It’s commonly accepted that a good elevator pitch can be the key that opens the door to great conversations and new leads at any networking event. It’s often believed that when an elevator pitch is worded and delivered in just the right way the recipient will be so enticed that their only logical response will have to be “Really, tell me more!”
Here’s the flaw with the Elevator Pitch Theory…
- it works under the assumption that its actually possible to sell yourself in 30 seconds
- it doesn’t pre-qualify the recipient of the pitch
- it requires listening and genuine interest on the part of the recipient
- all the stars have to align and you have to play every card right in order to guarantee it’s success
And if all that wasn’t enough, the truth of the matter still remains that most people hate cold-calling, networking, starting a conversation with a stranger, or doing anything that involves putting themselves out there in any way that has the potential to set them up for rejection.
This fear of rejection is what stopped me in my tracks for a long time. As an entrepreneur it was my responsibility to get my name out there, make contacts, and get new leads. And guess what, I was terrible at it and because of that our business was failing. So when you mix failure with fear you pretty much get a disastrous recipe for nothing…no leads, no new contacts, no new business…just a whole lot of nothing. Which pretty much just leads to more nothing and more failure.
But at some point every business owner faces the dilema of how to grow their business, how to get the word out there, how to meet new people and build those relationships. Because after all, in business it’s never about what you know but who you know.
So maybe you’ve been there, maybe you are there and you’re desperately hoping there’s a better way…just like I was.
About a year ago I came to a turning point. Like a drastic, things will never be the same again kind of turning point. I was at rock bottom, on the verge of quitting when I decided to give it one last Hail Mary because at that point, I had nothing left to lose. It didn’t take any money, because I had zero, actually I’m pretty sure I had less than zero at that point, and it didn’t take a whole lot of confidence either because that was in short supply as well. It didn’t require any special skills because I’m really not that talented at anything. No genius formula, none of those tortuous old school marketing techniques like cold- calling and no new fangled marketing techniques like Adwords or Facebook Campaigns. Because seriously, when you’re at your lowest point and your accounts are overdrawn and there’s no food in your house and barely any gas in your tank, your options really are limited.
So what did I do? I used the only thing I had, my genuine interest in other people. I stopped focusing on my situation, I took my eyes of myself and I stopped worrying about leads and sales. The pressure of the next sale was what was suffocating me and I was so afraid of failure that fear cut my legs out from underneath me. But at that point things were so bad that since it pretty much couldn’t get much worse, it gave me the freedom to finally just let it go. I got up, I got away from the computer, I got away from the phone, I got out of the house and I jumped in feet first into starting conversations with other people. My only goal was to build relationships. I did not care if they ever did business with me. All I wanted was people to know my name and remember that I asked questions, listened, and made them feel good about themselves. I was going to support their businesses without ever expecting them to support mine.
And within a month, our business revenue doubled.
Our business revenue tripled by the third month, and quadrupled by the fourth. And what started out as the worse year we’d ever had turned into the best year we’ve ever had.
So what does all that have to do with the Elevator Pitch? I have a point, I promise.
The thing is when you’re at a networking event or having a conversation with someone you’ve never met before you’re trying to make an impression. You’re trying to do or say something that’s going to make them remember you. So you pitch your “amazing” elevator speech. “I help people live more and worry less” “I shape the minds of the future” “I bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be” “I help businesses triple their revenue within 6 months” “I drive qualified traffic to websites” “I save lives”… Whatever it is, whatever it is that you do, the flaw with the elevator pitch is that it’s all about you. You use 30 seconds to entice someone else to ask about what you do so you can have the opportunity to sell yourself and tell them all about how you can make their life better. The ultimate goal of the elevator pitch is to help you.
Here’s what I’ve discovered that’s 100 times more effective than the elevator pitch and works every single time. If I have 30 seconds to make a first impression with someone I am going to use all 30 of those seconds and then some to focus completely on them. I’m going to ask questions about them, I’m going to hang on every word they say, I’m going to respond and I’m going to be 100% genuinely interested in every single thing they have to say regardless of the topic. I’m going to do my best to make them laugh and to communicate to them that they are interesting and significant. Those first 30 seconds are going to stretch into 5 minutes and then into 20 minutes and sometimes those conversations can last a very long time. In doing all of that I’ve just laid the foundation for a positive new relationship. They will remember me. They may not have any idea about what I do that day but eventually they will ask and when they do, I can guarantee they will be interested and they will be listening. And 9 times out of 10, they will refer me to their friends and colleagues and if they are ever in need of what I offer, I will be the first person they call.
People do business with people they like and trust. Most people approach sales by focusing on “How do I get more business?” instead of “How do I get people to like me and trust me?. Building your business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Cliche`, I know but totally true. Business is also all about people. Regardless of what you do or sell, whether you are a B2B or B2C business, everything you do is still built around people. So stop focusing on the sale and start focusing on the relationship. Be more interested in the relationship than the sale.
So the next time you have the opportunity to network or meet someone new, forget about yourself. Forget about what you need, what your business needs, forget about making a sale or establishing a new lead, and just be interested in the other person. It makes the conversation easier, more meaningful, and unforgettable. If you can make someone else feel good about themselves for any reason, they will immediately like you and never forget about the conversation they had with you.