by Larry Kohn
There are a remarkable number of misconceptions about what an elevator speech really is. If you think you have the ability to create a few sentences that will build a relationship to the extent that someone will want to hire you, you are overreaching. It’s an unrealistic expectation.
In most situations when you’re meeting prospective clients, you’re not sure whether they are even targets or, if they are, how your services might fit their needs. In these scenarios, a canned elevator speech would be worthless — or, worse, harmful.
So this notion of a few one-size-fits-all sentences just doesn’t work. Creating an elevator speech is really creating many elevator speeches based upon a variety of situations that you need to anticipate.
Identify Your Target
First you want to determine whether the person you’re talking to is someone you even want to continue a conversation with. If you realize he or she isn’t a potential client, you should be perfectly cordial, and if you want to have a friendship with that person, great! But if you’re in a room networking, trying to get business, your real goal is to try to find out whether the discussion is worth your time.
Somebody else might argue, “It’s worth it just to give your speech no matter what.” Well, no, it isn’t. The wrong speech can close the door. You need to find out more about whom you’re talking to before you can deliver your golden words.
Cast a Wide Net
Once you’ve determined that the person you are talking to is a potential client, find out where you can be of value. Learn how to really zero in on where there’s a need before you deliver your elevator speech.
Identifying where you can be of service before you reveal too much about what you do is important because people tend to pigeonhole you: “He’s the corporate lawyer. He’s the divorce lawyer.” For example, say you meet a potential client who is in the middle of a lawsuit and he asks you what you do. If you tell him you’re an estate-planning lawyer, then for the rest of his relationship with you, he sees you as an estate-planning lawyer. It would take a phenomenal effort on your part to shift that definition. On the other hand, if you say, “I’m at a full-service law firm. What do you do?” “Well, I’m in business, and my company just got sued. Do you guys have any litigators?” “Well, yes we do.” Now you’ve got something to say.
The goal is to keep the door open so that the conversation flows.
For these and other rainmaking tips, attend our “Elevate Your Elevator Speech” audio panel discussion at 2 p.m. PST on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Click here to enroll.