30-second speech can be the beginning of a long licensing opportunity

Break down the sales pitch into four objectives and concentrate on them one at a time, thinking only of the narrow purpose of each. 


Imagine this scene: Through careful planning and patience, you have managed to get on an elevator with the vice president of marketing for a prominent tool producing company.

You know his office is on the 14th floor, so you have approximately half a minute to make your pitch for the tool you’ve invented and hope to license.

Now what?

If you’re like most inventors, you’ll clear your dry throat and come out with a statement such as: “Um, I have an invention I want to tell you about.” But strangers seldom care about what you want.

Climbing the steps

No matter how you start your “elevator speech,” it’s not likely to be welcomed. The only way you’ll get a willingness to listen is by creating a vision of a new product that will make a profit for the VP’s company.

Half a minute isn’t nearly enough time to sell an idea to someone, of course. But the objective is to get the listener to ask questions; to want to go deeper into the nature of your product; and to be convinced it could increase the company’s revenue and profits.

Use this time-honored formula that all good ad writers and sell sheet preparers use:

  • Attract attention
  • Arouse interest
  • Create desire
  • Call for action

In other words, break down the sales pitch into four objectives and concentrate on them one at a time, thinking only of the narrow purpose of each.

Getting a dialogue

You may have noticed that the elevator speech is a spoken version of the sell sheet. The main difference between them is that you will have a photo of the product on the sell sheet, and you’ll have to create an image in words for the elevator speech. Step 1 might sound like this:

“I have developed a novel, manually operated tool that every sheet rock installer will benefit from. May I tell you more about it?”

The VP shrugs and nods, without evident enthusiasm. No dreams of glory yet, but at least you’ve made eye contact. You have accomplished “attract attention.”

You begin again. “My tool has been tested by a number of tradesmen, and they all agree it works great and saves them significant time.”

“So, what does it do? How does it work?” the VP says. Check off “arouse interest” from your list.

You explain the tool’s operation using hand gestures. He frowns knowingly, nodding his head just a bit.

You go on. “The fellows that tested it say that it will enable them to lay up at least another two or three sheets a day. Many of these guys get paid by the number of sheets they install. They can’t wait until it is on the market. The utility patent has been filed, and it’s available for license.”

His eyebrows go up, and he’s nodding. You have begun to “create desire,” which is your objective. You know you can’t conclude any deal on the elevator—so now, the “call for action.”

“How can we arrange for me to show you the tool and demonstrate its use in a video?”

The elevator is slowing. The door opens. “Come with me. I’ll introduce you to my administrative assistant. Make the arrangements through him.”

Meeting preparations

Mission accomplished. You can go off script now and say your good-byes. But that doesn’t mean you can wing it at the next meeting.

Prepare again, using the four points that have gotten you this far. You’ll probably be talking to persons you haven’t met before.

Write and rehearse what you intend to say as you introduce your product. Try to anticipate every conceivable question. Write them down; craft your answers in a way that suggests a profitable new product.

You’ll probably be addressing two or three others as well as the elevator VP, so you won’t have the same control of the meeting that you had in the elevator. On the other hand, such meetings may be friendly, informal and even relaxed—but don’t count on it.

Now, let’s consider how you use the elevator speech in other ways. First, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever use it in an elevator. The elevator event is merely an effective scenario for visualizing the need to give a quick, on-the-spot answer in any situation where you need or want to pitch your product and you don’t have a sell sheet handy.

The sell sheet is nearly always the preferred way to introduce your product. When we craft a sell sheet, we go over and over it until we can’t improve it anymore. And a sell sheet has a photo of your product.

Also, a sell sheet is a “hard” record, whereas conversational memories fade quickly. A sell sheet can circulate unedited to several other readers who may have input to the licensing decision. Conversations tend to change according to the biases of the persons relaying them.

And remember

  • What you’re trying to license or sell is a product, not an invention. The word “product” is the vocabulary of your licensee. The word “invention” is the language of creators and dreamers. You’re aiming for a licensee. Talk their language.
  • Always carry copies of your sell sheet in your purse, briefcase, backpack, breast pocket of your suitcoat, car, even folded in the back pocket of your jeans.
  • You are bound to encounter unanticipated situations where you would like to explain your product. If you don’t have a sell sheet handy, you’ll need to explain it verbally. That’s where the elevator speech is essential. Without its discipline, you are apt to stumble, wander, and talk about inconsequentials.
  • For situations where whipping out your sell sheet is impractical, use your elevator speech. Write it out, questions and answers. Emphasize increased sales and profit for the licensee. Emphasize benefits for your product’s eventual customers. Perfect it.
  • Don’t distract your potential licensee with stories about the eureka moment when you got the idea, and how all of your friends and your mother think the invention is great. That stuff is irrelevant and boring to busy persons.
  • Rehearse. Have a friend ask the questions and practice your answers … more than once. You’re vulnerable when you have to ad-lib an answer.

Remember, emphasize their perspective, not yours.

How often we see email contact designations such as  [email protected] I don’t want to be sold anything; I want to buy, and of my own volition. The better wording would be [email protected] That’s our perspective, and it’s non-threatening.

The same thinking should be used in trying to convince someone with spoken words, or words on paper. The first thing you mention is the benefits that accrue to the potential licensee. Your desire to conclude a licensing agreement should come last.