Knowing precisely what you're going to say at the precise moment anybody asks, "So, what do you do?" will set you apart from most other businesspeople out there.Â As a salesperson or a representative of your business, frequently what you say is just as important as how you say it. First impressions are priceless.Â So the next time you're asked, "What do you do for a living?" will you have a concise, polished, and precise answer?Â You'll need one.
These quick, less-than-30-second speeches pronouncing much more than just "what you do" are known in the entrepreneurial world as an "elevator speech (or pitch)."Â Essentially, this speech should be so succinct that you are able to more than adequately respond to the asker's question within the few moments of an average elevator ride.Â In an elevator, you effectively have the captured attention of each person riding with you; this is likely the same amount of time you have to capture the average attention span to convert the passive asker to an engaged listener.
A great elevator pitch will answer more questions than simply stating what it is you do while you're at work.Â Much more, in fact.Â Your speech should answer what exactly it is that sets you apart from your competition, why you're better, and what special attributes set you apart.Â An answer of, "I'm a CPA, I do taxes" is an accurate response, but who's going to get excited by that answer?Â Your speech should project your passion and interest for what it is you do.
Stay on Your Toes
Every business changes, and so should great advertising.Â We all know how obnoxious those television commercials are that have been recycled for about eight years straight. Repetition is a great strategy in effective marketing, but when everyone has seen the advertisement over and over for years, it's likely losing its impact; we all begin to just zone it out into the background. This is the same for your elevator pitch.
As your industry changes and the goals of your company or your own personal business shift, it's vital that you update your pitch.Â Take the way that the U.S. economy made a swift downturn in 2008. The elevator speeches of executives around the globe likely had to make a pretty big transformation.Â Rather than focusing on wealthy prestige or big promises on hefty returns, the more effective speeches were likely modified to cover topics such as financial security and monetary safety long-term.
Have a Backup
Another key element to successful selling and effective speaking has always been to know the audience.Â It wouldn't be a bad idea to have two or three current and slightly different elevator speeches in your back pocket at all times.Â Imagine spouting the same elevator speech to a Wall Street executive as you give to the parents of your daughter's play-date at the park. Context is just as important as content.
Change it Up
Once you have fine-tuned a spectacular elevator speech and maybe a couple of tweaked variations, you'll likely have to repeat your pitch hundreds of times. It's important to remember that you're likely saying your elevator speech to this particular individual in front of you for the very first time.Â Your words still need to make an impact, and if they lose resonance with the times, you'll probably not be asked a follow-up question. Â A glazed-over expression on your audience is probably a good indicator that it's time to review your once-effective speech.
Tip: To avoid becoming stale, don't forget to listen as much as you speak.
Swing through the Pitch
Your elevator pitch, though it may take place in an actual elevator, will never take place within a vacuum. Being asked the loaded question of "What do you do?" isn't simply a one-step process.Â You've had the ball thrown right into your strike zone and it's up to you to not only hit that speech dead-on, but follow through to also land that new client, referral partner, or colleague. Â The moment you conclude your elevator speech, the listener should have either a mental list of questions about your business or profession, or a look on their face reflecting how impressed they are at the zeal you have for your business.Â Don't stop there.
Your follow-through after you've delivered the speech of a lifetime is just as important to capturing the respect or business, or hopefully both, of this newly impressed individual.
Matthew Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Adam. Matthew is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.