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A Quick Study in Honing Your Elevator Speech

By Mike Williams

A colleague of mine, Jamar Cobb-Dennard, (http://www.linkedin.com/in/lifeforce ) tells this story. He met the person who has now become his best client literally in an elevator. This client told Jamar that the reason he agreed to become a client was Jamar’s impressive pitch at that chance meeting.

Jamar’s five points that he feels your elevator pitch should have are as follows (the points are his, the explanations are mine):

1. Be “The Brand”
2. Know your target
3. Communicate the benefit
4. Create interest
5. Educate the listener

If you’re unfamiliar with the slang of “Elevator Pitch” it’s that brief explanation of your company, your products or services, and most importantly, why people care and how you’re set apart. The slang term derives from the fact that if you can’t communicate these points crisply, in the duration of an elevator ride, then you need to hone your pitch.

1. Be “The Brand”
Ready or not, you have already started representing your company before getting the first word out. When you’re dressed for business (or anywhere you might meet your future best customer or client), what does your appearance say about your brand? You don’t need to get crazy about this; if you’re an IT professional or a general contractor, no one expects you to dress in a suit and tie. But if your shirt is wrinkled or faded, if your shoes are splattered, if you stretched another day without shaving or didn’t pay much attention to your hair this morning, you’re NOT presenting a look of attention to detail, organization, or effort. In that chance meeting, without your glitzy website, slick brochures, or happy customer testimonials, the only marketing picture you have is the one you’re wearing.

2. Know Your Target
The previous paragraph notwithstanding, brevity counts. To be crisp with your message and still be understood, start with whom you help. This also lets your listener either picture himself as your client, or picture someone he knows who fits. Who do you help? “I help Retail Store Owners . . .,” “I help stay-at-home-moms . . .,” “I supply the aerospace/defense industry. . .”

3. Communicate the benefit
Part two of the above step is to be clear and to the point about what you do to benefit the target market you just identified. The trick here is to speak in terms of the benefit you achieve for your customers, not just the features of your product or service. The difference can be a topic of its own; so let’s leave it at this: make it matter to him, not to you. “(My customers) . . . profit from the latest technology without having to learn and master it all,” “. . . have a home they love to wake up in,” “. . . receive the best Friday Night Pizza they’ve ever tasted.”

4. Create Interest
Put the above two steps together and you’ll have something that sparks interest. The formula for this is: “I help (Target Market), (Benefit).” Since your listener should be picturing this benefit, and deciding if he (or someone he knows) fits your target market, don’t make them think too hard. They should get it right away. Here are some examples:

  • “My company keeps business owners compliant with tax laws without taking a minute of their time.”
  • “I give small companies the marketing expertise that even big companies envy.”
  • “I make people look and feel better than they ever have in their lives.”

The response you’re hoping for is, “How you do that?”

5. Educate the Listener
In the time before the elevator doors open, you’re not going to be able to communicate all the wonderful ways your product, service, or organization is better suited to benefit your customers than your competition is. This is fine — you’re not looking to close a deal — just warm-up your follow up call or visit. So show yourself as an expert. Give them something they probably didn’t realize about what you do. You are an expert, aren’t you? If so, you should be able to find one nugget for your listener to take away (along with your business card — or better yet — for you to exchange as he gives you his card).

Here’s one I’ve used when the situation is right:

“If you want to be assured that your business will make the profit you hope for this year, do this when making your budget: Start with the top line as Revenue, like you always do, but this time put Profit on line 2, as your first Expense item. Subtotal these two. Then finish your budget and make your other expenses fit what’s left. You’ll probably find you have some decisions to make about your expenses. Call me when you need help.”

Oak Hill Business Partners’ Growth Management Services will work with your management team to devise and execute an overall strategy for growing your organization.  Whether it’s a refined marketing strategy or help focusing your sales efforts, we have the expertise to support you so you can focus more effort on your core expertise.   For more information, Contact Us today.

Mike Williams is a Partner with Oak Hill Business Partners specializing in sales and operations.  He has more than 20 years of experience working with businesses in many different industries.  His background includes sales, sales management, operations, and entrepreneurship.

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