In a recent article, I suggested you ditch your standard sales pitch when meeting with prospects; now I want to explain why you should ditch your elevator pitch, too. Simply put, traditional elevator pitches – once thought to be a must for every business person – do not work and are a waste of time. Here is why the elevator pitch fails more than it succeeds, and how to make those precious few moments of engagement with a new acquaintance more productive:
Why Typical Elevator Pitches Will Only Take You Down
So if everyone feels compelled to have a standard, ready-to-recite elevator pitch, why are they inherently ineffective? Several reasons:
First, elevator pitches are too rushed to completely express or explain what you do and how you provide value. An elevator pitch is typically understood to be no more than 30 seconds. Because it is so abbreviated, it’s not really a conversation at all; rather, it’s merely a recitation of your position, your background, your qualifications, and perhaps, your company’s value proposition. That’s a lot to cram into half a minute. Worse, it’s a lot for the listener (that unfortunate soul who dared ask, “What do you do?”) to take in.
Next, because of the short time available and the emphasis on you-you-you, the other person almost surely will feel overwhelmed and undervalued. Your ticking-clock speech does not begin to consider the most important element of any sales opportunity: listening. If beginning a possible business relationship is the goal, you must start down that path on the right foot. And few people would believe that truly positive relationships – personal or professional – begin with a self-centered domination of the discussion. But wait, you say, the other person DID ask! Yes, but that is often simply a pleasant way to begin a conversation by showing interest in the other person. Do you want to return that courtesy with a relentless litany about yourself – even if you were asked?
Finally, pushing play to begin a “canned” pitch will only make you sound like a robotic-version of yourself. You won’t appear genuine – only pushy and aggressive and, ironically, insecure. Worse yet, if you flub your “lines” in a scripted pitch, you’ll look foolish.
How an Alternative Approach Can Take You Up, Up, Up!
So if the typical elevator pitch is so flawed, doesn’t it make sense to turn it upside down? I think so. Here’s how to do that:
Relax. The ticking clock might make you feel on-the-spot and nervous, but it actually gives you a perfect excuse to avoid going into great detail. Rather, you could say something like: “Thank you for asking. In short, I make it easier to ________. I can only do that, of course, when I fully understand your goals and we can determine whether we would be a good fit working together to help you achieve them. Perhaps we can make time to have a deeper conversation…”
Focus on the other person. Notice in the above that the words “you” and “your” appear. In a response that probably takes no more than 15 seconds, you can shift the dialogue to one that includes and respects the other person by showing interest, empathy and a desire to get to know them better. It also doesn’t assume that your solution is a fit for them. By wanting to have a deeper conversation, you let them know that further discovery is needed to determine if both parties would benefit. You are now perceived as someone who wants to figure out whether it makes sense to work together, rather than giving them the impression that you want them to buy from you long before you both know if you can really help them.
Start a conversation. Use your answer to the question, “What do you do?” not as an attempt to fully answer the question, but as an opportunity to invite further dialogue. Period.
Listen. Even if the other person started the conversation, and even if the clock is ticking, make a concerted effort to allow the other person to be an active participant in the conversation. Time permitting, ask questions and listen, listen, listen!
Be prepared for overtime. If you and the other person have a few moments to find a quiet corner or grab a cup of coffee, great! Be prepared to take the conversation further and deeper. Know your talking points, but only trot them out if they fit organically with what you learn about the other person and their needs and goals. Don’t try to follow a script. Be yourself. Let the other person get to know you while you are getting to know them.
Don’t rush to deliver a scripted sales pitch in 30 seconds or less. Instead, use that time to set the stage for an extended discussion during which you can listen, learn and explore solutions together. As I’ve said previously, see yourself and the prospect as equals, getting to know one another as you begin a dialogue of discovery and a possible professional relationship.
Sometimes that journey starts in the elevator; and sometimes it starts in line at Starbucks or in a noisy networking environment. How you handle those few critical moments can mean the difference between an opportunity lost and an opportunity realized. Our licensed Advisors at Sales Xceleration know that every sales opportunity demands the right approach for the time, the market and the prospect. To learn how a Sales Xceleration Advisor can help you implement fresh perspectives in every sales environment, contact us today at 844.874.7253.
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