How to Meet Prospects in an Elevator
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For advisors who work with people in transition, there is no more transitory place than an elevator. Here’s how I nabbed a prospect while scaling 20 floors – and some steps you can follow to meet prospects in an elevator.
The elevator is a great opportunity
Here’s why the elevator is an ideal place to meet prospects:
- Everyone is bored, miserable and ripe to be entertained and made to laugh.
- Elevators are ugly, dimly lit and boring.
- People are nervous in elevators if they are going to a meeting with someone important.
- People tend to follow a routine schedule and will typically be arriving at work, going to lunch and leaving at around the same time every day.
- You can’t talk on your cell phone.
- Luxury-office or residential buildings attract affluent people.
- Nobody views the elevator ride as a prospecting opportunity, so their guard isn’t up.
The result of all of these factors: a captive audience ready to be interacted with!
How I found prospect love in an elevator
Several years ago I generated a lead for a company I was working as a salesperson for in my building’s elevator. Here’s how I did it.
I was in a different part of the building where my company was located, and I was alone in the elevator with one other person. I struck up a conversation by jokingly asking him if this part of the building was safe, because I didn’t know the area given I was from the other wing of the building.
“Oh, what do you do?” he asked.
“I work at the IT firm on floor 20.”
“Funny, we actually need some help with some server issues we’re having. Can you give me a call? I’m Bill from Company Blah Blah.”
Boy, did I strut back to my office after that one!
Making elevator lead generation happen
Not all elevator interactions go as well as the one I just described. But by following these steps you will improve your chances of meeting people who eventually might become prospects.
Elevators aren’t the only place, by the way, that people are held captive. You can also use this technique for situations such as airplane rides, jury duty, waiting in the lobby of your dentist’s office, etc. If people are miserably bored, this technique will work.
- Have a few default questions prepared
Ask a customized question such as, “Great briefcase! Where did you get it?” or “I thought I was the only one with that plaid, polka dot, candy cane striped Samsung phone cover. Are we long lost twins?”
However, if you can’t think of anything as customized, then resort to a list of prepared questions such as these. Humor is ideal.
- What’s your favorite floor in this building? Mine’s 15. What a stunner!
- Don’t you think it would be cool if there were a [shoe shine or manicurist] in this elevator?
- [Madam or Sir], which button shall I have the pleasure of pressing for you? [they answer] Thanks. That’ll be $15, please.
- Would you like to play rock, paper, scissor to decide who gets the space nearest to the door?
Whatever you do, don’t make small talk or you’ll just be a cliché. What you say isn’t actually as important as how you say it: loads of self-confidence, a big smile, and a dose of warm and upbeat energy.
- Avoid these mistakes
- Don’t say anything to embarrass them as they may know other people in the elevator (e.g., their boss, coworkers, or friends).
- Don’t use your elevator pitch (no pun intended). This is not the place to close a deal. It’s a place to begin a conversation and make a connection, much as you would do at a networking event.
- Don’t do anything that could lead the person to believe that you are trying to ask them out on a date.
- Make a stunning exit
Be brief with your elevator prospecting. Keep in mind they could exit at any moment, or someone else could enter and ruin your show.
Once you get the conversation going using the questions in item #1, end the session by saying, “I know this is an unusual way to meet people, but you seem like a really cool [guy or girl]. Here’s my business card if you want to connect on LinkedIn. Have a great meeting!”
Then cut it.
The important thing is to leave them with a great impression. You’re a well-dressed, friendly person with extremely high self-confidence and personality. Who wouldn’t mind connecting on LinkedIn with someone like that?
If you’re looking for more prospecting ideas that are atypical, unusual, and fun, subscribe to my podcast here.
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a top financial writer with a focus on marketing and branding for investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor and worked at Lehman Brothers. Sara graduated from Harvard with a degree in English literature and has an MBA from NYU Stern in quantitative finance.