I’ve never made a sale on an elevator.

All throughout my career, I’ve been told I need an “elevator speech.” You know, that 30-45 seconds that you might spend on an elevator pitching someone as to what you do and how you do it. Enough time to sound like those fast-talking voice over guys who tell you everything that can go wrong with you if you use their erectile dysfunction medicine, as the other guy in the elevator sprints off a floor early to get away from you.

Elevator speeches are mostly about pitching. It’s your opportunity to bore the other person quickly about what you do so well and how you do it. Here’s a memo. They don’t care about what you do and how you do it. All people generally care about is how you can improve their condition. Instead of pitching, I prefer accumulating at bats. “At bats” for me means a next meeting. And, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to rush to get it. In fact, if you do rush through an elevator pitch, you’re unlikely to make the connection you need to begin to gain trust.

Most elevator speeches sound something like this…

“Hi, my name is John Smith and I sell insurance. I have programs for all businesses and can really save my clients money by doing all the shopping for you. I have 20 years experience and know what my clients need. Here’s my card.” 

That’s a pitch. The other person didn’t get a word in. In fact, they are now briskly walking away to get some spiked punch. Here is creating an “at bat…”

You: Hi, my name is John Smith. It’s a pleasure to meet you. What do you do?

Other Guy (OG): Hi, I’m Skip. I own a manufacturing company. How about you?

You: Skip, I dramatically enhance peace of mind for my clients so they can effectively operate their businesses.” (Now shut up…I know it’s hard, but don’t say a word)

OG: I’m not sure what that means. How do you do that?

You: It is a pretty vague response, isn’t it? Instead of being theoretical, why don’t you tell me a little about your business and what your biggest challenges are. Then I can give you more specific ideas on how we might work together.”

You now have a situation where the OG is talking. You now need to listen. In reality, if you’re at a function, this may not be the time or place to discuss it, or he wants more information. This is where you suggest a meeting (an at bat) to discuss his situation in greater detail.

The difference between a straight elevator speech and a value proposition is that the other person will do the majority of talking in the latter. Elevator speeches are just that…speeches. We get so caught up in our methodology…in this case, selling insurance…that we forget this is about improving our client’s condition. If you’re in any type of professional service profession (real estate sales, consulting, banking, financial planning, architect, etc.), you must avoid talking about the “how.” You need to concentrate on the output for the person you are speaking with. By doing that, you secure the opportunity to set up a meeting (which you do right then and there), rather than wasting everyone’s time by following up by email for weeks. Remember, nobody wants to be “pitched.” They would much rather buy something from someone who genuinely wants to help them improve. That’s you!

So get a little exercise. Don’t take the elevator. Jump on the stairs and take the slower and more deliberate route. It will end up getting you business faster!

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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