A new year has begun. With it comes excitement, new ideas, and lots of networking opportunities. One of the scariest and most annoying necessities of networking can be figuring out how to describe what you do in a way that other people connect with and value.
I’ve done a lot of networking, and I’ve seen a wide range of impact with the often feared “elevator pitch.”
When done right, you open the door to prospects, referrals, and potential opportunities beyond your expectations.
However, too often, the elevator pitch leaves people confused, bored, and strategizing how to make a dash for another beverage. So I’d like to share with you seven tips on how you can ace your elevator pitch this year.
Step #1. Remember the Purpose
The first thing you need to know is, why are you bothering to tell people about your product or service? You want to sell it, right? More importantly, you’d like to make some money with that service. That’s the bottom line, but an elevator pitch is most impactful when you understand what you want from it. That can be a wide range of outcomes. Most typically your desired outcome will be one or more of:
- New clients
- New referral sources
- Speaking opportunities
- Product/workshop/service promotion
When you understand the impact you want, then you can design your elevator pitch around it. Want referral sources? Then you need to make sure that your pitch gives clear information on what you’re looking for in terms of target market, benefits of referral, and so forth.
If you’re promoting a workshop, you need to quickly focus on your service and hone in on the benefits of attending the workshop. You also need to provide details like time and location, and let people know how they can register to attend.
If you know what you want from the pitch itself, then your pitch can be clearer, shorter, and more specific, all of which are key elements to a successful elevator pitch.
Step #2. Speak Their Language, Not Yours
Here’s a classic example of a horrible experience I’ve seen too many times – you’re a brilliant technical wiz, in a technical field, and you revel in using your elevator pitch to share how you’re gifted at bits, bytes, Fiber Optics, the cloud, html….leaving us overwhelmed, lost, and eyes glazing over. The people that hire you need your expertise, because they don’t have it. Since they don’t have it, they don’t understand it like you do. (Which is good for your business!) So, when you speak to them in “technical speak” they don’t understand what you’re talking about. If they can’t relate to you, you’ve lost a prospect, and potentially, a room full of people, in just 60 seconds.
This applies to all of us – if you’re a coach, consultant or a plumber, it doesn’t matter. We need you to explain what you do in words, and concepts that we understand. If you’re not sure whether your pitch is relatable, here’s a fun way to test it out. Say it to a 5-year old. I’m not kidding. If you can make a 5-year old understand what you do, you can make anyone understand it.
Step #3. Listen to Questions
This tip is especially handy when you’re trying out a new pitch – whether you’re just starting a business for the first time, or you’ve changed the focus of your business – it’s likely that you’ll get clarifying questions that will inform you how your words are landing. Pay attention. Questions help you immediately understand how to speak the language of your prospects and how to “dumb down” your pitch so that anyone can relate to it. I recommend carrying a notebook with you because great questions will force you to change your pitch until you have a “Eureka!” moment. That moment where you realize you’ve just explained what you can do in a way that excited the person you spoke to and led to a prospect. Trust me, you’re going to want to write down the very words you used in that moment because they go right out of your head if you don’t.
Step #4. Focus On Possibilities Instead of Function
A great way to expand the concept of speaking the language of your prospects is to talk about what you make possible, instead of what you do.
The fact is, your prospects, at first glance, probably don’t care that you’re gifted in HTML coding, won awards for your graphic design, or that you coach and consult. What they care about are the results they are dying for, such as:
- Converting more leads from their website
- Making more money
- Having the toilets work for the big party they’re planning this weekend
So, you need to spend more time explaining how your service gets them what they want, and less time talking about how it works and all your qualifications. No matter what you do, there are a million other people that do the same thing. Luckily for you, most of them are busy trying to make people understand what they do, so if you focus on what you make possible, you’ll have a huge leg up on your competition.
Step #5. If You Provide Multiple Services, Focus on One of Them
This drives me crazy! Last year I went to a referral group. There were 20 people in different industries sitting around the table, huge opportunity for referrals. A guest came in and spent 20 minutes telling us she runs a magazine, offers photography, does copywriting, coaching, is staring a fashion line, bakes cookies…..I’m not kidding. (I might be exaggerating slightly, but not much!) Every one of us was scratching our head trying to understand what she did, and who on earth she wanted as a referral source. Result? She got no referrals and was not invited back to the group as a member.
In today’s world, most of us have multiple talents, and run several businesses. That’s fantastic. However, if you want prospects and referrals, you have to make it easy for us to understand the results you offer, and who benefits from your service. That gets really hard when you’re pitching multiple businesses at the same time.
Elevator pitches are short, the time flies by, and if you’re not catching our attention in the first 10 seconds, we’re probably going to tune out. 99% of the time I’ve heard people try to talk about the multiple services they offer, it’s like being in a diner with a 10-page menu of options. We end up confused, don’t know where to focus, and doubt your commitment and expertise in any one of your services. That means it’s unlikely you’ll get referrals.
The solution is to consider who your ideal target is for each of the services you offer. Then, go to targeted networking events, and practice a single-focused elevator pitch at each event. If you do three different things, then go to three events, and pitch a different one of the three at each event. If you find a great prospect for one of your services, and later find out they can benefit from another, that’s a great time to mention that you can help them with that, too!
Step #6. Tell a Success Story
A nice way to help us understand what you do is to share a success story with us. People tend to remember stories longer than “I do X for Y person and you can refer Z people to me.” A “before and after” type story is wonderful. Help us understand the problem one of your clients had that led them to hire you, and the result they got from working with you.
Here’s an example; “Before Sarah hired me, she could not get more than 1 client a month, even though she was working really hard to get clients. After our work together, she had an average of 8 clients a month and had surpassed all her initial revenue goals.” Be clear, concise, and focus on the value you offer.
Step #7. Ask for What You Need
Another area I see people struggle is asking for what they need. Once again, you need to speak in results-oriented language. For example, “people that need a coach” isn’t helpful because the people in the room can’t easily identify who they know that needs a coach. A stronger ask could be, “I’m looking for business owners that want to add an extra $5,000 to their monthly income.” Or, “I’m looking to meet female career coaches that want to use social media to get 1,000 opt-ins to their newsletter,” are much stronger.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing you need to do to have a great elevator pitch is practice. Some people fall into the trap of avoiding networking events until their pitch is perfect. (Hint, perfection is a bias, not a reality.) The fact is, you get closer to perfection with other people’s input than you do by standing in front of the mirror rehearsing. So, for 2017, be bold, get out there and practice, practice, practice!
Heather Markel, CPC, is a multi-lingual New York Native and founder of BullBuster Business Coaching. She helps entrepreneurs remove obstacles to their success and maximize their profit with a custom fit sales and marketing strategy. She leverages over 20 years marketing, sales and customer service experience combined with a passion for culture, travel, comedy, red wine, and coffee.