The elevator pitch gets a lot of attention. Much has been written about its importance and how to get it right. Unfortunately, most of the so-called experts cannot help us get our elevator pitch right, because they don’t understand what it’s about.
The original purpose of the “elevator pitch” was to have something relevant to say about your business if you happened to encounter someone who could potentially become a client. Over time, its purpose was corrupted and it metastasized into a sometimes smarmy self-promoting sales pitch that prospective clients didn’t want to hear. Most of us forgot, or perhaps never realized, that an elevator pitch was never meant to be a sales pitch.
But we’re Freelancers and we need to self-promote because we need to plant the seeds for new assignments so we won’t starve to death! Isn’t that what an elevator pitch is for? If it doesn’t sell us, then how do we introduce ourselves to prospective clients?
Take heart, gentle reader. As we all know, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. It is more advantageous to present oneself in a way that does not reek of obvious selling. What Freelancers need is an elevator pitch that not only can open up the possibility of a sales opportunity, but can also be gracefully inserted into a casual conversation.
The well- made elevator pitch presents you and your offerings in a socially acceptable manner, with no obvious sales pitch. You’ll be able to roll it out at a backyard barbecue or a wedding reception, without making people cringe. To do it right, it is necessary to learn how to introduce yourself and your business concern in the context of social conversation.
According to Geoffrey James, author of “How to Say It: Business to Business Selling” (2011), break your elevator pitch down into three parts. First, come up with one sentence that will Position your business. That sentence will describe what you do for clients in easy-to-grasp language and will state a benefit that could be of interest to the person who asks about your professional life.
The beauty of this sentence is that it will start the process of separating the wheat from the chaff by revealing the questioner’s level of interest in what you do. If that person shows only polite interest, you’ll know that you’re not speaking with a prospect and can move on to other topics. But if he/she asks something like “How do you make that happen”?, you may have a live one.
If your questioner shows knowledge and interest in your field of expertise, then proceed to level two and Differentiate what you do by giving examples of what distinguishes you from competitors. “Some of my clients begin to receive the desired return on investment within three to six months after implementing the business strategy plans that come out of the sessions I facilitate for them”. “We have extensive press contacts that will allow us to roll out the PR strategy you need to make your business appear reliable and trustworthy to your target customers”.
If your questioner continues to demonstrate interest and ask relevant questions, then advance to level three and open a Conversation. Ask an open-ended question to verify whether you are speaking with a potential client, or just someone who is bright and curious, but cannot hire or refer you. Maybe ask something like, “Does your company have these kinds of needs? If so, how are you getting the job done”? Drill down further with, “Do you have an impending project on the drawing board”? The answers you receive will let you know who you’re dealing with.
If you’ve done things even half way right, maybe five minutes have elapsed during which the other person has done much of the talking and you the listening. If it makes sense to keep the conversation going, it’s time to ask for a Meeting, since 1.) Follow-up is an essential component of success and you don’t want to let an opportunity slip through your fingers and 2.) You are at a social event and you don’t want to be crass and ruin the mood by continuing to talk business.
You might propose it this way: “If you’re open to talking a little more about how I can help you with (insert prospect’s concern), I’ll be happy to sit down with you. How do I get on your calendar”?
A more cautious approach is, “If my company were able to handle (insert prospect’s concern), what are your thoughts about us getting together so that you can learn more about what we do? Can I get on your calendar”?
So there you have it. A straightforward and brief elevator pitch strategy that is a real conversation and elicits useful information for both parties. It is not a sales pitch. Now all you have to do is put yours together.
Thanks for reading,