5 Tips to Master an Elevator Pitch That Wins You Business

By Jared Atchison, co-founder of WPForms.

Have you ever felt a bit tongue-tied when talking with people about what you do?

You’re not alone. You need to develop an elevator pitch that takes the stress out of networking and allows you to present yourself or your business the right way in time constrained-scenarios. To relay the message quickly and efficiently, typically the pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds. This helps you make a connection and build a strong impression on someone without being abrasive. Let’s take a look at a few tips that help you master an elevator pitch that wins you business.

Understand What Makes You Unique   

The goal of having a great elevator pitch is to intrigue and have the person ask more about your offer. You want to create a connection with your audience. You can start by scripting out what you want people to know about you and your business. Bear in mind that this is the early stage of the drafting process, so try to elaborate as much as you like for now. Explain what you do in simple language and include what makes you uniquely qualified to accomplish what you’re setting out to do.

Fit Into 30 Seconds

Once you script out everything that you want people to know about you, the challenge is to fit your pitch into 30 seconds. Summarize your entire pitch by keeping your phrasing short and right to the point.

Many people start off their pitch by introducing themselves. If you want your audience to hook into the conversation right from the beginning, you might start off with anything of interest or of value to your audience, like a quick question or a comment that grabs the listeners’ attention. As the conversation goes on, you can mention your name and business.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a pitch is to convert a quick hello into a quality lead without being abrasive. Make sure to summarize your speech in a way that interests the audience so that you can induce the possibility of a future meeting.

Personalize Your Pitch

What interests one person may not interest another. Before going into your 30-second pitch, get to know the person you are talking to and try to approach the pitch from an angle that will interest them. The goal of the elevator pitch isn’t to close the deal right then and there. It’s to keep the other person interested enough to ask you more questions.

Hook Into Conversation

Adding a sense of mystery into your talk is the best way to hook someone into the conversation. Don't reveal your secret sauce right away. Some other ways to hook your audience into the conversation include:

• Asking questions: Bear in mind that you’re going to develop a strong relationship, which requires the listener to engage in the conversation. Ask questions wherever necessary and let them talk about themselves.

• Speaking with a dominant tone: Lead the conversation by being dominant throughout the talk. Doing so comes off confident and honest.

• Staying positive: When talking, your perception has a powerful impact on your outcome, so stay positive and assume people will like your presence.

Practice

Practicing will make your elevator pitch perfect. Repeat your key phrases and rehearse your pitch in front of a mirror or a camera, so you can see how you deliver the pitch. Rinse and repeat the process until you can confidently meet your prospects and deliver a pitch perfectly. However, make sure not to over-rehearse, which could make your phrasing sounds robotic, leading to a negative impression.

If you have a strong idea you believe in, talking to people about it comes naturally. To deliver a natural talk, rather than recalling the exact phrases, always speak from the heart.

By following these tips, you can master your elevator pitch and sort the stress out while introducing yourself to new people. Make your pitch intriguing and engaging and refine it on a regular basis. The key is to capture the interest of your prospects in 30 seconds or less so that you can open the door to build a meaningful relationship.

Jared Atchison is the co-founder of WPForms, a drag & drop form builder for WordPress that's being used on over 400,000 websites.

This Female Founder Boostrapped Her Business To Over $1 Million In Sales In Less Than One Year

After giving birth to her daughter, Crystal Etienne started experiencing light bladder leakage. She was only in her twenties. "I realized that I had no control over it, which was a very uncomfortable and embarrassing feeling, especially since I thought I was too young to experience bladder leaks."

Then in her thirties, Etienne's menstrual cycle became irregular. "My flow was very heavy, making it uncomfortable to wear tampons, so I used pads. However, I had several bad experiences with leaking, shifting, and chafing pads. I was so angry at hygiene companies for making such terrible products and angry at myself for continuing to use them."

Etienne's frustration led her to create PantyProp, which produces underwear and swimwear with leak-proof protection against menstruation and incontinence. Since launching her company less than a year ago, Etienne has seen her revenues grow by 400 percent, and sales are in the millions. Etienne sat down with Project Entrepreneur to discuss why putting customers first is the only motivation (and marketing) she needs.

Project Entrepreneur: What inspired you to start your business?

Crystal Etienne: One day, I literally had one of those "Aha! moments." After being sick and tired of being sick of tired of dealing with life's pesky leaks, I created a hygiene fashion brand to encompass every lifestyle need for people who experience incontinence and menstruation.

I understand that hygiene isn't "one size fits all," so I created [different types of products]. I created period swimwear so that no one would feel feel isolated at the beach or pool because their period showed up on vacation. I created leak-proof sleep shorts so that no one (including men) would have to worry about waking up to a leak. And I also created leak-proof underwear for people who experience incontinence and heavy menstruation, as well as women and girls with special needs who cannot use tampons.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?

Being part of a new and growing market, educating the consumer has definitely been a challenge. Most people are only aware of the traditional feminine hygiene products that have failed us for so many years--we accept their shortcomings and complain silently amongst ourselves.

Brands are always discussing fitness, wellness, and good eating, but no brands have ever addressed good feminine hygiene. That was another one of our biggest challenges. I've always discussed the importance of maintaining good hygiene with my daughter, and at PantyProp, we we have created products and a social system around our product that has made it very comfortable for a mother to start that conversation early with her daughter and openly engage around hygiene and feminine care with products that are easy to explain and that one can feel comfortable talking about.

What's been the greatest reward?

Our biggest reward is receiving emails from moms of young girls saying our products made their daughters feel more comfortable--that their girls were able to go to swimming practice and not feel ashamed, or attend camp without feeling awkward. We often receive emails from women who who [tell us] their heavy periods [don't seem] so heavy [and difficult to manage after using our products]. Overall, our biggest reward is being able to say we [provide people with] piece of mind and confidence.

What is the biggest thing you'd like to see change in your industry, and how are you working to make that change happen?

We would love to see mainstream products that are more comfortable, failure-free, and definitely chemical-free; this is our ultimate end goal. By introducing our products into market, we have already started the demand for [comfortable, chemical-free products that actually work].

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?

The daily emails from consumers--knowing we are helping someone that has a problem [is my] biggest motivation. Sometimes we feel like nothing is right, and we want everything perfect, although perfection isn't a realistic expectation.  [At PantyProp], we have realized we will never please everyone, but for the 98 out of 100 [customers] that are happy, that is more than enough [to motivate us and make us proud].

Can you provide a few updates on what's new with your business or what you've accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?

PantyProp has definitely been on the move up since April 2017. Our sales revenues have grown 400% from last year [to] in the millions--mostly from word of mouth marketing--and we are expecting to grow revenues four-fold this year. These are major accomplishments for a completely bootstrapped company that hasn't done any gimmicky advertising campaigns. We were also invited to launch at the Macy's Las Vegas Fashion Mall, and we will expand our men's leak-proof line of hygiene-wear (because men leak too!).

What's one piece of advice you'd give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

Remember it will never be perfect.

What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?

Mondays are insane. I am always motivated, but to prepare for the daily grind of the week, I get my thoughts and calendar organized. I am so busy all week--without a clear mind and good calendar reminders, I would never be able to be function at 100 percent.

This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.

The One Thing That Could Make Or Break Your Small Business

If you run a small business, you know how critical it is to nail the big things everyone talks about. You've got to have a service or product that customers need, want and feel like they can't live without. You've got to figure out how to brand yourself in a way that sets you apart in a largely copycat world these days. You've got to nail the customer experience in today's social media environment where bad customer experience trends spread fast and can kill you.

On top of all of that, you've got to find a way to get the best people working for you who can differentiate your company beyond the short life of any given product.

Those things get all the buzz, and they certainly deserve it. Without doing those things, you probably don't even have a business to run in the first place. Once you have a business, though, is it possible to do all of these things well and still have your business be on the verge of falling apart? It is.

The reason why might not be the most glamorous business topic and certainly doesn't get much hype, but it might actually be the difference between a business that lives or dies.

That thing is cash flow.

The impact of poor cash flow (even if everything else looks great)

Years ago before I had my own company to run, I worked for Deloitte Consulting, one of the largest global consulting firms in the world. Twenty years later, I still remember one of the things a leader in the firm told me about how he evaluated the health of the small companies he worked with. He told me that the first thing he looked at was their cash flow. That would tell him much of what he needed to know.

I understood what he was talking about in concept at the time. It made logical sense, of course. Every business needs access to money it can spend right now. I only really understood what he meant when I started running my own small company, though.

It is a delicate balance in terms of the timing of expenses going out and revenue coming in. It seems almost rudimentary and basic, but things happen in the course of a fiscal year that can upset the balance and put you into a surprisingly challenging financial position.

Unexpected business challenges arise that require money right now. There are very real delays in the timing of big initiatives, projects, or new products or services that have significant revenue impact not just in terms of the revenue they bring in but when they bring it in.

I lived through all of these.

Ironically, in those same years, my year end P&Ls looked phenomenal. I had really good top line revenue, awesome bottom line net profit, and solid margins. You would have thought I had no problems and just cruised along during the year. In each of those years, though, there were periods of poor cash flow that had me wondering how I was going to keep the business up and running.

The problem of showing a great end of year P&L combined simultaneously with incredibly stressful periods of poor cash flow during that same year may sound almost preposterous. How could that even happen? It was very real for me and could be for anyone running a small business - which is inherently much more susceptible to it than bigger ones who usually have a better chance, theoretically at least, of having a good amount of daily cash on hand.

What can you do about it?

Here are two not so glamorous but important things you can do to help you pro-actively manage cash flow:

1. Put cash flow strategies on the top of your list right next to products, customers, and people

This by itself doesn't solve cash flow challenges, but simply by recognizing it as being centrally important to the health of your business forces you to think about it regularly. For me, doing this has resulted in cash flow contingency planning that has given me strategies to deal with unexpected timing challenges on expenses or revenues.

2. Build your buffer

It is the same thing that big companies do with daily cash on hand. Create a buffer of daily cash on hand and don't use it for anything. It's hard to not use it when you run a small company that isn't resource rich, but the fortitude to hold on the desire to tap into it for other strategic business needs has been critical for me in terms of dealing with the unforeseen and weathering what would have been serious cash flow storms.

Don’t Buy Into The Myths: Here’s Why Crowdfunding Is Actually A Good Bet For Female Founders.

According to a 2017 crowdfunding report from PwC, women do substantially better on crowdfunding platforms than their male counterparts. Berkeley-Haas School of Business and the Kellogg School of Management found that women are effectively better storytellers than men, which helps them perform better on crowdfunding platforms. 

Karen Cahn is not surprised: "Ladies, let's not forget, we are naturally good at this!" she says. Cahn is the CEO of iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women-led startups and small businesses.

In a piece for Project Entrepreneur, Cahn lends her expertise as she busts common crowdfunding myths and encourages women to utilize crowdfunding to launch or grow their businesses:

MYTH: Crowdfunding means I'm giving away equity in my company.

REALITY: Rewards-based crowdfunding platforms, like iFundWomen, allow you to sell products or services in exchange for cash, similar to an e-commerce transaction.  This means you are keeping 100 percent of your company, and you are not giving away equity in your company. Nor is it a loan--you don't have to pay the high-interest rates women receive on small business loans.

MYTH: People will organically find my project.

REALITY: Everyone loves to talk about the crowdfund that raised millions of dollars in nanoseconds. The reality is a successful crowdfunding campaign, like a business, requires planning, marketing, and a clear strategy. You have to get out your megaphone, well in advance, and start telling your tribe that your campaign is coming up, then ask them if you can count on them for support.  

Jen Coulombe from Sat Nam Babe started a line of baby yoga clothes made from recycled plastic bottles, and she announced her campaign more than six months before launch! She blogged, posted, and gave everyone the heads up that her campaign was coming soon.

And guess what? It worked.

Within the first week of her campaign, she was over 50 percent funded. She kept the heat up on her marketing throughout her 30-day campaign, unwavering in her energy, and she got fully funded.  It's all about pre-planning and pre-marketing. 

MYTH: It's embarrassing.

REALITY: It's empowering! You are finally showcasing your hard work to the world and selling your product to your first customers--get psyched! This is what you've been working so hard for: product-market validation and actual paying customers.

When you crowdfund, you don't have time to go through any shame spirals. As part of my crowdfund for my first company, Sarah Sommers and I literally panhandled on the streets of New York to get our campaign funded on a 100-degree day in mid-July.

We had no shame, and neither should you. It was also an awesome bonding experience--so grab a co-founder or friend and hit the streets.

Accept cash and then put it in your campaign. Go have a bake sale. Host a crowdfunding party at your house, and get your girlfriends together for wine and fun. Get creative with how to engage your friends, family and followers, and sell them the rewards they want to buy. 

Women are natural storytellers because we are able to connect emotionally--which is critical to a successful crowdfund. Crowdfunding requires putting yourself out there to tell the story of your business, highlighting your own successes, and promoting yourself.

The confidence gap is real, but that is where coaching comes in. Mentors and a supportive community of fellow entrepreneurs will empower you to put yourself out there to realize your goals.

MYTH: Crowdfunding will be a distraction from my overall strategy.

REALITY: Crowdfunding should be a central part of your business strategy.  

A crowdfunding campaign is work: four weeks of pre-planning and four to six weeks of full court fundraising. Whether you are an early stage startup trying to prove there's a market for your product or an existing business looking to fund your growth, a crowdfunding campaign should be a key part of your go-to-market.

You can crowdfund and grow your business at the same time, and if you work hard enough, you can leverage your campaign to create long-lasting lucrative partnerships for your business. That's the crowdfunding dream come true!

Crowdfunding validates product-market fit; investors view a crowdfund as an initial gate to prove there's a market and regularly require a crowdfund before investing venture capital dollars. Crowdfunding can also help refine marketing your marketing strategy and de-risk your launch: people get to know you and your business/product and give you real world feedback.

Launching or growing your business is all about maximizing your opportunity and limiting your risk. The single most efficient way to do that is through crowdfunding.

This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.

Want to Bootstrap Your Startup? Every Founder Should Answer These 5 Questions First

Bootstrapping is in many ways the simplest way to start a business. You don't need to find investors. You don't need to find a bank willing to lend you money. You don't need to convince potential crowdfunding partners that you -- and your idea -- is worth investing in.

Plus, bootstrapping your startup is extremely attractive in terms of flexibility and freedom. You're the sole owner. You're in charge. If things go well, the upside is basically unlimited because you don't have to share the rewards.

But the downside definitely exists. Bootstrapping means risking your money, your time, and your resources. So how can you know if bootstrapping is right for you? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

Do I want complete control over my business in return for slower growth?

Money often fuels growth. Money allows you to hire more people, place more ads, create products and services at a faster rate.

If you decide to bootstrap and don't have significant resources to draw upon, you'll need to dial back your costs. You might even need to keep your full-time job while you launch your business on nights and weekends.

In short, you'll need to accept that your startup's growth will likely be slow (and hopefully steady.) In return, though, you'll maintain complete control over your business -- and your profits. Are you okay with the tradeoff between growth and control? That's a decision only you can make.

Can I provide enough value and make enough money from early customers so I can invest in the businesses and get it off the ground?

As I've written about before, in a bootstrapped startup, short-term results matter most. That's especially true where short-term profits are concerned, because short-term revenue and cash flow provide the investment fuel to help your business grow.

If you can actually generate revenues and profits, of course.

Which means providing genuine value to your customers.

You may be tempted to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) so you can get your business rolling -- but if that product doesn't provide real value to customers, you won't have any customers.

In short, if you will need to spend significant time and money developing a product or service before you make your first sale, bootstrapping may not be right for you.

(That's why some of the easiest businesses to bootstrap are service businesses, because the main cost is "just" your time.)

Are there partnerships I can put in place to fund the business in its early days?  

Finding the right partner can be tricky -- but it can be done.

A wholesale manufacturer may give you extremely generous payment terms -- as much as six to nine months -- which will allow you to start your business without investing in inventory. A service provider may offer to finance inventory in exchange for performing installations and maintenance.

While it may take some digging -- and some creative pitching -- you may be able to find a mutually beneficial relationship with an established partner.

Then the capital you need to get started won't have to come from you.

Do I even need capital to test my idea or concept?  

Market validation involves determining if there is a profitable intersection between what you hope to provide and what customers actually want.

Here are a few ways to validate your idea that don't involve significant investment.

  • Build a list of people you feel certain will be interested in your product or service

  • Talk to them -- about their needs, about their pain points, about how they solve their current problem...

  • Create a simple landing page about your product or service and try to get people to sign up for updates and access when it's ready.

  • Create a minimum viable product (not for sale, but for trial use) and ask people for feedback.

Granted, some startups require significant capital. Want to build electric cars or build rockets? You'll need significant capital. (Hi Elon!)

But even if you do have generous amounts of capital, validating your idea early on makes sense. Why spend thousands of dollars on an idea you only hope will work?

Am I willing to accept the risk I might fail, both financially and emotionally?

Startups are emotional rollercoasters. Some days are awesome. Some days are devastating.

Most are stressful, especially early on.

There will be setbacks. There will be roadblocks. When you don't have money to throw at problems, there will be challenges that you need to overcome through creativity, effort, and persistence.

Struggling is never easy. Failing is never easy. Bootstrapping is never easy.

But it can also be incredibly rewarding to build something great out of almost nothing.

If you're willing to accept the risks in pursuit of the returns, bootstrapping may be right for you.

How to Tell If You Should Be Your Own Boss (or Work for Someone Else)

Should I start a business or should I work for a company? originally appeared on Quorathe place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Joanne Gogue, Owner of Joanne's Skin Care, on Quora:

There are tremendous benefits to becoming an entrepreneur. But it isn't for everyone. To decide whether to launch your own business, you need to take a good hard look not just at the industry you want to conquer, but also at your own skills and psychological makeup.

It's a process I went through. Working in a fiercely competitive field (skin care and beauty products), I knew I could work for one of the huge corporations that control the vast majority of the industry or strike out on my own. I chose to start my own business.

It was absolutely the right call, and I've never looked back. Through more than three decades, I've had the chance to call my own shots. I've seen what it takes to last and succeed. I've also seen fellow entrepreneurs come and go, succeed and fail. Here are some of the most important factors to consider in making your decision.

Passion for learning

To succeed on your own, you have to constantly build and update a reservoir of knowledge. You need to know all the latest developments, technologies, and trends that affect your category and your market. You also need to learn what it takes to run a business, from finances to growth strategies to hiring the best employees or contractors. This process never ends, because new ways of doing business keep emerging.

So being an entrepreneur means signing up for a professional life filled with learning, every day. That's why you need a genuine passion for it. If you view learning new information and skills as drudgery, then entrepreneurship isn't for you.

I love it. I get excited about attending classes and events despite the time commitment. And my willingness to keep getting educated helps keep clients coming back to me. They trust that I'll find an answer to help them.

Motivation beyond money

It takes a great deal of time and energy, and even greater risks, to build a company. The idea of one day running an empire or selling your startup for a huge sum of money generally won't be enough to sustain you through all that work. You need a much deeper sense of purpose.

If you have this, it will serve as crucial fuel. I'm profit-minded enough to make sure my company is financially healthy, but driven more by love for the work itself. It's what gets me going each day.

No matter what field you're considering, whether it be to help businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C), it's only worth starting your own business if your love for it is genuine.

Confidence in building relationships

Part of the irony of going off on your own is that, in many ways, it can require you to be even better at building relationships.

To find the best people to work with in every aspect of your business, from suppliers to expert advisers, you'll have to be confident and comfortable reaching out. I love doing this. Developing real connections with individuals is also a cornerstone in building trust and respect with customers.

The independence of controlling your own professional destiny is a great potential result of starting a business. But it takes a village to get you there.

Fortitude to handle stress

I had a stressful childhood. At a very young age, I had to navigate serious challenges due to my family situation. As a result, I became hyper vigilant. The way cats can see in dim light, I learned to see pathways in situations that may feel dark.

I came out of this experience able to handle stress. I don't cave under it; I look for ways to get where I need to go. The toughness and resilience that I built up early on have benefited me as an entrepreneur.

Ask yourself how good you are at handling stress. Try to think through stressful situations that may arise and how you would react. Speak with business owners about their most stressful times. Make sure you have the courage and fortitude to plow through similar challenges.

Adaptability

Succeeding at your own business will require you to remain steadfast and true to your principles and goals. But there are some ways in which you'll have to bend.

As your category and market evolve, you'll need to tweak your offerings. As new competitors come along, or existing competitors take surprising turns, you'll need to pivot. Even when you have your first successful product or service, you'll need to work on improving it and building your next one. No industry succeeds by staying the same anymore. So make sure you have the humility and persistence to always challenge yourself to do better.

I wouldn't trade this career for any other. The rewards, in business and life, are tremendous. If you think you have these strengths, then go for it. You just may surprise yourself and find that you're even stronger -- and more ready for entrepreneurship -- than you realized.

This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on TwitterFacebook, and Google+. More questions:

3 Must-Have Characteristics of Successful Startup Founders

When my co-founder and I incorporated our company, we didn't have world domination on our minds. We simply wanted to solve a problem that we saw as a major barrier in the shipping and logistics industry--it's tough for companies of all sizes to compete with giants for market share. Even PwC has pointed out that the consumer goods/retail landscape is more fragmented than ever before. 

Whether it we found it to be a niche or pervasive problem, we were naturally obsessed with tackling it. We interviewed potential customers before we built features. We collected feedback on an ongoing basis. We built technology that we needed but didn't have when running when we were running our past company--an e-commerce store.

On our path to series A, our business evolved naturally. But now we're on a different trajectory, applying the early lessons we learned to reach out next goal of scaling our company. Here's what we learned at the beginning, that's guiding our growth path, now:

Be bold in your vision.

As our company grew, we reached a point where we needed to establish a clear direction. Because we're innovating in a very established industry, shipping, and logistics, we realized that we needed a crystal-clear goal. For us, long-term success will come from collaboration across startup, corporate, and public sectors.

So what does long-term success look like for us?

We want to fuel a borderless ecosystem for e-commerce, in which companies can transact across borders with little friction. That's why we're building the biggest global shipping network, allowing any e-commerce store, no matter where they are, to integrate our API and be able to ship with a reasonable cost, to wherever their customers are.

Be highly flexible and adaptable.

Many people think that startups are a function of luck and brilliance. That's because it's tough to truly understand what happens behind the scenes--the daily grind, tough work, and emotional toll. What I've learned, when scaling a company, is how to be flexible and adaptable. No matter curve ball comes our way, we need to be able to respond.

I learned this lesson at a young age because my father was in the German ministry, and my family traveled wherever the government sent him--I grew up in Germany, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Spain and then Switzerland. With every new situation, I needed an open mind.

Back to startups--things don't always work out. But what my experiences taught me is that there is always another potential angle and direction.

Be picky about the advice you receive.

I have a process for seeking advice. It's not that I don't respect the opinion of others--it's that I need to stay intently focused on solving specific challenges in our business. Here's my process for picking and choosing the right advice:

  • I speak to individuals who have been exactly where my co-founder, team and I today. These are entrepreneurs who are currently running startups that are more mature, having raised a Series B round, for instance. They can relate to us as well--where I am as a founder, and where we are as a company is close to where they are now.

  • I seek advice from people who are operators--these are individuals who have tackled challenges themselves. First-hand stories illuminate stories between the lines and help us recognize what we don't know and what questions we should be asking.

  • I'm skeptical of "universal" opinions. No advice is universal--not ever. Every business is unique. If someone tells me that we should do something because "that's the way it is" but can't justify why--or relate the advice back to our experience--we politely move on.

The joy of scaling a business comes down to the micro-decisions that we make and the adventures that we experience each day. It's our long-term vision, and an understanding that startup successes span years, that keep us on track. I'm excited to write this story again in five years.