I’m not ashamed to say that, at the Topsfield Fair not every year, I eat a lot of funnel cake — like, a lot. And, that’s not just for when the Fair’s going on, though: I’m also partial to deep-fried butter. Funnel cakes don’t look very much like funnels, or cake; they’re called after funnels because a funnel is used to distribute the dough. Neither does your elevator speech (the importance of which we’ve written on previously) much resemble a funnel, or a cake. However, you should apply the funnel principle to your elevator speeches.
The essential use of a funnel is to impede and direct flow. You can push a ton of stuff through a funnel; but, it’ll all come out at a medium pace. And, some of it might not come out at all, depending on the viscosity which attaches itself to your funneling substance.
Think about your elevator speech: Does it flow? Is extraneous information included? Is it focused? If you answered: No, Yes, No . . . well, then, you’ve got some things to work on.
The point of an elevator speech is to be succinct, pithy and hooky. You have a limited amount of time to convince someone to use your services — or, at least, explore them further. (It may not be that you convert someone immediately; more likely, you’ll guide them down the path to retention.) You have to say, or do, something memorable and interesting, in the midst of your business pitch. And, you have to have a takeaway that grabs peoples. (Jaimie Field, a legal marketing consultant, is the daughter of a divorce attorney. Her father’s hook was that he ‘rendered people asunder’; and, I’ve seen business cards from divorce lawyers that are breakable — into two pieces.) Almost every popular song has a great hook — so should your elevator speech. Those are the main, but not the only, ingredients. The way you combine them, and whatever else you add to them, to concoct your construction, should eventually be run through your mental funnel.
Here are a list of some things that you can examine as you po(u)re over your elevator speech funnel:
The Audience. It’s a basic tenet of marketing; but, it’s especially true for elevator speeches, when everything becomes compressed: know your audience. You’re only going to be able to effectively sell your services to those persons who need your services; so, you have to find out just who those persons are. You’ll define your target clients and referral sources through your market research; but, once you’re in the trenches, and applying what you’ve learned, you’re going to meet actual people, with unique interests as related to what you do. You can likely categorize these people, however, into larger groups, to which you’re selling something. There is a difference, after all, between meeting another attorney who is a referral source versus meeting with a real estate agent who is a referral source. You’re selling these two people on different propositions; therefore, you should have two different variations of your elevator speech, ready to go. And, if you meet a new type of contact for the first time, get to preparing that next version of your elevator speech just as soon as you can establish the market.
The Verbage. Congratulations: You have a problem similar to that of many NFL draft picks; no, your Wonderlic score doesn’t suck. (Well, maybe it does . . .) The problem is overwhelming verbage; and, the solution is simplicity. There are numerous examples of people who use too many words, in speech and writing, many of which are accessible through this blog . . . And, in unpracticed speech, few of us realize just how many redundancies, meaningless phrases and extraneous words are present. If you practice the presentation of your elevator speech, you can remove most of the extraneous ‘stuff’, and cut down to the nitty gritty. So, drill down to see which redundancies, meaningless phrases and extraneous words are present in your speech; and, practice delivering your speech to reduce it down — because you’ll likely be surprised by the number of non-verbals (speaking crutches that are not words, like ‘um’ and ‘ah’), which you can eliminate, or at least replace with transition words (trading one crutch for another, I suppose). Speaking in front of a mirror may seem unusual; but, it may be preferable to learning on the fly, and losing sales to your training. You know your mirror ain’t buyin’ what you’re sellin’; and, there is something of a certain freedom for the process that is granted through that knowledge.
The Pacing. It’s important to measure your speech. If you’re talking too fast, potential leads or referral sources might not be able to understand you. They may think that you’re nervous; or, on the other end of the spectrum, they might believe you to be the proverbial ‘fast talker’, who’s got something to hide, and who is not to be trusted. On the other hand, you should not speak too slowly. It can be off-putting; and, folks in this region of the country tend to speak faster than they do slower. Don’t mumble; you want to be sure that you’re speaking clearly. Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily know whether you were speaking too fast, too slow or too mumbly, which is another reason why it is important to practice your elevator speech. In addition to the practice aid of speaking in front of a mirror, you should also consider recording yourself. Most people strongly dislike the sound of their own voice; but, if you can get past that, you’ll not find a better way to pick up on methods for improving your speech, than listening to a recording of what you have to say. It’s the same principle that operates when baseball players watch videotape of their own swings to pick up mechanical flaws.
The Facing. But, it’s not only about what you have to say; it’s also about how you look: how you’re dressed . . . whether there’s broccoli between or among your teeth . . . Make sure to smile. Make eye contact. Try not to look constipated. Even if you hate marketing your practice, or networking, you can’t act like you do. If you’re bored or uncomfortable talking about your work, you have little hope of getting someone else excited about what you do. You want to appear approachable . . . but, not creepy. Remember that this is also about the positioning of your face: Give people their personal space; don’t be a close talker.
The Cape. Even if you don’t quite feel that way, you’ve got to appear to be confident, prepossessing. Potential clients end up coming to you, and colleagues and ancillary professionals end up referring to you, because you are a problem solver. They have some sort of pain point (or their referral does), and you’re the one who can alleviate that pain, or so they’re led to believe. If you’re not confident about your own services, how can you expect a potential client, or referral source, to place their trust in you. It can be particularly difficult to appear confident when you’re a new attorney, or if you’re starting out in a new practice area. But, even as you don’t want to promise to your client things you can’t deliver, and overreach your experience, you must, nonetheless, present as a competent practitioner: faking it until you’re making it, as it were. If you don’t present as THE problem solver; there are a bunch of other attorneys out there who will. You should never lose a client whose case you could handle because you appeared to lack self-esteem.
The Delivery. It’s a standard tenet of marketing that you, as the marketer, always leave the marketee with a call to action of some sort, a next step to take. And, even though it seems like people are going paperless everywhere else, the one place where paper is still king is in the land of business cards. Despite the availability of QR codes, and those phones that swap contact information, most people, especially people who are attorneys, still prefer to trade paper business cards. So, the first step is that you want to have on hand your business cards, wherever you go, because you never know when a selling opportunity is going to arise. Get a nice little carrying case, and hit the ground running. Since attorneys still love to swap business cards, the easiest thing to do is to center your calls to action around the ceremonial transfer, taking place, traditionally, at the end of the business conversation. And, you could anchor that call to action to your business card, or your colleague’s business card. For example: You pinpoint a time to meet for lunch (or coffee), and write it down on the back of your business card before handing it over. When you get back to the office, put it in your calendar, and send an invite to your new contact. Then there’s the more traditional, and probably less effective, I’m-holding-your-business-card-up-in-front-of-you-and-saying-that-I-will-call-you-next-Tuesday-at-10-am-as-we’ve-just-agreed-to maneuver, if you’d like to use their business card as the set piece. And, of course, the next time you can get on the internet, connect with your new contact on LinkedIn. Even though your business card does not have to be the prop, you should always leave your lead with a call to action, to further the relationship, even just as your memory begins to fade.
The Cut-Off. You should also always leave your lead wanting more. And, certainly, this is true of any conversation that you exit. Never leave them wanting less. In baseball, hitting the cut-off man is often the right play. When you’re transitioning out of one selling opportunity to the next, you should be the ball. Make a smooth throw in, pivot, and return to the infield. One of the hardest things to do is to cut off a conversation; it’s even harder to do it elegantly. You have to look for transitions, and other potential leads . . . without appearing to be checking for a way out. In order to do this effectively, you can develop, through practice, speech transitions that you can execute when the time is right. It’s also helpful to have an idea about which persons you’d like to meet at a mixer, as this will allow you to cycle through potential targets throughout the event, as some forces for notation of time frame. If you linger longer than you should, and the situation becomes awkward, you can mentally tick-down the percentages by which you’re losing your potential sale. In any event, the more well-constructed your elevator speech, the likelier you are to deliver a compact and effective presentation, which should combine to make entrance and egress a simpler matter.
‘Elevator speech’ is fairly ingenious terminology; and, whoever coined it certainly had his or her finger on the pulse, since it has survived in the popular lexicon for so long. But, What did people use before this? The grain elevator speech? The dumbwaiter speech? And, What will they use after? The fuel ladder speech?
. . .
Hooks sell. They bring you back. They get you on the cover of the ‘Rolling Stone’. You’ve heard before, in reverse, that: just as every successful elevator pitch has a great hook, a great song’s gotta have a great hook, too. It’s not always in the lyrics, though. I think that a real filthy, iconic riff can make a song just as recognizable as a great lyrical hook. Here are some of my favorites/the best: