light pause is an uncomfortable 5-second pause after hello, but before saying your name. This is intentional to capture attention. The yellow light refers to saying your name and company name slowly. Then green light is go: give two to four examples of what makes you different. Then one more yellow light introduction.  

A pitch isn't just for making a sale. It can also be about acquiring a new contract, getting someone to work with you or being a team leader, Darna says. No matter what, she says, “they have to buy into you and who you are.”

After what to do, there's also a list of what not to do.

The biggest pitfall, says Darna, is not enough practice. “No matter how many hundreds of times I've said it,” says Darna, “I still practice in the shower or in my car the day-of.”

A second pitfall is to hold out on the pitch, waiting for the perfect opportunity. Even though Darna knew she wanted to get in CVS and Walgreens, that wasn't her first pitch in retail. “I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond first because I needed to iron out the kinks,” she says.

A third snag is losing the audience's attention. Darna used to be a schoolteacher. She felt like if people stopped listening, that meant she wasn't doing something right and it was time to step it up a notch. It's important to make eye contact with every person in the room. “Not creepy,” she says, “just small, quick, one to two seconds.”

Finally, don't be nervous. Says Darna: “The worst thing they can say is 'no' and then you'll be in the same position you were in when you walked in.”

Tips for the elevator pitch

Developing the perfect pitch consists of four parts, says Jacqueline Darna with NoMo Nausea, a Tampa-based company that makes anti-nausea wristbands and related products.

• Wind up: To properly execute your pitch, you need to determine how you fascinate people, says Darna. Not how you think you fascinate, but how others perceive you. This may be through your power, passion, mystique, prestige, alertness, innovation or trustworthiness. No matter what: you have to know you are the expert. This is like the pitcher's “wind up,” Darna says.

• Who you are: Focus on the type of presentation you want to give. You can be a demonstrator, a marketer, a motivator, or an influencer, for example. This shapes the story you share.

• Plan ahead: People want to know, “What's in it for me? What's in it for you? Who cares? Why should I?” Darna says. Right before Gasparilla, for example, Darna pitched her hangover cure product. She answered the first question by letting people know they could have fun without a hangover. For her, it would be good because she wants more revenue, more people buying her product. For “who cares?” she shared the company's philanthropic mission of buy a band, give a band for cancer patients.

• Game time: “Practice, practice, practice, practice,” Darna says. “Have your ducks in a row.”

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