Your Elevator Pitch Stinks. Here's How to Fix It
Since the 1950s, sales trainers from all over the planet have pushed the elevator speech as the secret to business networking. That was yesterday.
"The elevator speech is dead, or at least it should be," says Cliff Suttle, author of The Anti-Elevator Speech. "Elevator speeches are too long, too boring, and too pushy."
An elevator speech is a pre-planned 30-second-to-two-minute response to the question "so what do you do?" Business people today have become hyper-sensitive to commercials. If anything even hints at being sales-y or fake sounding, people tune it out. "The goal of networking is not to gather sales leads, but to start business relationships and that begins with a conversation, not a sales pitch," says Suttle.
Suttle has created a system that replaces the old, worn-out elevator speech with a new approach that, he says, will have people clamoring to speak with you. I spoke with Suttle on my podcast, The Million Dollar Mindset, recently. He shared a number of thought-provoking insights about the old, worn out elevator speech. Here are some highlights from his four tips to supercharge your networking.
1. Start with a hook.
When someone asks, "what do you do," start with a short statement designed to peak their curiosity. This statement should be confusing and not lead the listener to any preconceived notion. It should not include any details about how you do what you do. So a car dealer may say, "I get you were you need to go." A realtor may start with "I make sure you have a warm place by the fire." An investment counselor might begin with "I help you sleep well at night." Notice that none of these mention how they do what they do, but they will all lead the listener to ask "what do you mean," which is the beginning of your conversation. Focus on delivery here--because you really don't want this statement to sound too contrived.
2. Stop Talking.
After you deliver your hook it's important to shut up. Don't just do something, stand there. You need to give the listener time to contemplate what you just said, get confused, and want to know more. When they ask, "what do you mean," they've invested in the conversation giving you permission to give them more details. Without the silence the hook won't work.
3. Reel them in.
After a successful hook, don't launch into a sales pitch or commercial. Your hook does not give you permission to blast them between the eyes. Ease into the next part of the Anti-Elevator Speech with what I like to call the reel. Begin to tell how you do what you do, but don't give away the show. No good mystery movie starts out with, "the butler did it." The movie keeps you in suspense until you're dying to know. You want to do this too. I ran a custom software company for over 20 years where I used this hook/reel combination--Hook: You dream it up, we make it happen. Reel: We make your computer do what you bought it to do in the first place. A hook/reel combination like this will normally lead to the question, "what do you mean." Now you've earned the right to give them details.
4. Serve, don't sell.
If you have crafted a good hook and reel you should now have them securely in a conversation. However, I always coach people to have the mindset of "how can I serve you," not "what can I sell you." Remain focused on your listener's needs, not on your needs. The more you give to the world, the more the world gives back.
Now practice! How can you deliver an Anti-Elevator Speech instead of the old, boring commercial that's come to be expected at networking events? Share your new approach with us here, or on Twitter or Facebook.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.