You step into an elevator on the 82nd floor, and push the button for the lobby. Another person enters with you, so you decide to begin a dialogue. You introduce yourself, and then you naturally segue into the brief (and naturally-sounding) summary speech about what you do, laden with benefits for the prospect. You nail your delivery. You have good eye contact. You elicit a smile, a nod. The elevator reaches its destination. You initiate a handshake and get ready to hand your business card to the new prospect.
Sounds textbook correct, huh?
It’s actually TOTALLY WRONG.
If the elevator door opens, and the prospect exits and enters the great world beyond… what have you learned about THEM? You talked. They didn’t. You have nothing to follow-up! You don’t even know if they’re a real prospect!
Truth is… the natural presenter – the extrovert in me – did this exact scenario – wrong – for almost 20 years. And then I went to a Networking seminar which taught me the REAL purpose of the “Elevator Speech” was to develop your listening skills, and ask more than you talk. The true art is to naturally flow into a series of questions which makes your prospects feel at ease and start them earning trust with you – enough trust for them to open up and tell you enough about themselves to qualify them.
So, developing great opening questions became more important for me. “Tell me about what you do… or why you’re here” became a few of my ice breakers. I wasn’t focused on ME anymore. I was focused on THEM.
My other mistake all those years was… my opener was intent on SELLING them, not HELPING them. What I learned after working two decades with some salesperson greats (and tons of not-so-greats) is that the best sales pros HELP prospects, not SELL them. They listen. They process. They then offer solutions, not push products or services. And it all starts with that single opening exchange.
Then, and only then -- after the prospect tells you what they do, and what their challenges are -- do you explain how what you do aligns with them. Why talk industry jargon – spouting off YOUR benefits – when you have no idea if they need what you provide? In understanding what they do, you can tailor what you do to help their role – if they’re a true prospect.
For example, “Well, I help companies like yours get better results in doing ______ through creative branding…” It’s always all about them, not you.
Here’s to more productive elevator rides for all of us!
In my next blog… how to end your elevator-esque conversations -- whether they’re a prospect or not -- to set yourself up for winning trust and new business. Stay tuned, networkers!
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Mary Ellen Sokalski
Diva of Direct Marketing.