Today’s guest contributor, Anne Wayman, is a writing coach, ghostwriter and blogger at AboutFreelanceWriting.com and WhenGrandmotherSpeaks.com. She’s also a regular commenter and a super-cool member of our community here.
You know the thinking behind the much touted elevator speech. You’re supposed to figure out how to sum up your business in an intriguing way so it can be said between the 4th and 7th floor just in case someone asks you what you do. Trust me, you’ll never be asked what you do in an elevator; you’ll be lucky if someone even returns your guarded nod.
Of course elevator pitches are meant for networking events and other chance encounters with people who, gasp, might want to hire you to do whatever it is you do. The theory is it has to be brief or you’ll lose their interest; it has to be pithy so they will remember you.
For example, if you’re an accountant something like “I help non-profits track their profits and losses” might get someone to pay attention more than if you simply said “I’m an accountant.” Or, using myself as an example, I might say “I help people turn their dreams into words,” instead of simply saying “I’m a writing coach and ghostwriter.”
There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting crystal clear on what you have to offer and the elevator pitch might help you with that.
That clarity is a must if you’re to be successful. Mark Silver of Heart of Business does an excellent job helping people identify what it is they are actually doing. I tell writers Every writing project needs a purpose statement.
Being able to boil that purpose down to a few words is a worthy exercise for itself. But frankly, expecting to use it in elevators, on the subway, over the phone, at a networking event or in any face-to-face or most virtual communications with other people is bound to lead to disappointment, particularly if you expect it to reliably lead to more business.
What really leads to new business is your connection with people. Communication is, by definition, between two people – one listens while the other talks then, ideally, the process is reversed. To attract a client you’ve got to convince them you can solve their problem which means you have to listen to them closely enough to understand what their problem actually is. It’s about them, and how you can be of service, if indeed you can.
Sure, you need clients, but when you come from that needy place, you’ll end up with no clients or those who need you to work for free or darn close to it.
When, however, you listen deeply, even in an elevator, when you’re more interested in helping than in getting, a couple of things happen.
First, people love to be listened to. Think about it. You know when someone really hears what you say. You also know if they are metaphorically biting their fingernails planning how they will talk when it’s their turn. Notice which you prefer – and know you’re not alone.
Next, because you’ve listened, and maybe even asked a question or two so you understand their problem more thoroughly, you’re actually in a position to know if you can help and how. Often that means you’ll be suggesting a resource or another person who can do what needs to be done, with no apparent benefit to you. Sometimes the help you offer may actually be the service you provide and if your response convinces the person you’re talking with you can solve their problem they are likely to hire you.
Either way, both of you are better off. You’ve left the person you’re chatting with in a better place than they were before you met and you know you’ve come from the heart. If it’s a gig you land it’s likely to go well because you came from a helping, supportive, listening place; if it’s not, you’ll know that the world a better place just because you’re in it and responding.
I suggest instead of an elevator pitch you start with ‘hello.’ Then listen and see where the conversation naturally goes.
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