Personal Development

How to Master the Elevator Pitch and the Nutshell Resume

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development
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Business people waiting for elevator in office hall

Many of you have heard of an elevator pitch, which is basically a short summary of what you do that can be quickly deployed upon an unsuspecting third party before they even know what hit them. Basically, it’s a rapid fire sales pitch.

An elevator pitch should contain three things that you can spout off in 30 seconds:

  1. Who you are. (Try to find commonality if possible.)
  2. What you do.
  3. How you can benefit them.

Real estate investor Dave Lindahl invests in apartments through syndications, where he brings on passive investors to put up the down payment and then split the equity. So the elevator pitch he makes, at least when talking to fellow Bostonians, is as follows,

“Hi, my name is Dave Lindahl, I’ve been living in Boston for the past 30 years. I’m a real estate investor and I invest in emerging markets throughout the United States. I typically give my investors a higher return on their investments than they can get in other financial vehicles.”

I would definitely recommend putting together such a pitch whether you are looking for private loans, wholesale deals, listings, etc. But even with such a quick and concise statement, it can still be a bit awkward to say it. That's where the "nutshell resume" comes in.

Related: 6 Ways to Make a Good Impression to Make More Money in Real Estate

The Nutshell Resume

The nutshell resume comes from a great little book by Leil Lowndes called How to Talk to Anyone. The book contains 92 tips for well, talking to anyone. They include things like “never a naked city.” For this tip, when someone you’ve just met asks you where you’re from, don’t just say the city or state but give some interesting fact about it. That piece of trivia can be the springboard for a conversation that might otherwise have stalled.

So for example, I would say, “I live in Kansas City, the city with more fountains per capita than any other city in the world except Rome.” (This may or may not be true but we like to say it regardless.) I could also have said something about how we have the best barbecue joint in the world, or we’re famous for jazz, or how Harry Truman grew up in Independence (a suburb of Kansas City) or how the Las Vegas and New York mob bosses used to meet in Kansas City or whatever.

But with regard to elevator pitches, the nutshell resume is a custom-tailored response to that oh-so-common question: “What do you do?”

An elevator pitch is a good thing to have on the ready for if you are giving a presentation—or find yourself in an elevator talking to someone about your business. A nutshell resume acts more as a call and response. Once you are asked what you do, you respond with your one sentence nutshell resume. If what you do can help that person, you are effectively asking for their business in a very pressure-free way.

As Lowndes describes it,

"Just as job-seeking top managers roll a different written resume off their printers for each position they're applying for, let a different true story roll off your tongue for each listener. Before responding to ‘What do you do?' ask yourself, ‘What possible interest could this person have in my answer? Could he refer business to me? Buy from me? Hire me? Marry my sister? Become my buddy?

“Wherever you go, pack a nutshell about your own life to work into your communication bag of tricks.”

She then gives some examples of basic job titles people may blurt out, such as:

  • Real estate agent
  • Financial planner
  • Martial arts instructor
  • Cosmetic surgeon
  • Hairdresser

Related: How to Create a Compelling Elevator Pitch to Your Lender

Those responses all fail. Just like the "naked city" you don't want to leave your job title "naked" either. Here's how Lowndes brings them to life:

"Don't say ‘real estate agent.' Say ‘I help people moving into our area find the right home.'

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Don’t say ‘financial planner.’ Say ‘I help plan their financial future.’

Don’t say ‘martial arts instructor.’ Say ‘I help people defend themselves by teaching martial arts.’

Don’t say ‘cosmetic surgeon.’ Say ‘I reconstruct people’s faces after disfiguring accidents…’

Don’t say ‘hairdresser.’ Say ‘I help a woman find the right hairstyle for her particular face.'”

If nothing else, the more lively response will increase the odds of the conversation taking off instead of becoming painfully awkward, as such conversations have the tendency to do.

But moreover you are describing your career in a way that might benefit that other person. And you are doing so quickly and at their invitation. So in her first example of the real estate agent, if that agent just happens to be talking to someone who’s looking to move or knows someone who is, it’s more of a call to action. Your conversation partner will likely think, “Hey, I need that service!”

Regarding real estate investment, a flipper might say when asked to describe her job, “I buy dilapidated homes, fix them up, and resell them.”

Other times, however, people might not even know how to do business with you if they wanted to. We use private loans to buy properties and fix them up, before renting them out and refinancing them with a bank (the BRRRR method). If I just say "I buy real estate, fix it up, then rent it out," that won't signal to a potential private lender anything. Most potential private lenders don't go around thinking that they are potential private lenders.

On the other hand, if I say “I borrow money from private lenders at 8 percent interest to buy houses, fix them up, and then rent them out,” I’ve gotten my point across. If they have money sitting in a CD earning 0.3 percent, I’ve just basically said they should lend it to me instead.

Indeed, several of our lenders have come from casual conversations with them about our business where we weren’t even trying to make a sales pitch at all.

Effectively, this method makes a pitch in an extremely low-pressure way, one that you can relay regularly to many different people. And as Lowndes notes, you can adjust your nutshell resume depending on what kind of person you're talking to. But just by repeating these pitches often, you dramatically increase the odds of running into someone who may want to lend you money or sell you a house or is a great contractor or whatever.

This method will help you take full advantage of networking and put your marketing on autopilot.

Do you have an unusual or creative way to promote your business?

Share in a comment below. 

Andrew Syrios has been investing in real estate for over a decade and is a partner with Stewardship Investments, LLC along with his brother Phillip ...
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    Paul Timmins Specialist from Rockland, MA
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Andrew Excellent job. I work for Dave Lindahl I will pass onto him your kind comments. I have an excellent training we did on elevator pitches and Private Money presentations. If anyone wants to see it EMAIL me for the link. Paul
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Thanks Paul, you can also mention that I’ve really enjoyed Dave’s books.
    Paul K
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Please send me the link. Thank you.
    Kirk Bausch Investor from Irvine, California
    Replied about 3 years ago
    great read and very useful tips! thank you
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Thank you Kirk!
    Glenn De Noble Investor from Amherst, New Hampshire
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Paul, Please send me the training link as well. Thanks. Glenn
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    Great post Andrew. These are tips that we can implement immediately with the potential to have great results.
    Steven Payne Investor from Clifton, Texas
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article. I would like that link as well.