Last Updated Jul 27, 2009 10:56 PM EDT
First, some background. Last week's post and video "Good Advice for Your Elevator Speech" received several comments criticizing the idea that an "elevator speech" should be 3 minutes long and suggesting alternative (and shorter) approaches.
Arguments like this come up is because the term "elevator speech" (aka "elevator pitch") refers to the ludicrous notion that you'll be end up pitching during an elevator ride. (Yeah, right, because everybody is always so darn chatty with strangers in an elevator...)
Forget the "elevator" paradigm, and think about an actual chance meeting that might take place in a social venue or at a conference, or in a hotel lobby, or airplane. For example, suppose somebody asks: "What do you do for a living?"
Unlike the elevator "opportunity," this happens all the time. To take advantage of this common situation, you need a crisp answer that provides the potential to discover whether the asker is a potential customer. I call this the "quickie" message, for obvious reasons. Here are the ground rules for such messages:
- It must be less than 10 seconds long. Reason: any longer and you've broken the social contract of casual conversation, in which case you've probably irritate the asker and proven that you're just in "sales mode."
- It must start with the phrase "our customer" and (emphatically) NOT "my job" or "my company." Reason: Nobody gives a flying crap about you or your stupid firm. They care about themselves. Period.
- It must contain an intriguing, quantifiable, non-trite benefit and (emphatically) NO reference to features and functions. Reason: Nobody gives a crap about your stupid product either. What they care about is what might change for them as the result of the product.
Here are a couple of examples:
QUICKIE EXAMPLE #1: You're selling supply chain software. Most sales reps, if asked "what do you do for a living?" would answer something like:
"I sell for a supply chain software company whose products are the best in the industry and make people more productive." (BAD)That's lame. First, it's about the vendor, not the customer. Second, it makes unverifiable claims about a product category that nobody cares about, and it states a benefit that's so trite that it's meaningless. Here's a better one:
"Our customers, on average, get raw materials for two thirds what their competitors pay, because our software manages their supply chain." (GOOD)Note that I didn't start out with "I work for a company whose customers". Why? That's all assumed in the first two words "our customers." So why bother to add that bit of useless repetition?
QUICKIE EXAMPLE #2: You're selling sharing services on private aircraft. In this case, most sales reps, if asked "what do you do for a living?" would answer something like:
"I sell rental time on private aircraft so executives can have the convenience of flying privately without owning their own jet." (BAD)Lame. Once again, the message is about what the vendor does, not what the customer wants. And the benefit is really just "saves you money" -- a claim that billions of products have made since that "benefit" was first though up, probably sometime around 4500 B.C. Here's a better one:
"Our customers get to travel on rented private jets for around the cost of flying first class, but without the hassle of airport security." (GOOD)Here's what's cool about this kind of "quickie" message.
- If you look at the contact's face and eyes, you'll be able to tell whether they're interested.
- If they are interested, you can follow it with a natural, casual question that can lead to a deeper sales conversation. (E.g. "Does your company have a long supply chain?", "Do much business traveling?")
- The quickie is the natural foundation for any longer speech, including the 1 minute "elevator pitch" and the 3 minute "elevator pitch." In fact, you can start EVERY sales presentation with that quickie message -- even a 1 hour presentation. It sets the tone perfectly for everything else you have to say.