The problem with even a flawless elevator pitch is that it's all talk. It's far more effective is to show rather than tell a customer about your product. Here's a real-life example, from a reader, edited for clarity:

I explained to the CEO of a large accounting firm that our software helps uncover new service opportunities to sell to their existing clients. The CEO was intrigued, so I suggested we go "live" with one of his clients. We spent a few minutes online with the client in a discovery conversation, catching the data with our software, which then suggested some ideas for new projects. The client was so enthusiastic they asked the accounting firm to immediately move forward.

As I understand it, that demo was done on a laptop in a conference room, but I can easily imagine doing the same thing with on a phone or table while actually in an elevator or (more realistically) at a conference mixer.

While elevator demos are powerful sales tools, like elevator pitches they can fall flat if you're not properly prepared. (I'll be discussing elevator demos (among other things) on July 8 at 1 PM Eastern in a free webinar "How to Give Demos That Win New Business".)

Meanwhile, here are some basics:

1. Discover what's important to the customer.

If you try to demonstrate every feature and function, you'll overwhelm and bore the customer. You want your elevator demo to address whatever it is your product does that's most important to that individual customer.

For example, if you're speaking with a CFO, you'd want the demo to show how your product saves money. If you're speaking with a manufacturing VP, you'd want the demo to show how your product can speed production.

2. Set up a story from the customer's viewpoint.

Once you're determined what's important, begin a story that addresses that issue to show how your product can helps.

For example, suppose you're selling supply chain software and you discover during the conversation that what keeps your customer awake at night is tracking upstream shipments. In this case you might start with: "It's late Friday night. You get an email warning that a shipment might be late..."

3. Let your customer push the buttons.

The natural tendency when giving a demo is to do it yourself, so that everything stays under your control. That's the wrong approach for two reasons. First, a "controlled demo" signals that whatever you're demoing is not ready for prime time.

Second and more important, you want the customer to experience how easy it is to use your product. Just as a test drive helps a car buyer to visualize owning the car, having the customer push the buttons helps a customer envision owing and using your offering.

4. Ask for the next step.

If what you're selling is simple and inexpensive, the next step is to close the sale. In B2B situations, however, it's not usually that easy. Purchase decisions might involve multiple stakeholders, a proposal, budgeting, and so forth.

However, when you start the sales process with a elevator demo, your sales process starts from a point where the customer knows, from his or her own personal experience, that your product is useful. No elevator pitch can do that.