We’re often asked, how do you define a business story?  How do you create an elevator pitch?

 Here’s the formula that works for us ..

You should be able to tell an engaging ‘why us’ business story in 60 seconds, 3-5 minutes, or 20 minutes on a call or whiteboard as part of a larger meeting.  Effective sales stories are designed from the listeners perspective compared to our value, not from an internal product perspective.

  1. Stories are made up of messages, which are short substantiated assertions in the form of a grammatical sentence linking problems to business value.  In others words, a slide bullet point is not a message.  Messages are different from soundbites which are used in stories and are short, illuminating & memorable phrases also used for effect to make a point.
  2. Stories reframe the argument in our favor as they are told.  Any question can result in an answer that bridges to our story.
  3. Messages, value props and stories must pass the CURE test: Credible, Unique, Realistic, backed by Evidence.  In general credible third party sourced facts, customer anecdotes and use cases must back up all your messages.
  4. There are some elements in your story that you can adapt depending on who you are talking to (e.g. depending on their business drivers or the pain points). But retain the structure.
  5. Don’t use product names, technical acronyms or internal  jargon.  Stay with business value of technology.
  6. While the story remains the same, the way that you tell it varies depending on the time you have available.  For example, while a full story will certainly take a few minutes to tell, an elevator pitch that is 60 seconds long is told emphasizing key soundbites per ‘floor’ that ‘stick’ when you walk out of the elevator.   Because a white board pitch has to be written and read while the listening is sitting, it can take longer and has to link written with spoken thoughts – so it should have a consistent repeatable layout that can be learned and retained.
  7. Whatever you do, make the story your own and talk so people really listen and engage.  Especially use your own anecdotes and examples.

Outline for business stories

Always start with a soundbite or summary of the story you are about to tell.  In other words, tell them what you are going to tell them.  For example “Here’s how we manage your social media to allow your employees to connect safely with your customers.”   This establishes why the listener should care to listen further.  End by proposing some next steps and ask for commitment.

From this point, the rest of the story has four basic parts:

  1. Start by engaging them with what’s on their mind and framing the problem.  Starting with broad statements about other customers’ problems you’re solving or what you know that they don’t from talking to other people like them. It doesn’t have to just be problems – what do they need to know to care?    Then build this into resulting implications, opportunities and risks. Be sure to establish your credibility:  for example, here’s how we learned this.
  2. Describe our solution to these problems succinctly.  So what’s the answer?  Plus, overall, how is this different or better (use the words first, only, best) from alternatives?  Not all alternatives but the listeners nearest choice alternatives.
  3. Wrap up by reinforcing our advantages (sprinkled with evidence or examples).  Here’s why you should consider us ..  Here are there other advantages to choosing us ..  Here’s what else should you know ..
  4. Paint a picture of the resulting overall value.  How will your offering change the listeners life?  What metrics or use cases you use to prove the value to yourself?

If at any point a customer start engaging and interrupts your story – let them!  Encourage them with broad smart questions that can create a conversation. Such as – were you aware of this?  What are your goals with this?  What challenges to you face like this? Where are you as a company (how mature is your company with ..)?  What’s your next move?  Can we arrange next steps to discuss them?   Ask for commitment to next steps before you conclude.