(Note: this is taken with permission from Planning Startups Stories)

This fourth of five parts in this series depends on who you are, where you are, and what you want. If you’ve personalized in the first part, sold yourself and/or your organization in the second, and established the attractiveness or suitability of the business offering in the third, it’s time to finish strong with a closing.

Your closing depends completely on context. What do you want from the person or people you’re talking to? The classic elevator speech context is a venture competition or when looking for investors. But there’s also the true elevator speech for the established company, simply describing your company to somebody who asked, with no real close.  Be honest, you’re not always asking for an order, even when you’re just chatting with the person in the next seat on the airplane. If you are trying to sell then do ask for the order. Seriously: “if you give me a card, I’ll send you a copy with an invoice.” Seriously: ask for the order.  “If you don’t like it, send it back. Here’s my card.”

For the venture competition or investment variety elevator speech, don’t try to convey too much information. Do establish in general terms where you are or what you want. “We’re looking for seed money of half a million dollars.” Or “We’re now raising round-two financing of three million dollars to be used for the mainstream marketing launch.” Or “we’re looking for serious marketing partners able to put money up front in return for privileged first-year pricing.” Or “we’re trying to establish a royalty relationship with an appropriate manufacturer.” And then, ask for a business card, and give one. “If you know anybody who might fit that bill, feel free to recommend us.” Or “please give me a call.” Don’t offer to send a business plan, and don’t ask directly when it’s about investment; reduce the awkwardness by suggesting that your audience might know somebody, not that your audience might invest.

Don’t talk terms in the elevator speech. Just establish what you want or need.

If you’re in a real elevator with a real potential investor, you probably soft pedal: “if you know anybody who might be interested, please pass this along. Or maybe you want a business card and permission to send a follow-up email.”

And if you’re doing an elevator speech in a business venture competition — close with an appropriate call for investment. Venture competitions are always keying on the would-be or hypothetical pitch to the investor, so make it clear. The better ones end up with something relatively definitive like a reference to seed capital or first-round equity investment. Stay general. Make them want more.

Read the other posts in this series.
Elevator Pitch Part 1: Personalize Your Pitch
Elevator Pitch Part 2: Sell Yourself
Elevator Pitch Part 3: Sell Your Offering
Elevator Pitch Part 5: Nail Your Delivery

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.