Shifting the ‘Elevator Pitch’ from what to why

The ‘Johnny-on-the-Spot’ well-greased elevator spiel practiced to perfection and ready to be delivered to any person at any time is in dire need of a facelift. In today’s environment, when business owners are interested in how they can differentiate their product to increase their reach and profits, they resent being held hostage for a message that isn’t centered on their specific needs. Let’s understand two important points. First, pitches need to be tailored to the audience. Second, there’s no “one size fits all” elevator pitch for every occasion. And, the purpose of the elevator pitch is to elicit further inquiry that leads to a beneficial relationship. So, what’s outdated about today’s elevator pitch?

The message

Simon Sinek in his YouTube video How Great Leaders Inspire Action believes that people don’t buy what you do and how you do it. Instead, they buy why you do it. Let’s apply Sinek’s thinking for a generic computer manufacturer to examine what’s outdated with its own elevator pitch. “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.” That’s the what and the how of the elevator pitch. It’s not inspiring. It’s self-centred on the product and it’s actually a monologue. What’s hard to communicate is why a company is in business? What’s the purpose of the organization? And, while every entrepreneur aspires to be a profitable venture, money is the result of knowing why you are in business and being able to communicate that fact to your market.

Let’s examine Sinek’s example for Apple computers. “In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. And the way we challenge the status quo is by making our product beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. We make a great computer. Want to buy one?” Notice the difference? These four sentences are an invitation to open a dialogue with the listener. The first statement explains why Apple is in business. And it’s that fundamental belief that makes Apple different. And that difference is built into their computers, which are works of art. Don’t you want to own a work of art? Sinek believes the goal is not to do business with everybody that needs what you have – the goal is to do business with people who believe in what you believe.

When you switch the elevator speech from the what of your product to the why, you’re in business. One speaks directly to the part of the brain (limbic) that controls behaviour. And when you do, that the first step has been taken to forming a relationship and acquiring a new customer. By describing why one is in business, the elevator pitch is elevated from a sales pitch to a conversation made with passion. When one is passionate about their product, they don’t see their passions as separate from themselves – they are their passions.


To communicate your company’s why it’s in business requires the speaker to truly believe that its product can benefit the client. Employees’ passions are created when they feel they’re part of something that’s big, bold and important. Owners need to share their passion for their company’s raison d’etre with their employees. Help them to see the big picture and how important the employees’ role is in achieving it. When one feels good about their work, they feel empowered to do more, to learn more, and to become more involved and passionate in the business. With this sense of association and connection, employees find new and inspired ways to promote the product. Moreover, they have the passion to shift the ‘elevator pitch’ to a conversation with the intent to form an enduring relationship.


Tips for Transforming Your Elevator Pitch

Passé Elevator Pitch Transformed Elevator Conversation
Structure – what Structure – why
Goal is to sell   Goal is to help
Centered around the product and you Attention centred on the listener and his/her needs
Monologue Dialogue
Presents products, benefits and features Presents solutions to specific problems
What is done well Shared beliefs
Intent – make a sale Intent – to build a relationship



The Modern Sales Pitch: Start a Conversation:

How Great Leaders Inspire Action:

6 Essentials for Making Your Elevator Pitch Unforgettable: