Consider the following. You have less time to make an effective elevator pitch than it takes to boil an egg. You can cook an average-size egg in three minutes.  The short overview you need to present your small business to investors or customers must be two minutes or less.

While the analogy may be apples to oranges, you get the point. Two minutes – which is sufficient to complete an average elevator ride, hence the name  — is not a lot of time to state your case. But whether on the phone, in e-mail, at a business function or during a chance encounter – two minutes is about all the time you have to get someone’s attention and explain why your small business is different.

Just what do you say in two minutes to win over your audience and get to the next step in the process of securing an investment or a sale? Here are the five basic elements of an effective elevator pitch:

Get attention:  At the outset, explain what your company does or sells and why your audience should be interested. For example, a personnel recruitment might point out that finding qualified candidates takes a lot of time — something companies have little of these days. Emphasize that your firm can bring qualified candidates in the door within days of getting a req.

Provide a solution: Explain how your product or service will solve a customer’s problem; for investors focus on a market or industry problem or trend and show how your small business can resolve it or take advantage of it. The bottom line is to convince your audience that you can answer a particular need.

Describe your difference: Differentiate yourself from others in your market. Substantiate why you are worth buying from or investing in.

Use hard data: Back up your pitch with hard data that validates your difference and potential. Be sure what you convey answers the needs or questions of your audience.

Request action:  Encourage the audience to take the action you desire. You could ask for another meeting to talk further about your product or services or offer to submit a proposal.  With investors, you might want to ask for another due diligence session.

In addition to these tips, here are some other dos

  • Avoid industry terms and jargon, which your audience may not understand.
  • Memorize and practice your pitch. Rehearse with someone to get feedback.
  • Create multiple versions of your pitch for potentially different audiences.
  • Be passionate. Inspire your audience with your enthusiasm and conviction.

Two minutes isn’t a long time, but a two-minute elevator pitch done right can help get your small business to the top.