I’ve always been bothered by the concept of the “elevator pitch.” That’s the up-to-30-second sound bite that you use to encapsulate your entire business value proposition to a prospect whose attention you have for but a moment. The idea is to get them to ask you for more information; to jump-start a meaningful conversation.
It goes something like this:
Q: What do you do?
A: “I’m a banker’s best friend.”
A: I make businesses perform better and their owners’ richer, and therefore, better customers for banks.
A. I’m a business coach.
Q. Oh! (Heads for exit…)
As a marketer, I know how difficult it is to capture the attention of a prospect. It is essential in this era of communications carpet-bombing to stand out, to differentiate yourself and make your organization memorable. My wife met a real estate salesman who handed out a business card that read “I sell homes, mother-----.” Memorable indeed and certainly in less than a half-minute. But effective prospecting message? Not so sure.
And now there’s a new twist on the elevator pitch: answering the question with a question. “What do I do? Before I tell you, can I ask you…” If I wanted to be answered in that way, I would have said, “Hi, can you ask me a question about me?”
Question: in a face-to-face situation, which is likely to make a better first impression, an artificial device or a genuine human-to-human interaction?
Answer: People HATE being sold. The 30-second commercial, in whatever form it takes, is a selling device and people have figured it out and will tune you out.
If everyone has been trained to respond to the “what do you do?” with a short burst of captivating wit, it negates the uniqueness and effectiveness of the maneuver, unless you are pretty proficient in pithiness.
For the rest of us, being real is the best course. Respect your audience. If what you do has value, you don’t need to hide it behind artifice. When making connections, the truth will out.