Get your elevator speech right – it matters!

Elevator Speech

Elevator Speech

After years of wondering around customer sites we have overheard a lot of elevator speeches.  Some were pretty good – most, not so much.

Elevator speeches are short, usually a minute or two, and occur in a casual setting like a hallway or corporate cafeteria or a social event or as the name would suggest – an elevator.  Regardless of the setting, it’s clear that more often than not, elevator speeches are impromptu. Someone notices your nametag and asks, perhaps – “What do you do?” “What new things are you doing at Acme?” or “Lee, what are you working on with us ?”

One foundational point is particularly worth keeping in mind for delivering an effective elevator speech versus experiencing an awkward moment or missing an important opportunity to introduce yourself and share your story: Just because elevator speeches are impromptu does not mean they cannot be planned.  Preparation will significantly improve your likelihood of being effective.  First, there are not an infinite number of questions that you are likely to be asked so plan short answers for two or three key questions you might hear before visiting a customer’s site.  It takes only a few minutes.  Second, do a little more background preparation about the company.  This is useful not only for any elevator speech but also for your sales call.

A second consideration is what does an effective elevator speech sound like?

  • Point 1.  Start off by putting yourself in the right mindset regarding the purpose of the elevator speech.  As Geoffrey James shares, an elevator speech and a sales presentation are not the same thing.  They are, in fact, entirely different.  Sales presentations, where you are positioning your solution are obviously more formal and longer and delivered after a significant amount of work in understanding the challenges faced by the customer.  An elevator speech is a short, casual conversation that you hope earns you the right for setting up a subsequent meeting with the customer.
  • Point 2.  Incorporate a generalized customer-focus message into your elevator speech.  For example, suppose you are a sales rep for a sales CRM software company.  While onsite a marketing person you don’t know says – “So I see you are with a CRM company, what are you doing that’s new?”  You could say – “Because of the feedback we are getting from customers about easy-of-use, we have redesigned all the displays and reports around a new graphic interface.”  The point being that you have linked what you are doing to a customer need that many companies face versus simply noting a new feature of your product.   If you are having a good day, your unknown new friend just might have that same need.
  • Point 3.  An additional point James makes is the importance of incorporating a short but memorable phrase that differentiates you from the competition.  Back to our CRM example, you could incorporate something like:  “Since we have a cadre of content expert partners we can provide added-value sales effectiveness help that will …” or “Since we have a technical support system like the Apple Joint Venture program we can …” or perhaps – “Because of our bottom-up architecture sales rep adoption is easier and …”
  • Point 4.  At the end, use a phrase that will help transition the elevator speech from a monologue to a dialogue.  Continuing with our CRM example – “So where are you with your search for a new pipeline system?” or “What type of feedback are you receiving from your sales reps about report generation time?” or “So how have you handled the fact that you have an entirely different sales process for your national account group?”

Some may think the elevator speech is such a small part of the interaction with the customer that it is simply not worth considering best practices.  Of course a lot of people also use to think the key to sales success was a delivering a great features pitch.  As James so appropriately notes – elevator speeches don’t end up closing a sale.  But they are opportunities to advance the sale – seeking an appointment for the following week, asking the best way to get on the potential prospect’s calendar, or even finding out to whom else you should speak during the sales cycle.

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©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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