Defining networking elevator speech...
The expression derives from the USA and is the 'speech' you would give about your business activity in the time it takes an 'elevator' to reach its destination, ie. 30 seconds or less.
And that’s about the maximum amount of time you have to keep someone’s attention after they ask “What do you do?” (sometimes even less). If your answer is boring or long-winded, he starts looking for a way to ‘escape’ from you.
Are you memorable? When someone asks, “What do you / your company do?” is your answer instantly forgettable? Or do you find their eyes start to glaze over as they switch off because they think they’ve heard it all before.
If so, then it may be an opportunity lost for you.
Imagine – what if you say something that makes them ask, “Really? Tell me more…” now you have a great chance to shine and maybe forge new, profitable business relationships.
This is where having a powerful, succinct – perhaps even intriguing – networking elevator speech works magic for you.
When someone asks, "What do you do?" we only have a short time to engage their interest sufficiently for them to want to know more. The networking elevator speech is a process that follows a structure that tells your audience about a problem (pain) they can identify with and what you
can do to help them. The intention is to get them to want to know more.
The idea is very simple, but extremely effective. Use your writing skills to give yourself a powerful or intriguing introduction. Get people to ask for more information – rather than ‘switching off’.
There are many ‘elevator speech’ structures and theories around. I first came across this particular one at a Jay Abraham’s seminar in London in 1994. It was introduced by one of his co-presenters and the structure made it so easy for a beginner to use.
The process of your networking elevator speech is in 4 stages:
1) The Problem (that they may be able to identify with!). "You know how...."
2) Downside "which means that..."
3) Solution "What l do is..."
4) Upside "Which means that..."
I thought this was such a brilliant way of introducing yourself, I enthusiastically ‘spread the word' among my own business colleagues.
And something suddenly struck me… an awful lot of them just ‘didn’t get it’.
Oh, they got the idea OK, and they seemed to understand the principle. However, when they tried to put it into practice for themselves, they either went on for too long (in some cases, the lift could have gone up and down a dozen times before they finished!) or they missed the point of highlighting a serious problem and demonstrating a solution with a real benefit or an intriguing notion.
Let me tell you about one example…
I’d agreed to give a presentation on business networking with a good friend and business colleague of mine, who organizes corporate events and exhibitions and offers training on how to get the most out of attending an exhibition.
Our presentation was at an important business meeting. Now, Chris is absolutely brilliant at networking, but he hadn’t come across the ‘Elevator Speech’ before. We decided it would be a good tool to share with the delegates, and Chris agreed to write his own Elevator Speech as a demonstration.
This is what he came up with…
“You know how some business people attend exhibitions but don’t know how to work their stands”
“Which means they don’t get the business contacts they need”
“Well, what I do is train them how to work the stand properly”
“Which means they get new business from the exhibition”
Although this was OK; it does actually describe what Chris does for the exhibiting company, it is unlikely to hit any ‘hot buttons’ for anyone listening.
You see, the first statement “You know how…” must reveal a hot problem – whether real or perceived. Chris’ first attempt just didn’t state a problem people could identify with.
So what is the real problem businesses see in exhibiting?
Well, for smaller businesses there is a barrier to taking part in exhibitions. Entrepreneurs and business owners find it difficult to justify spending the money and time on an exhibition.
And it is purely because they don’t have a clue of how to get the most out of it. Chris does – he and his associates have over 50 years of experience between them. So the ‘real’ problem here is not ‘how to work the stand‘ it’s ‘how to justify spending the money on an exhibition stand‘.
After talking it through, this is what we came up with:
“You know how some businesses regard exhibitions as a complete waste of time and effort because they never seem to get any extra business, which means they don’t exhibit and lose out on the opportunity to make a high number of business contacts in a comparatively short time, don’t you?”
“Well, what I do is train business people on how to prepare for the exhibition beforehand, how to work their stand on the day and follow-up afterwards, which means they maximize their opportunity to make good contacts in a focused environment, know how to follow-up and get good sales results by exhibiting, making the exhibition a cost-effective way of increasing business and profit.”
It needed more refining – but the perceived problem for prospective exhibitors had been established.
Another networking elevator speech example...
"You know how some sales teams do not meet their targets, which means that the company does not make as much profit as it could do, don't you? Well, what I do is one-to-one' sales coaching, which means that I can improve the performance of the sales team and boost the company's profits. "
"You know how some people spend a lot of money on a web site design but get very few inquiries or increased business, which means that they feel they have wasted their money and time, and being on the web doesn't work, don't you? Well, what I do is increase the chances of their web site appearing in the early results in the search engines, which means that the site receives more visitors and increases business results."
'Don't you' is a 'yes' tag. By including the don't you at the end of the "You know." section you are encourage people to say or think, "Yes".
Have you ever been introduced to someone and when you ask what they do they've replied "Oh, I'm an accountant" or "I'm a solicitor/attorney" or "I'm a financial adviser". Ya-awn! Bo-oring!
Did you know that there are different aspects to accountancy, finance and the law that can be quite fascinating? No, really! But only if they hit your hot-spot. Because when someone says ‘accountant' or ‘finance adviser' it is so-oo easy to assume we know all we need to know, isn't it?
But how about…
"Well, you know how some business owners are just too busy to keep an eye on the financial aspects of their business, which means they are often paying too much tax or worse, missing the danger signs of the business heading for insolvency, don't you?
What I do is keep an eye on the business finance, save on taxes and provide timely management reports, which means the business owner can still keep their finger ‘on the profit pulse' whilst driving their business growth."
Don't you think that sounds more interesting, than "I'm an accountant"?
And once you've got your main networking elevator speech sorted you can distil it down into a 1-liner like this!
"I stop companies over-paying on taxes"
Find the answers to these questions and you have the start of your elevator speech.
Step 1: What is the real problem you can solve for people? If not a problem, how can you enhance their life or experience – home, personal, health, wealth or business?
If you're not sure, ask your existing customers or clients what they were specifically looking for when they purchased from you.
Step 2: What was the consequences of this problem or lack of something? Were they losing sales? Friends? Income? Home comforts? Again, ask your existing customers if you are not clear about the ‘which means…'
Step3: What do you supply (product or service) that addresses this need? How can you resolve their problem?
Step 4: What benefits will people enjoy? What are the consequences of taking advantage of what you offer? Are they happier, richer, healthier, more profitable, more productive?
Now hone the answers you've got into short, succinct statements and precede each with the template words:
Step 1 "You know how…
Step 2 "Which means …
Step 3 "Well, what I do is…
Step 4 "Which means …
1) Always say "You know how some people/companies/businesses…" Nobody likes to be told they've got it wrong. You have to be subtle; saying some people or some companies implies it's a problem other people or companies have – not you or the person you are speaking to. If he identifies with the problem you describe, he can ask questions, and if he doesn't, you haven't insulted him by implying he does.
2) Being an observant sort of person, you probably noticed in the examples, I included the words "don't you?" at the end of the first ‘which means', didn't you? Including these words gets the other person nodding their head (or thinking "Yes") in agreement with you. It involves them in what you are saying, starts to create rapport and opens them up for the ‘solution' you are going to describe.
3) Be specific wherever possible. If you can quote figures that catch people's attention it makes your speech more memorable and people seek you out to find out more.
Let me give you another networking elevator speech to demonstrate what I mean…
"You know how some companies send out sales letters and get very low numbers in response, which means they spend hundreds or thousands of pounds ($) on printing and postage with very little return, don't you?
Well, what I do is increase the response to those letters by anything from 262% to 353%, or even more, without spending a penny (¢) extra on print and postage, which means they get a substantial increase in sales and profits."
In your networking elevator speech, the figures you quote, which must be truthful because you may be asked to substantiate them, makes your speech far more credible and intriguing.
Work on the real solutions you offer, especially if you can identify something that is unique to you or your company. And use the networking elevator speech whenever you can. At first, you will feel awkward giving this little ‘speech'. But after practicing and saying it a few times it will become more natural.
At this stage, you might be tempted to change the wording. Do be careful – the structure is important. You don't want to lose the opportunity to intrigue new people you are introduced to, and getting the opportunity to expand your network of contacts. Creating a very ‘woolly' version of this powerful technique might do just that.
Practice using your networking elevator speech so that when people ask you "What do you do?" you will have a clear answer that will encourage them to ask for more information.
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