Perfect Pitch

“The goal of networking is not to gather sales leads,  but to start business relationships and that begins with a conversation and not a sales pitch”,  asserts presentation and communications coach and author of The Anti-Elevator Speech (2009),  Cliff Sutttle.  Whether you’re at the Rotary Club lunch,  the gym or your second cousin’s third wedding,  eventually someone will ask what you do for a living.  For Freelance consultants and business owners,  a well-crafted elevator pitch is your answer.

The original idea behind the elevator pitch was to have something to say about your business to a potential customer whom you met by chance.  Presumably,  the two of you would be in an elevator and you would have about one minute to tell your story.

An appropriate elevator pitch presents you and your business offering in a casual,  socially acceptable manner.  To use your elevator pitch as a sales pitch is always wrong.  Someone whom you’ve just met is not a candidate for a sales pitch.  Delivering a sales pitch when you should deliver an elevator pitch will soon make you a social pariah.

While it is true that a Freelance consultant or business owner must constantly seek out potential customers,  it is important to first,  verify that one is speaking to a potential customer and not to someone making polite conversation and two,  communicate in a manner that is not perceived as selling.  Focus instead on solving a need and building a relationship and formulate an elevator pitch with a style and substance to communicate that.

The right elevator pitch will open doors for you,  business or social.  Your elevator pitch is a verbal business card.  It introduces you and your business to those who inquire.  Follow these steps and create one that works for you:

!.  The Hook

Cliff Suttle recommends that you give a short,  accurate-yet-vague statement of the ultimate benefit of your product or service.  A financial planner might say that he/she helps clients sleep well at night.  A web designer might say that he/she makes sure that potential customers get answers to their questions about your business.   A marketing consultant might say he/she builds communication links between the business and its customers.   After the hook is given,  say no more.  If the questioner wants to know what you mean,  then there will be a follow-up question.

Sales and marketing guru Geoffrey James,  author of the soon-to-be-published book Business Without the Bulls**t,  recommends that in the hook,  position your firm in one sentence that describes who you are and the primary service you provide,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  One who facilitates business strategy meetings might say  “In a one-day session,  I get my clients to reach consensus on pursuing a half-dozen relevant and achievable business goals that are guaranteed to deliver measurable results.”  If the questioner asks how you do that,  then proceed to Step 2.

2.  Differentiate

Defend the claim you made in Step 1 and give two or three reasons that show how your services are superior to competitors’.  Years of experience, marquee clients,  a special proprietary system or patented methodology or scientific data published in credible journals are how you make your case.  Client testimonials on your website or LinkedIn page add credibility to your claim.

3.  Conversation

If your questioner continues to show interest,  he/she may just be nosy,  may be a competitor trying to get information on how you do business,  or may be a genuinely interested prospect or referral source.  You won’t solve the mystery until you get that person talking.  When you ask if your area of expertise happens to be a concern at his/her company,  or note that he/she sounds as if they’ve encountered this situation before and inquire as to how it is being handled now,  the answer will reveal true motives.

4.  Meeting

If it makes sense to continue the conversation,  then ask your questioner for an opportunity to meet and continue what has been started.  If your questioner turned prospect  suddenly seems hesitant,  then ask  what less than optimal previous experience gives him pause, or what you can provide to ease his/her mind.  If your newest prospect seems enthusiastic, then ask how to get on his/her calendar and the preferred mode of contact and time to reach out.  You’ll be on your way to building a profitable business relationship.

Thanks for writing,

Kim

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