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Step Away from your Elevator Pitch

The email from Steve contains a common Elevator Pitch question, and I, as his Elevator Pitch Coach, strongly recommend that he avoid using any sort of Elevator Pitch in the networking situation he describes…

Here’s the situation:

As Steve prepares for a networking event

He uses the web to research Elevator Pitches

And discovers the Elevator Pitch Creator.

In less than a minute Steve has a new and compelling 30-Second Elevator Pitch

And a question that haunts so many professionals:

I am attending a “Meet the Buyer” event this Thursday and I have between 4 – 7 appointments with warm leads that are interested in Software. I have 10 minutes to sell myself, the company and the product. I was thinking that an elevator type speech would be the best way to start the conversation…

He knows something’s not quite right

As he wonders how to tune his Elevator Pitch for a warm lead meeting.

His instincts are correct.

The 30-Second Elevator Pitch is the wrong tool for this job.

It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked.

So let’s take a detailed look at my response to Steve to understand why using an Elevator Pitch in this situation will cool your warm leads, confuse your prospects, and stop conversations before they even start.

Then, we’ll take a step-by-step look at a proven series of scripts that engage your prospect, instantly differentiate you, your company, and your product, and leave your prospects eagerly anticipating your next meeting.

My actual email response to Steve is in italics.

Commentary is in the [ brackets ].

Here we go…


Great work! This “Meet the Buyer” event sounds like a great opportunity, and you’re right to want to prepare for it to maximize its value to your business.

[ Steve already has an advantage over his competition, because most people go to a networking event like this cold turkier than the leftovers in your fridge the day after Thanksgiving. Are you anticipating meeting 4-7 warm leads? Prepare, prepare, prepare! ]

I recommend against using any sort of 30-second elevator pitch to sell yourself and your company in the context of an event that pre-matches you with a handful of warm leads.

[ While it’s important to prepare, it’s even more important to prepare effectively. For this type of event, that means leaving the prepared speech at home in favor of the approach outlined below… ]

Here’s why: Since the goal of an Elevator Pitch is to get exactly this type of warm sit-down meeting, it’s a step backwards to use the Elevator Pitch during that warm meeting.

[ Once you are in the meeting with the prospect, it’s time to stop trying to convince them to meet with you. They’ve already made that decision, and reopening the question only encourages them to change their mind… ]

Instead, use the questions you’ve developed below to get the customer talking about their current process for running reports.

[ As part of his preparation, Steve had developed a series of great questions (see below). Once you have the questions, instead of rehearsing your responses, practice asking those questions and listening to your prospects’ responses. Let them draw the conclusion that they need your services from a guided (by you) tour of their current processes. It’s much more engaging to help them figure it out than to tell them the conclusion and then try to prove it. ]

Here’s the script:

“Good afternoon. I’m Steve and I help non-profits speed up their month-end reporting. Before I tell you more about me, do you mind spending a few minutes describing your current process for running month-end reports?”

[ This opening line is intentionally simplistic. Remember that the only goal in a warm lead meeting is to get the prospect talking about themselves (you’ll see why in a minute). So while I’m confident that Steve doesn’t work exclusively with non-profits and that speeding up the year-end reporting is not the only (or even most compelling) benefit, it’s straight-forward enough to set the context for the discussion without derailing the conversation. ]

Then ask them questions as they describe the process:

“So where does that information come from originally?”

“You mean two different people enter that information into two different systems?”

“How does your boss use this report?”

[ Dale Carnegie’s famous quote about making friends applies at least equally to making sales: “You can make more sales in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Your Elevator Pitch is about expressing interest in your prospects, not about getting them interested in you. When you ask the right questions, you put the focus on them, and they will give you all the information you’ll ever need to win their business. ]

Of course, in only 10 minutes, you won’t have much time to talk about you or your products.

That’s good!

 [ Refer back to Dale Carnegie’s quote above. Resist the temptation to talk about yourself. Get your prospects talking about themselves instead… ]

At the end of 10 minutes say:

“I think I understand where you’re coming from and we have a solution that can definitely take care of your top 3 issues. Would it make sense to set up a 10 minute complimentary walk-through of our system to see how it can speed up your process?”

[ If you go into your first warm meeting with a rehearsed presentation, then at best you are guessing what they want to hear. That seems like a lot to leave to chance. When you go into your first warm meeting to get to know them, you’ll connect with them, and they’ll be eager to continue the conversation since you clearly understand their needs so well… ]

Then, armed with all the information they gave you, you can tailor your demo to address exactly the issues they care about.

[ Plus, you can frame your product in terms of their actual business challenges. Nothing beats seeing how my data will look in your system. ]

Don’t get me wrong. You’ve developed a great 30-Second Elevator Pitch, and it will bring you qualified leads when you stand up and introduce yourself to a crowd. It’s just that in this particular warm lead context, you’ll get better results by letting your prospect do the talking.

 [ Steve’s preparation got him something much more valuable than an Elevator Pitch. It got him a handful of powerful questions that will get his prospects talking about how he can help them. (Did you catch that? It’s crucial. Read that last sentence one more time…) It always reminds me of my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Stacey, who kept harping on me to move my conclusion up to the first paragraph. Now I do it automatically. Soon you will too. Figuring out what you want to say gives you insight into the questions you’ll use to get your prospects talking. ]

If you don’t mind, I’d like to post your question (and my response) on my blog. Let me know if that would be ok and feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

[ Anything you can do to gather more examples of actual customers using your products or services is well worth the effort. ]

I wanted to say that I’d also be happy to schedule a complimentary 10 minute conversation on Skype if you think that would be helpful. Just let me know…

[ Notice that my online Elevator Pitch (the Elevator Pitch Creator) provides exceptional value to my prospects while gathering valuable information for me about them. As with Steve here it leads to productive business conversations across the country and around the world (Steve is in the UK). What’s your approach to engaging your prospects? ]

There you have it.

The Elevator Pitch gets you the warm lead meeting.

The warm lead meeting gets you all the information you need to finally create that sales presentation.

And leaves your prospects eagerly anticipating that same presentation.

Just another day in the life of your Elevator Pitch…

Working on your Elevator Pitch? For a simpler, personalized, authentic, and more engaging approach check out our

Elevator Pitch Creator

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