The Myth Of The Elevator Speech

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The elevator speech is one of the most common tactics used in business sales. But is it really that effective after all? Check out these tips!

The ubiquitous “elevator speech” is firmly entrenched in the halls of corporate speak. And salespeople, sales trainers, and everyone else seems convinced that it is the key to greatness, at least in sales.

But, honestly, how many sales have you gotten from your elevator speech? And if you answered that you have, was it really because of the elevator speech?

By the same token, how many times has an elevator speech you heard taken you from ordinary, uninterested citizen to anxious purchaser?

Of course, the concept behind the elevator speech is simple: if you had only the time you were in an elevator with someone – perhaps 15 to 30 seconds – what could you say to convey what you do in a way that would make them want to do business with you.

Ironically, while many, or even most, salespeople claim to hate sales scripts, they faithfully memorize a speech that is, in fact, a sales script! But when it’s called an elevator speech, it is much more palatable.

The flaw in the idea of the elevator speech is that there is something you can say that is so clever and so engaging that virtually anyone who hears it will at the very least want to know more and at most pull out the credit card and buy. But the facts are quite different.

Drawing from several sources including sales research and response rates to advertising, on average about 3% of the people that you run into are wanting to buy what you are offering at any given time. Of course, that also depends on the product. Some are much higher while some are much lower. And, supposedly, at any given time, including those 3% there may be about 20% who can be convinced to buy through an incentive or other “sweetener.”

Even the best of elevator speeches are not going to change those facts.

But that also does not mean there isn’t a place for a good, solid introduction. The key is to avoid the fallacies of the elevator speech and, instead, craft something that will engage those people that are in that 20% who just might buy from you.

Elevator Speech Logic: Say something amazing and different about yourself, like, “I move people to life-saving treatments.”

A Better Approach: Tell people what you do in the terms they are familiar with. For example, “I own a medical transport company.”

You only need to use overly flowery, superfluous language if your job is something so abstract that no one has ever heard of it, or you are trying to hide what it is you do.

Elevator Speech Logic: Describe what you do in a way that makes people want to know more. “I am the lifeline for people who need to get to critical appointments.” Supposedly, this will make someone ask for more information.

A Better Approach: Once you have told them in a straightforward way what you do, use an association device to make it memorable. Choose something that is easily understood and with an overall positive connotation. “Are you familiar with Uber, Lyft, or taxis? I’m the Uber of doctor appointments.”

Using this positive association technique makes your description memorable and understandable without having to resort to superhero-like job descriptions.

By using the two step approach (tell them what you do and relate it to something familiar) you have a much better chance at engaging –and selling – the 20% than by overwhelming them with tales of how you transform the world on a daily basis.

And…people may just want to ride with you on that elevator rather than jump off at the next floor!



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