Your Elevator Speech: In Search of the Elusive Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

By Michael Willmann • WMSH Marketing Communications

Why do we care if you can describe “the whole idea behind your NPO”?

When we pose that question, what we’re really doing is asking for the components of your  organization’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is the online or traditional media equivalent of the classic thirty-second Elevator Speech, which we will define as a clear, brief message or “commercial” about you, or your product, service, or organization.

It communicates who you are, what you’re looking for, and how you can benefit the person who’s hearing it—what’s in it for them. And, most important, it sets the stage for a follow-up conversation!

It’s typically about 30 seconds—theoretically the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator. It’s even better if it takes less time. Shoot for :15 and settle for :20 to :25.

Just to be clear, the idea behind having an elevator speech is that you are prepared to share this information with anyone, at anytime, even in an elevator.

Now imagine what you would do if you got into an elevator that was occupied by only one other individual. And imagine further that this individual is the one person with whom you would most like to speak on behalf of your organization.

When this opportunity presents itself, the first thing you need to do is smile. Seems obvious, but it is hard for some people to do with openness and sincerity. Remember the lesson from your Intro to Psych course…when someone smiles at you, your amygdala responds immediately by compelling you to smile back.

The second thing to do is shake hands confidently and identify yourself…while continuing to smile.

Open with a statement or question that grabs attention: a hook that will prompt your listener to ask questions. Build on that hook by enthusiastically describing your organization or service. What problems have you solved…what contributions have you made. And then segue to why you are interested in your listener (unless it is obvious).

If you have time (you won’t), give a concrete example or tell a short story. The most important step after smiling at the beginning comes at the end. Ask for your listener’s card (or in the alternative) offer your own card and ask if you can continue the conversation with a follow-up call or meeting. Yes, time is expiring and the elevator doors are opening, but don’t leave without asking!!!

If you’ve really answered the key question of your listener WIIFM (i.e., What’s In It For Me?), you should get the meeting!

PS: Put your elevator speech on the back of your business card.

PPS: Hand write your cell number on the card.

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