What to Say When Your Elevator Pitch Bombs
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What do you say after you drop an elevator pitch and you don’t get the response that you want? Let’s talk about it.
To enchant and charm is not the objective!
Elevator pitches are seen as a glorious, performative action that is supposed to conjure up leads like you’re casting a magic spell.
You are not there to hypnotize the King or Queen Cobra into meeting with you. Nobody is playing the punji; an elevator pitch is not a snake-charming song.
A small percentage of time, the person will say that they have an interest in being your client. It’s the exception rather than the norm. Most of the time, the person is either going to be uninterested or ambivalent.
Wait a minute, Grillo! That’s not what my marketing trainer told me!
You don’t have to, and most of the time you cannot, get it all done in one fell swoop. Let’s talk about what the objective of an elevator pitch should be.
Talking until squawking
The objective is not to get the meeting. It’s to get the other person to talk.
Because then you can listen.
Yes, advisors. You want to get them talking until they are squawking. Only through a deep understanding of another person’s psyche is it possible to gain their trust. How can you do that if you don’t understand them?
Look at each prospect as a collection of experiences. We are carrying in our minds all the ideas we have come to believe are reality because of what we have gone through. Unless you know that, you have no idea if the person is a good fit, if they would appreciate or need you, and at what point this may all become the case.
Hunting versus harvesting
So Grillo, you say: If I’m not supposed to expect to get the meeting after I do the pitch, then how in tarnation am I supposed to build my practice?
If you go around firing off elevator pitches, you’d just be focusing on the 3% of people who happen to be in the market for an advisor at that moment. You’d be hunting the ripe game.
Let’s go off season. You want to think of an elevator pitch as planting the seed. Plant all the seeds you can, nourish them, and you’ll see some sprouting up over time.
Don’t hunt. Harvest.
You’re at a networking event, a wedding, your kid’s soccer game, or traveling on a plane. You’re talking to the person next to you, Jamal, and all of sudden he says, “What do you do?”
Now, watch these moves carefully.
- Make the pitch
Jamal: Mariella, what do you do?
Mariella: I’m a financial advisor for people who hate writing big checks to the IRS at tax time. Sound familiar?
(If you don’t know what to say, read this article about how to create your elevator pitch.)
- Be still and silent
What Mariella does next is the critical part:
silence (whisper voice)
Yes, advisors, silence is the drum you beat in this song.
Mariella is going to sit there and be quiet. Not passively silent though, she’s going to look at Jamal’s face. She’s going to evaluate his body language. She’s going to look at the pupils of his eyes, his breath, his nose, his hands, all of that. All of this gives her a clue about what his reaction is likely to be, so that she can prepare for what she is going to say back (the “bounce line” – I’ll get to that).
If you have a problem being silent, try yoga and meditation. I recently had to resort to this when I went on “vacation” in August to my parents’ log cabin with Antonio, our four kids under eight years old, my brother, his wife, and their two kids under eight years old.
And then the clothes dryer broke.
Fast forward to me at the nearest drug store asking the clerk, “How come you only have a six pack of essential oils? I see the lavender and rosemary, but this is an extreme emergency. I’ll need sweet orange, peppermint, and any other calming ointment you sell here.”
Breathe in, Ohmmmmm, breathe out, Ohmmmmm, breathe in….
- Say the bounce line
There are three ways Jamal will react.
#1: Yes, Mariella, I am actually looking for someone who can help me with that. We should talk. (Optimal, but rare)
#2: That’s great! (This is a platitude).
#3: Oh. (He’s not interested in the slightest).
Given that #2 or #3 are the most likely outcomes, this means you’ll have to be ready to bounce along to keep the conversation moving. You don’t want that awkward pause because that’s when they head for the Dorito bowl.
Be ready with the “bounce line” before they even respond. The bounce line is where you reflect on something you just said, but you’re going to transition it over to make it about their life.
If he has reaction #2 (platitude), Mariella says, “So I take it from your response that you’re not a fan of handing over your life savings to the IRS. Did I guess right?” (two-sentence rule). Then listen to what he says. She’s not sure if he’s just being nice or if there is some interest in hearing more about what she does. She may be able to transition him into a conversation about her work, she may not be – it depends upon the signals he gives her.
If he has reaction #3 (not interested), Mariella says, “So I take it you’re in a different line of work than I am?” Here she’s bouncing the conversation away in another direction, taking his cue.
She listens to him, and then bounces the conversation away or closer based upon what he responds. The whole time she’s doing this by asking him questions about his experiences. She’s not straying away; in fact, by focusing on his experiences she is going towards what is central to him. And as she does this, the conversation just may bounce back to where it makes sense for her to talk about her experiences as an advisor.
- Plant the seed
As they are gathering their belongings to exit the plane, Mariella says, “Great talking to you. I’ll send you a LinkedIn to stay in touch.”
- If he’s interested, he’ll say, “Sure!”
- If he’s interested but not on LinkedIn, he’ll say, “Actually I’m more an Insta person. Catch me there.”
- If he’s not interested, he’ll say, “I’m not on LinkedIn.”
In either case, Mariella then asks Jamal for his last name so she can find him.
Mariella: “What’s your last name? How do I find you?”
Jamal: “Smith, Jamal Smith, I work at Raytheon.”
- Nurture the seeds
Mariella sends him a LinkedIn when she gets home, he accepts, and now they’re in contact perpetually. As long as she posts engaging LinkedIn content, she’ll be getting his attention on a consistent basis. Best of all, she can contact him anytime on LinkedIn messenger.
More “ohm” and less snake song
The important thing here is that Mariella makes Jamal feel listened to. When you listen to somebody talk about their experiences, they are telling you what their values are. That is because people only talk about what is important to them. The details they mention will give you clues and signals about how what you do could make their lives better.
People have all sorts of intriguing things about them. The next time you have a conversation with someone, notice how they explain their experiences. It can be even the little thing like how they printed their train tickets. If you really listen, it’ll tell you a lot about how they see life. They cannot, and should not, trust you until you get that.
When I focus on listening to someone over time, it gets to the point where I can almost predict what they are going to say. Train yourself to be intrigued by other people and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it becomes for them to trust you! You’ll stand out, because in a narcissistic world, few have the attention to put into understanding others.
Most people want nothing to do with talking to an advisor. That’s why you plant the seed but make the conversation more about them than you. Hold back – there’s plenty of ways for them to find out about you later.
There you have it – that’s my advice about what to do after you say your elevator pitch.
I’ll sum it up for you: Silence the snake song! The music of understanding is the beat of the elevator pitch.
Read my ebook or join my membership to learn how to converse over LinkedIn in a way that gives the prospect (and you) room to breathe. Or you could contact me to set up a consultation if there is another matter you wish to discuss.
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.