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Posted by Sarah Brown on 04 Aug '15

How to stop people turning off when they hear what you do

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An elevator pitch for your lift statement

I was first introduced to the concept of elevator pitches over 20 years ago at a Jay Abraham marketing course in Orange County, California.

It was an expensive course, so expensive that I could only afford to fly to do it and then immediately return after the week rather than stay to enjoy California.

I got three insights/tools that I still use over 20 years later.

Firstly a great story of how important values and ranking them are in a company and how they impacted Fedex (you can read all about the transformational wedding dress in this blog). Secondly a hundred headlines that can be endlessly adapted to attract attention and have been working since advertising began and thirdly a new concept then, the elevator pitch.

Being British I prefer to call them lift statements and while I use them myself I often go months without talking to people about them, then this morning at a 4N Networking meeting I ended up talking about them in three different in depth conversations, just like buses, none and then three at the same time.

People in professions like recruitment, the law or accounting feeling that people turn off when they hear what they do.

Stopping people turning off

As I explained a good job title can help – I’m an ideas inspirer which is how I answer if someone asks me what I do, but then I can go on to give the lift statement.

The job title is not self explanatory and stops the exchange being just platitudes, the first level of communication.

Then I can go on

You know how some people can turn off when they hear certain job titles or professions, well I can keep them interested

If they then ask after the lift statement well how do I do that well I give an example

“Well currently I’m working with a company and firstly I’ve helped them identify their ideal customers and to understand what pain they are feeling at the moment, their fears for the future and their dreams. I have then helped them to understand what questions they need to be answering from their ideal customers so that they feel understood, and how they can convey that understanding at face to face meetings from the first greeting to their marketing materials including their website. I have helped them think about what they should be offering to build a strong relationship from free information to an introductory product and then the full range of products and even premium services and all the information needs as the relationship develops”

The original lift statement I heard

I’ve seen many complex explanations of a lift statement and how to construct it but the one I heard 20 years ago still works for me.

The story goes….

The storyteller walks into an elevator (it was California) and sees a lady with a badge presumably at the same event so he asks: What do you do?

She replies “well you know how people get computers clogged up with files everywhere and not knowing where anything is, well I come in and sort them out”

“Brilliant” says the storyteller, “I’ve got a computer like that, could you come and sort mine?”

They agree a date and time and price and the next week she appears and exchange contact details but she doesn’t give a business card. When she arrives the next week, she does handover a business card which says accountant, the storyteller is surprised, “I thought you sorted computers” he says; “I do as well as being an accountant” she replies “but if I had said I was an accountant that would have been the end of the conversation.”

The secret is to find a problem you solve that people relate to, get them nodding their head as you describe it and then explain you solve it.

The 4 levels of communication

Let’s start with the basics of every communication you will ever have. There are four levels of connection and as you pass through them you increase understanding and build empathy hopefully

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This is relevant because if your lift statement is phrased well it can get an emotional response - I’ve had that feeling/I’ve got that problem the listener may think and you will immediately be closer and have more empathy

How to create a compelling introduction to yourself

To create a great compelling lift statement first think about who you are talking to, so that you can make it as relevant as possible to them. But also think about who you want to talk to, because you don’t want to waste your time or theirs if they can never afford or won’t want your service.

You can screen out people if you describe a problem that doesn’t feel relevant to them and this can be as useful as building a strong relationship. However this method does let them understand what you do, so maybe they aren’t recruiting or needing a lawyer but they understand the problems you solve for people so if they meet people who have that problem they can refer you.

A lift statement – the mechanics

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Step 1  Involve them by asking a question framed as “you know how…”

Step 2 Describe a problem they can understand and hopefully applies to them so they nod their head and agree with you. They should be thinking “Oh yes I really know about that problem”. The more universal the problem the wider you can cast your net. People turning off is something lots of people relate to or fear is happening so my problem statement rings a lot of bells.

Step 3 The route to the solution “well I, we, my company, my charity …”

Step 4 The solution very briefly the benefit you give in relation to the problem “sort it out”, “solve your problem”…

Some people recommend a pause after step 2 to see if they answer the question. This can build real empathy if they say “yes” and explain the problem as it relates to them. You can let them talk, you’ll learn more and can then respond with steps 3 and 4.

What happens next

If they are a prospect and you have piqued their interest then they will want more information about how you do it and you’ve got past the danger point of them switching off, now they are the ones wanting information rather than you forcing it on them.

A word of caution

The formula above should be reworded to fit your style as you need to be honest and not acting and you need to feel comfortable with what you are saying.  The key to any relationship is building trust and people need to believe you and in you. This will only happen if you believe what you are saying, while this is about marketing and sales it is really about how you solve people’s problems and can change their world so it needs to be true.