What Is a 118?

A 118 is my twenty-first-century version of what some people used to call the elevator pitch, an out-of-date name for a worthy idea that you must sell what your company offers (and yourself) in the span of an elevator ride. The name comes from the 118 seconds you actually have to pitch a prospect: 8 seconds to hook ’em and up to 110 seconds to reel ’em in.

What You Must Do in That 118 Seconds

  • Grab the attention of your prospect, be it a client, investor, or potential employee.
  • Convey who you are.
  • Describe what your business offers.
  • Explain the promises you will deliver on. 

Why You Need a 118

You need speed and immediate relevance. A compelling, attention-grabbing 118 presents who you are and the value of what you do and sells that to anyone, internally and externally. Used correctly, it can only help your business grow bigger. 

Got It—What’s Next?

Follow the four steps given here to create a 118 that works for your business.

Step 1: Create the First 8 and  Grab Your Prospect’s Attention

The first 8 seconds are the most important part of your entire pitch. That’s when you grab the attention of your prospect. If you do not connect in the first 8 seconds, then you probably will not have her attention for the remaining 110. This is a great time to compliment something the prospect has done recently and show how you complement her business or at least know what it is that she does.

  • The Good: Mentions your product or service and tells how it will help your prospect. “In less than two minutes, I will tell you how the use of [me, my company, my service] will grow your development department 115 percent.”
  • The Bad: Mentions what you’re offering, but lacks any reference to what it offers your prospect. “My name is Sam Maybe-Somebody, and my company The Hopeful-WhoKnows wants to work with your company using our WeThinkSuperService.”
  • The Ugly: Makes no mention of your company or service and how the prospect will benefit. “My name is Sam Nobody, and my company wants to work with your company because we think we can help you.”

Step 2: Convey Who You Are—the Real You

Let your prospects know who you are. They want you to tell them what it is you do most passionately. Do not waste time telling them whom you work with or for—they need to know who you are. This is not the time to drop the names of people and companies you’ve worked for in the past, and it is definitely not the time to mention any negative moments in your career. Talk about your passion and excellence.

  • The Good: Mentions your experience without namedropping and shares your passion for work that connects to what your prospect needs. “For 15 years, I have lived my passion for designing the most cost-efficient communication systems in the business.”
  • The Bad: Briefly mentions your experience and previous responsibilities, but focuses on the previous organization. “For 15 years, I developed communications systems for Zapidio Communications, which focuses on university communication systems.”
  • The Ugly: Mentions your previous company and a negative outcome. Does not mention your specific area of expertise. “I used to work for Zapidio Communications and then I was downsized, and I’m looking for freelance work in the communications field.”

Step 3: Describe What Your Business Offers

Let your prospects know who or what your business is. Your prospects want you to tell them what you do better than anyone else. What is your bottom line? Why do they need this information? Provide specifics of what your company does and why you’re the best in the business for the specific needs of your prospects. If you’re pitching marketing expertise, pitch marketing expertise and table discussing your other strengths until later.

  • The Good: Has specific details about why your company is effective and the best at what it does. “My company increases the customer satisfaction ratings of struggling companies by using the power of technology to communicate effectively and efficiently through e-mail, social media, and Twitter.”
  • The Bad: Briefly mentions what your company does, but not specifically enough to address what the prospect needs. “My company works with other companies to help them communicate better with their customers using technology like social media and e-mail.”
  • The Ugly: Vaguely refers to what your company does, but with no mention of how it will benefit your prospect. “My company works with other companies to help them communicate better with the people they work with.”

Step 4: Explain the Promises on Which You Will Deliver

Your prospects want more specifics on what your brand offers. Remember: a brand is nothing more than a promise delivered. So what promise are you offering to deliver on for them? Know your audience and its bottom line. Steer clear of saying that you 1 will create buzz for your prospects, because if the bottom line is not measurable (sales is not buzz) or directly beneficial to the prospects, then they will have no interest in anything you’re proposing.

  • The Good: Has specific details and knowledge about what your company can do for the prospect. “After reviewing the last two quarters of sales from your online Web development company, we believe the use of our social media networking program will increase your sales by 25 percent in the next quarter.”
  • The Bad: Shows limited knowledge of the prospect’s needs and offers a brief idea of what area you desire to work with. “I’ve been watching your company on the news, and I think that the use of our new machine could increase your production rates.”
  • The Ugly: Does not know what the prospect’s needs are and makes no reference to your expertise—only broad and overly general platitudes. “Our company will work hard to address any and every need that you have to grow your company.”

Great! Anything Else?

Yes; get thee to a mirror and polish your 118. Look in that mirror and recite it as often as you can so that when opportunity knocks, you can open the door and sell, sell, sell. I don’t mean memorize it. That just sounds rehearsed or canned. What I mean is drink your own Kool-Aid until it oozes through your body and comes out every pore as utter confidence and belief in who you are, what you are selling, and how it connects to your prospects. Let everyone see your passion. Get out there and use it. 

Jeffery Hayzlett, Running the Gauntlet, Copyright 2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher.