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#5  Your 'Elevator Speech' Can Take You To The Top Or Out The Door

How many times have you heard the phrase “elevator speech?”  Probably dozens if not hundreds, right? (If you don’t know what it is, click here for the definition.)  And I bet you think you’ve got a great one, don’t you?  Guess what.  You’re probably quite wrong.  In my seminars on networking I’ve discovered that many of those who think they have a great elevator speech, in fact, have an A-number-one conversation stopper. 

 Most people think that the elevator speech should answer the what-do-you-do question as simply and concisely as possible.  But that is only partly true.  Actually, an Elevator Speech (ES) has to principal purposes:

  • Positioning
  • Starting a conversation

 Let’s take Positioning first.  (If you aren’t familiar with the concept, see Tip #4 in the MouseTip Archives.)

 To position yourself, your product or your service in anyone’s mind, though, you cannot start with yourself, your product, or your service.  You have to think in reverse.  And, in our over-communicated society, you have to think “simple.”  Human nature being what it is, we all have to be able to pigeon-hole a person, product or even concept  before we can decide whether it might be of value to us.  By pigeon-hole, that is to say we have to relate it somehow, someway, to something with which we are already familiar.  That is why one of the most recommended methods of starting an ES is simply with the phrase, "You know how ...?" and state the most common problem or issue that your business solves.  

The next logical step, of course, is to continue with how your company solves it.  But that is where the Elevator Speech's second purpose comes in.  You want to start a conversation - not end one.  Most people don't really care what you actually do (much less how you do it - at least not yet), they really only care what you might be able to do for them.  Thus,  the process by which you solve a problem is of little interest to them at this stage.  You first have to arouse their interest.  And there is only one way to do that - focus on results - preferably, results that really would appeal to them.

For example, a tax preparer would not say he or she prepares taxes (i.e. if he wants to start a conversation).  What he does is a process.   Instead he might say, "I work with individuals to find perfectly legal ways to keep more of what they earn in their own pockets."   That is the results.   

An executive coach should not say "I coach executives," but rather "I work with executives to determine what it is they want their lives to be like and what they need to do to or for their businesses to make those dreams happen."

In both examples, the prospect will first look in his/her own mind to see if there is a fit, then will check his/her memory to see if he knows someone for whom it might be a good fit.  Usually, this will lead to asking more questions.  By the time you get off that elevator, you have begun the process of developing a relationship upon which is what all business decisions are ultimately based.

Okay, okay, so you're not on an elevator.  You're at a party or even at church.  All the same criteria apply.  You still have to introduce yourself, and you will still have to answer the question.  Don't waste an opportunity.  Use your Elevator Speech to start a conversation and a relationship - not stop it cold.



You’re alone in an elevator and in walks the prospect you’ve been trying to reach for six months.  Or, maybe, simply someone whom you’ve never met before.  You exchange smiles and greetings, and then he asks, “And what do you do?”.  You’ve got 15-30 seconds to answer the question and make an impression. What do you say?  Your response is your “elevator speech.”

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Revised: July 04, 2008 .