The best elevator speech is not a speech

Elevator speech

Sales and the elevator speech

As the story goes from time to time you are alone in an elevator, the door opens and in walks someone you have been trying to schedule a meeting with forever.  You now have an opportunity for a 2-3 minute conversation – so what is your message?

If you find yourself face-to-face in a similar situation– are you prepared for a short conversation that your “new found friend” will find compelling?

Let’s review some specific ideas to keep in mind for the proverbial two to three minute “elevator” conversation:

  • Remember the purpose. An elevator speech and a sales presentation are not the same thing. In fact, they are entirely different! Sales presentations are more formal, longer and delivered after a significant amount of work 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. So, in an elevator speech don’t simply try to tell your regular product story twice as fast.
  • One size does not fit all. There is no such thing as an effective “preparation” that fits all situations. This is why sales management cannot craft some generic “elevator speech” that fits all situations. But you can get a head start – sometimes sales management or Marketing can provide core talking points or salespeople can think about a message or two they would like to share and then modify as appropriate. The flip side is also true … you can think about a few questions your customer might ask. What would you say if asked the simple question – “What’s new?” If you’ve thought through a point or two, you can then adapt the message to fit the person with whom you’re talking.
  • A problem-centered approach works best. Because issues and challenges have center stage in any customer’s mind, a problem-centered approach is preferred. As is always the case, the focus needs to be on the customer. When planning a meeting, organize what you know about the issues and challenges the customer may be facing.
  • Share short success stories. Sometimes you have a chance encounter with a customer that you never thought you would encounter – so you have no plan for the interaction. Here, the best preparation is simply always being aware of the most current success stories your company has experienced.

Above all else  remember the best elevator speeches are not speeches at all. They are short statements that enable you to engage the customer in a conversation. In the first 30 seconds of a two-minute impromptu meeting relate your talking points to a problem that you know a similar customer would face, and then immediately ask a question to shift the conversation so the customer is doing the talking.  If you can get the customer engaged, you just might end up with the customer saying – “do you have a few more minutes?”

One may think the elevator speech is such a small part of the 
interaction with customers that it is simply not worth focusing
 on. It’s true that elevator speeches don’t close sales. But they are opportunities to advance the sale – obtaining an appointment for the following week, or asking the best way to get on the customer’s calendar.

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©2016 Sales Momentum, LLC



About Janet Spirer

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. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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1 Response to The best elevator speech is not a speech

  1. Jeremy says:

    I would love to see an actual example of an elevator speech done right. Knowing me, in this situation I’d just panic and clam up.

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