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Posted: January 05, 2012

The anti-elevator speech

Resolve not to be boring

Julie Hansen

Ah, New Year's. A time for boring resolutions, like go to the gym, get organized, close more business. Here's a radical resolution for you: Resolve not to be boring! Boring doesn't win business. Boring doesn't open doors. Boring doesn't get you remembered. ("Hey, let's call that guy that had something that was going to help us do something...")

Clients are busy. Competition is fierce. If you can't rise above the din, you may as well stay home. Start your resolution not to be boring with those first words out of your mouth: the elevator speech. The standard elevator speech is tired, dull and predictable: "I sell (insert product or service here) for (company) and we help businesses (pick one: increase sales, reduce costs or improve efficiency.) That sentence is so boring I had trouble staying awake while writing it.

If you want to be memorable this year, make a radical change in your introduction. I call this the "anti-elevator" speech. I covered the basic rules of the anti-elevator speech in a previous article (read it here) but now lets look at three ways you can create an introduction that will set you apart, inspire conversation and keep your listener from dozing off:

1. The advertisement
Typically, advertisements have three parts: The headline that grabs your attention. The subhead, which provides more details and encourages you to read the body, which answers some of the questions raised in the headline. Here's an example:
Headline: 127 Hours (grabs attention and begs the question, What happened in 127 hours?)
Subhead: Man cuts off his own arm (prompts more questions, Why? How?)
Body: True story of a climber who has to amputate his own arm after being trapped for 127 hours. (Wow! Tell me more.)
You can easily adapt this to business. For example, using this format I might say:
"I turn salespeople into stars." (How?)
"By giving them tools from an industry that engages and persuades billions of people around the world." (What tools? What industry?)
"I show them how to use techniques from highly competitive acting auditions to quickly break through the noise, get in front of busy prospects and close more business." (Sign me up!)

2. The simile or metaphor
When writers pitch a script to movie studios they often combine the ideas behind two successful movies to come up with an entirely new concept, for example: "It's like Die Hard on a bus" (Speed)" or "Alien meets True Grit" (Aliens vs. Cowboys). This isn't limited to movies; you can compare what you do to anything in popular culture. For example, Jean Claude Van Damme calls himself "the Fred Astaire of karate."

A real business example I love is from fellow Coloradobiz columnist and founder of Executive Lattice, Ann Spoor, who calls herself "the Jerry McGuire to Corporate Executives and Professionals." Here are a few more examples: I am the matchmaker of real estate. My business is like LinkedIn meets Klout. You get the idea.

3. The Star of the Story
By placing whoever you're talking to into a story about what you do, you instantly engage them and give them a firsthand experience of what it would be like to a) have the problem you address b) receive the solution you offer. For example, if Bob asked me what I do, I might respond:
"Bob, say you were having a tough time getting in to see decision makers and an even harder time trying to close them. All of the old tools you've been using just aren't working any more. I would show you performers' secrets for quickly grabbing an audience's attention, keeping them engaged and drawing them along on their journey. Then I would help you apply them to getting appointments, handling objections, delivering memorable presentations and closing with confidence so that you can win more business."

Those are just three examples of an anti-elevator speech, however there are as many varieties as there are advertisements, movies and people. Just make sure yours is succinct, expresses your personality and most importantly, make sure it isn't boring!


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Julie Hansen helps sales professionals stand out and win more business using proven performance tools from film, stage and improvisation.  An international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro, Julie has worked with Fortune 500 companies like IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies needing a critical competitive edge with today’s busy decision-makers.  Learn more at www.actlikeasalespro.com.  Connect with Julie on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Thanks Ann. Referring to well-known movie characters like Jerry McGuire quickly conjures up a very clear image for most people. It's great shorthand for: "I'm a determined agent who negotiates the best deals for my clients..." etc. I apologize if you start running into readers who use the phrase "I am the Jerry McGuire of: real estate, technology, pizza..." By Julie Hansen on 2012 01 13
Thanks Julie! I find that the 'Jerry McGuire' reference simply resonates with most people. It's easy to understand and translate. The headline grabs people's attention. Now, if Tom Cruise were to deliver the elevator pitch, most would want the long version! Now that I am also involved with Advisory Board Architects, I have a similar approach. I can't launch into the long version of the value of ABA and what we do right away. You have to boil it down to something simple and quick. If someone then wants to know more, they will 'opt in' and that's great! By Ann Spoor on 2012 01 11

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