Can You Pass the Elevator Test? The Importance of Being Likable

Have you heard of the elevator test? Imagine you walk into an elevator with a stranger and they ask you about yourself, or a product or service that you provide. As you ride the elevator up several floors toward your destination, do you have the time to clearly explain who you are and what you do? Do they understand why your answer matters, do they know how it can help them, or have you otherwise offered information that makes you trustworthy and likable?

The elevator test is a business concept that venture capitalists and investors have used for many years to judge a pitch for a new product or business idea. In the world of business technology, the elevator test looks a little different, depending on if you’re using it to sell a solution, to better organize an internal project team, or just to get to know a colleague. 

CIOs and other top executives can use the elevator test to teach their teams how to market themselves and their brand’s solutions in different scenarios.

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The Elevator Test in Business Technology Settings

The Elevator Test for Customer Pitches

Although business technology differs significantly from most traditional sales avenues, the core conversation should be the same: what problem does the customer face and how can you solve it? You should be able to effectively articulate the solution to the customer.

Tech vendors often make one of three mistakes when they pitch their product to potential customers:

  • Use too much niche, industry jargon that loses the customer.
  • Share extensive details to describe all product features, without considering what problems the customer actually wants to solve.
  • Focus too heavily on what makes them special or different from their competitors.

Although a little bit of each of these pitch approaches is appropriate, tech vendors can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal: you want prospects to realize they need your product to solve a specific problem. The potential client can learn more details about the product and your company after you catch their interest, but start with a clear and concise pitch to grab their attention and get them started.

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The Elevator Test for DevOps Projects

Whether they’re working with an internal operations team or a customer’s team leads, many developers struggle to communicate what they’re doing on a project and why it matters to operational goals. Software developers tend to be very comfortable writing and working with code, but as soon as they need to communicate its value with non-developers, a communication gap develops and projects unravel.

For CIOs who work closely with developers and other technical employees, you have the opportunity to take them through different exercises that strengthen their elevator pitches, or their ability to clearly explain the work they’re doing. When they’re working on a particular project or subtask, approach and ask them to explain it to you. They’ll likely respond very technically and without considering the larger framework into which their project fits. Continue asking them “why” until they respond with something that shows how their task directly benefits the operational side of the project. 

You can run through this same exercise with operations employees, either when they’re testing a solution or asking for changes to a development project. The ultimate goal is to get both teams accustomed to communicating in a common language, ultimately making their combined DevOps projects and change orders run smoothly.

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The Elevator Test for Hiring and Getting Hired

The version of the elevator test that most people have heard of is also known as an “elevator pitch.” Elevator pitches are typically used to advertise a product or service that you offer, but they can also be used to concisely describe who you are and what you do. Interviewers and applicants alike should practice a personal elevator pitch that covers your (or your company’s) most important features in a manner that’s quick and memorable. 

Interviewers are looking at many candidates at a time and applicants are applying to several different tech roles and firms, so what can you do to make the other person feel connected to what you’re saying? 

Businesses often already have a mission statement or core values statement, but they rarely have an established elevator pitch. It’s a good idea to develop an elevator pitch that works for salespeople, recruiters, and anyone else who might need to speak about your business’s goals off the cuff.

One more example of the elevator test encourages you to consider relationships with colleagues and how you can define a good culture fit. If you were stuck in an elevator for an extended period of time, would being with this other person positively or negatively impact that experience? Would they anxiously complain the whole time, or would they jump right into problem-solving action? 

Thinking about how a colleague might respond in unexpected or high-pressure situations like a stuck elevator helps leaders predict how employees will perform in teams and client-facing situations. Regardless of which elevator test you choose, leaders and their employees can directly benefit when they use the elevator analogy to optimize their daily business interactions.

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Shelby Hiter
Shelby Hiter
Shelby Hiter is a writer with more than five years of experience in writing and editing, focusing on healthcare, technology, data, enterprise IT, and technology marketing. She currently writes for four different digital publications in the technology industry: Datamation, Enterprise Networking Planet, CIO Insight, and Webopedia. When she’s not writing, Shelby loves finding group trivia events with friends, cross stitching decorations for her home, reading too many novels, and turning her puppy into a social media influencer.

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