7 ways to screw up your elevator pitch

You can deluge your fellow passenger with the intricacies of your workaday world, or you might mumble and stumble your way to professional oblivion. There are alternatives, though.

Not too long ago in a land very close by, I was giving my elevator pitch. I watched, horrified, as my elevator buddy’s eyes glazed over just as I went into my spiel about algorithms, psychographics, and massive amounts of social data.

I thought I was educating this man into buying my services. I was wrong.

The man—and probably 99.99 percent of other business owners out there—don’t want to be educated about what you do. That’s why they’re hiring you: so they don’t have to learn the arduous processes and procedures around what you or your company does.

Thankfully, soon after my startling realization I had a webinar with Infusionsoft, our CRM, about elevator pitches.

There are actually seven ways you can really muck up your pitch (including my method, No. 4):

1. The opera singer: Me, Me, Me, Meeeeeee. No, that’s not an opera singer warming up; it’s the salesperson talking about him- or herself constantly. Yawn, I’m bored. Maybe I should have taken the stairs.

2. The generalist: If you give me the same, tired pitch that every other [insert your occupation here] gives, I’m tuning out. Examples: “I’m a people person!” Or “I really care about your success.” Mmm-hmmm. I’m just going to let my eyes glaze over and think about what I’m cooking for dinner.

3. The list maker: “I can help you with … No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 ….” If you try to tell everyone everything that you do, they won’t remember. Plus, not all those things apply to them.

4. The professor: I couldn’t possibly teach someone all the educational and technical things about social media. Neither can you—nor should you try. Most people don’t care about how it works; they care about why and how it will work for them.

5. The talker: Oh, boy, I have had more than enough of these to last me a lifetime, only I never get saved by a brief elevator ride. I frequently am seated next to these people on planes. They talk, and talk, and talk. You can’t get a word in. They usually also show signs of being a No. 1.

6. The unprepared dude (or dudette): They fumble and mumble and say, “uh, um…” or have unusually long periods of silence during their pitch. You basically feel really sorry for this person, though sorrier for yourself: “Why did I ask?!”

7. The buzz kill: The marketer or techie who uses a buzzword three times in every sentence. You have no idea what the person’s talking about, but you just nod and smile and try not to look stupid or confused.

What’s your hook?

Taking the above into consideration, I had to think about how to be interesting. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

My advice: Look for that one piece of information that piques the interest of your elevator buddy. Ask a question. Tell them a crazy fact or statistic. Be memorable, grab their attention, and make a statement.

Then, allow your counterpart to start a conversation. The more questions they ask, the more interested they are. Focus on the benefits you provide, ask lots of questions, and let the conversation flow naturally.

It’s all about getting that conversation started, and less about making some “pitch.”

Turn your pitch into a conversation

So how’d I fix my pitch? I tossed it. I’m not the professor trying to “teach” in 60 seconds or less. I listen more than I talk, and when I do talk, I ask questions that help me uncover whether my elevator buddy is a prospect.

Brooke Ballard is chief social strategist and founder of B Squared Media. She helps bright and innovative entities develop social strategies around content curation, collaboration and conversation. A version of this article originally appeared on B2SocialMedia.com.

Topics: PR

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