Since I entered the world of professional sales in my early twenties, one common sales theme that I was taught was that I needed an “elevator pitch.”
This idea stemmed from the notion that if a potential client was trapped in an elevator with me, I could vomit out a prepared statement about the value I could provide the potential client. The goal was that by the conclusion of the elevator ride, we would be exchanging business cards and setting up a sales meeting.
The idea is inherently flawed because your “pitch” when used at all, needs to be tailored to your audience. How do you explain the value you add to a business to someone from your own company? To a potential client? To someone who has had a bad experience with your company or niche of businesses in the past? To a competitor? Your message needs to be tailored to your audience to be effective, and you need to ask some questions to determine what, if any “pitch” you want to offer.
I see these “elevator pitch” attempts today, everywhere from in social media to at networking events.
Often on Twitter, if I follow someone, they will have an electronic program automatically send me a Direct Message inviting me to follow them on Facebook or LinkedIn to hear more about whatever they are pitching. This is the antithesis of what social media should be used for. There is nothing social about it. Expressing interest in a person or company by following them is met with a request to take an additional action, where, I suppose one is to assume, the REAL value proposition will be provided. It’s presumptuous and annoying.
I would like to propose that all of this pitching is unproductive. It’s extremely counter productive to pitch your audience, a real human being with distinct needs and preferences, at all before you:
1. Build rapport. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”?—?Theodore Roosevelt
2. Uncover needs and find the pain. Does this person have a business need you can solve?
3. Gain agreement. Are they willing, and are they the appropriate person to have a serious conversation with you about their business needs?
Without first determining these three things, there is no basis to try to add value for this person.
Instead of pitching, may I suggest that you ask them a question or two? Ask them if they got what they were looking for at the networking event. Ask if they are on Twitter for business or pleasure. Ask what brought them to the conference, that golf course, or wherever you are.
People like to talk about themselves a lot more than they like to be pitched. It’s a longer process to establish if you may be able to work with this person, but much more productive than handing out that almost obsolete object, the business card, only to have your prospect pitch it in the bin when they find it in their pocket later.
We need more business and personal conversations and a sincere interest in other people a lot more than we need more pitching. I beg you shred your elevator pitch and start having real conversations today.
Note: I work for Monster Worldwide. Views expressed are my own and do not reflect my employer’s. Follow me on Twitter.
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