Thursday, January 07, 2010

Elevator Speeches


In this economy, there is something you absolutely must have…

… a fresh elevator pitch – you know, the statement that describes to someone who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. In today’s business climate, getting people interested in what you do and who you are is essential. You had better have an elevator pitch that grabs attention and makes you and your company, stand out.

A good elevator pitch will peak curiosity and entice a potential client to learn more about what you have to offer. In other words, it often changes the dynamic in the networking and selling process, so you can get in the door more quickly. A well-targeted elevator pitch will position you as someone who can help fulfill a need and the relationship goes right into how you can make that prospective client happy. A bland elevator pitch may not get you past hello.

Improving your pitch should be an indispensable exercise to ensure everyone at your company is on board with the right message. Here are some easy tips for doing a little elevator pitch spring-cleaning:

1. Be yourself – your pitch should accurately describe who you are and what you offer. It must fit you. It must come from your heart. Otherwise, it won’t be credible. If you’re an accountant, you might be able to tell someone you meet, “I’m the guy who can keep your business running like a fine tuned engine.” But, if you’re not the kind of guy who talks like that, it may sound phony. You may feel more comfortable saying something like, “I’m an accountant who specializes in helping small businesses run smoothly.”
2. Be brief – Everybody has a complicated job. But your elevator pitch is not the place to be complicated. Remember, you’re trying to make an impression that will lead to a more substantive conversation where you can get into the intricacies of what you do. Break your job down to the essentials. For example, “I package mortgages and sell them to investors.” Instead of getting into the intricacies of securitizing loans.
3. Be creative – your elevator pitch should not only peak curiosity it should be a little provocative. When you meet someone, you want to be remembered. Don’t be afraid to think creatively. Do you think people want to meet “a transactional attorney” or someone who “closes deals?”
4. Be prepared – you must be able to adapt your elevator pitch for any situation. If you offer your pitch and the person doesn’t appear interested, you must find another way of peaking their interest. If your pitch is geared towards attorneys and you’re speaking with someone who is not an attorney, you need to figure out what kinds of things would interest him.
5. Be curious – this is all about being a good interviewer and employing good listening skills. If you’re so interested in telling someone about yourself, but you’re not listening to what he or she has to say, how can you possibly come across as a person whose services they would want to consider? It’s absolutely essential to know how to ask questions that may help you understand what their needs are and then learn to listen effectively. So, you’ll be able to tell someone about what you have to offer in a way that will relate specifically to his or her business. It will send a signal to that person that you heard what they were saying and could respond to it. You certainly don’t want to come across as an interrogator, but as someone who is interested in learning more about the person with whom you’re speaking. Simple statements like, “Tell me about your business,” can often be the most effective. You’re trying to get the person with whom you’re speaking to open up a bit about what they do.

Get entire team on board
These rules apply to virtually anyone who has to sell or pitch business, which, of course, is everyone. But, it’s also an important element for companies. How does your firm sell its services to potential clients? Every member of the team needs to have the right message when going out into the marketplace. Take my company for example. At Silverman Media Group, our message is clear. We’re all about improving communication in every aspect of your business from the executive suite to marketing from sales to the mailroom.

Making the elevator pitch part of the training process is a good way to arm your team with the best way to sell your company. It will give your employees a fresh perspective on presenting themselves and the firm. That will telescope the networking process and lead to increased sales. In this economy, it’s essential that everyone is on message.

Role Play
One of the best ways to practice your pitch is to role play with the other people in your department. You could, of course, actually go out and meet new people to practice your pitch. But, it’s safer to practice with another member of your team until you’re confident about what you have to say. Although, practicing within your team can be dangerous. Especially, if you come up with a pitch that sounds good inside your bubble, but doesn’t work on the outside.

Here are a couple of examples of how you might conduct a conversation. Of course, nothing works better than actually doing it. I am condensing the conversation to make the point more quickly.

Pitch #1: Cocktail party Goal: Strike up a conversation and learn something about another person you’ve never met before. In return, give that person your elevator pitch. Be friendly, yet don’t go overboard.
Bob says: “Hi, I’m Bob. What’s your name?”
Ted says: “My name is Ted.”
Bob says: “Glad to meet you, Ted. What’s your connection to this event?”
Ted says: “Well, I never turn down an invitation for free drinks.”
Bob says: “I’ll drink to that…a man who knows how to take advantage of a situation.
What do you do for a living?”
Ted says: “I own an insurance agency.”
Bob says: “What kind of products do you offer?” (Be curious.)
Ted says: “Well, we’re a full service agency. So, we handle auto, property, life and financial products, as well.”
Bob says: “Has your business been effected by the downturn?”
Ted says: “Who hasn’t been hurt.” (Be prepared. This is an opening.)
Bob says: “Well, I’ve been able to keep many of my clients from the worst of it.” (Be a little provocative.)

Ted says: “Oh, really. What do you do?”
Bob says: “I’m no miracle worker, but I am an accountant who was able to prepare my clients early on. I helped them plan for the downturn. If you’re interested, we could set up a meeting where I can show you what I mean.” (Be creative, but not too salesy.)

Pitch #2: You see someone you’ve been trying to meet in the elevator. The goal is to get his business card.

You’re on the elevator in your building and the door opens. A real estate developer you’ve been trying to meet gets on. Elevator etiquette usually dictates no one talks or looks at other people. But, this is a golden opportunity.

Bill says: “Excuse me, Mr. Smith. I want to introduce myself. I’m Bill Barnes. I work in the building and I’ve wanted to meet you for some time now.” (Careful. You don’t want to come across as a stalker.)

Mr. Smith says: “Oh, hi.”
Bill says: “I don’t want to take up your time. I wanted to tell you what I do. I’m a real estate attorney who gets deals done. Look at the skyline. Half the cranes you see, we’re involved in those deals.” (Be brief.)
Mr. Smith says: “Hmm.”
Bill says: “Here’s my card. If you give me one of yours, I can send you something that shows our capabilities.”
(9 out of 10 times, the developer will give Bill his contact info. After all, who doesn’t want to hire an attorney who gets the deals done and can back it up?)

Fred Silverman is CEO of Silverman Media Group and honed his elevator pitch skills by selling ideas for episodic TV shows. If you’d like to improve your elevator pitch, he can be reached at (305) 302-4642, or take a look at He works with individuals, practice groups and entire firms.

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