When I founded THINKstrategies back in 2001, I chose the name because I wanted to help clients re-think how they viewed their business problems regardless of industry. One of the common challenges my ‘vendor’ clients face is how to explain the value of their business solutions in a succinct, compelling and differentiated fashion so it captures the attention of potential customers and the imagination of the broader marketplace. This typically translates into the daunting task of formulating an ‘elevator pitch’.

My most recent involvement in this exercise was last week when I helped my latest client put their pitch together as a part of a half-day strategy session. I refer to these meetings as “catalyst” sessions because they help clients generate new ways of thinking about their market opportunities, competitive challenges, solution pricing/packaging, or go-to-market strategies and tactics. In this case, our discussion generated a new way to think about the elevator pitch itself.

Most people approach the elevator pitch with one direction in mind — an upward ride in which the presenter incrementally adds more elements to their story to capture the audience’s attention and encourage them to want to learn more. The ride up to the first floor is typically dedicated to quickly stating what your business does, the product/service it sells, and the problem it solves. The trip to the second floor focuses on explaining how your business model/solution is different and the unique value it delivers. And, the ride to the third floor is spent offering case study examples as proof-points that demonstrate your ability to deliver on your promises. If you get as far as the fourth floor with the prospect, whether it is a potential customer or investor, you want to use the extra time to paint a picture of the bigger implications of your solution and strategy on the broader marketplace and the way businesses operate to really trigger their imagination about your company’s grander potential.

This outline is particularly useful for pitching potential customers or business partners who are concerned about the practical and tangible benefits of a vendor’s product or service. You’ll vary the value propositions you emphasize based on the buying authority of a potential customer, business partner or investor. But, the key is building up your story as you ride the elevator ascends to higher floors.

While this methodology is generally accepted and has proven to work in many situations, I think there are specific situations in which you should expect to present your elevator pitch in the opposite order.

For instance, let’s imagine you have an opportunity to quickly tell a senior decision-maker about your company. In many cases, these ‘elite’ prospects are more interested in the ‘big picture’, market implications of your company’s strategies and solutions rather than its specific product capabilities. In these situations, you should be prepared to present your elevator pitch as if you’re traveling down from the ‘penthouse’ of a building and drilling down from the higher-level value propositions and long-term goals to the more immediate functional capabilities and go-to-market tactics.

This new way of thinking can help you better construct your elevator pitch, and flesh out your longer term corporate strategy, to make it more compelling to the varying audiences who are essential to your success.