Originally published on Inc.com.
Most people answer with, “I’m a lawyer,” ‘I’m a plumber,” or some other label. It’s a perfectly correct answer, but what if you knew that the simple answer you give could make the difference between being remembered and referred or forgotten immediately?
You must be prepared with your elevator speech to make a good impression and stand out. Simply put, an elevator speech is something you could share succinctly with someone to help them understand what you do while riding in an elevator to the 5th floor. You don’t have a lot of time so you must be careful about the first impression you gave a stranger or potential customer.
It’s a minefield. You want to be remembered when meeting someone new. Yet your answer could trigger a negative experience from the past. It could bring up a pre-conceived idea based on that experience and they could immediately reject you.
For example, if they had a bad experience with a lawyer, they could lump you into the “all lawyers are bad” category. Or, if they believe that all plumbers are lazy and late, they may make a judgment of you that is totally false.
It’s socially acceptable to ask, “What do you do?” but the real question in the person’s mind is, “What can you do for me?” The answer to that question is one of the most important answers you can provide a stranger or potential new customer. Your reply can either have people nodding and smiling politely or eagerly saying, “Really? I need that!” in response.
Your elevator speech should state, in a sentence or two, exactly who you work with and how you help someone solve a problem.
It should include at least three of these five components:
1. Describe your ideal customer. Who are your best clients or customers?
2. Show the benefits or results the customer would get when giving you their business. What will they get more or less of when they work with you?
3. Appeal to the need or problem of the other person. What problem do you solve?
4. Describe the result that will be provided. What results have your clients or customers enjoyed?
5. Make people say, “Tell Me More!”
Once you have the answers to these questions in mind, you can begin to work out some simple formulas to briefly and directly answer, “What do you do?” that will make you memorable, not forgettable.
Here are 3 formulas that work extremely well:
1. Use a “more of” or “less of” statement
“I work with ______ (type of person or business) who want _____ (more/less) so they can ____________ (what they want).”
When you help a person self-identify with themselves, they are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. For example, if you are a staffing company that focuses in healthcare, you might say you work with people interested in a career in healthcare. Or you might say that you work with companies in healthcare who need simple staffing. You will weed out unnecessary prospects and quickly find the ones who will remember you when you start out with who they are, not you.
2. State your title and bold results
Sometimes a title with a little proof works well, especially in a competitive industry.
“I’m a ________ (title). ______% (whatever success rate you have) of my customers/clients ____________ (benefit they receive) in ______ (timeframe).”
While this is bold, for certain industries it works wonders. Weight loss, for instance, is all about results. People don’t really care about how you do it, they just care if they lose 20 pounds quickly and safely. Well, sometimes, just quickly.
3. Ask a question and make an authority statement
“You know how _______ (problem)? I fix that.”
This particular formula is extremely powerful because asking a question when you answer a question is unexpected. It makes people listen.
These formulas can be applied to any industry and any type of product or service. When you get it right, you’ll know because more often than not, people will say, “Really? Tell me more!” Once that happens, you’ve created a communication environment where more conversation may take place.
Do not tell people your life story or the details of how you do what you do. That comes later. For the beginning of a potentially new relationship, keep it light. And make it about them. You’ll be glad you did.
You’ll get more business, respect and customers when you keep it short.
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