Picture this: You walk on to an elevator. It’s crowded and you’re late for a meeting. As the doors close someone corners you and begins to recite a brief, cookie cutter version of his life. He’s thinking this bold approach will get him a job. You’re thinking you can’t get off that elevator fast enough. As the doors open you rush through the doors leaving the him staring at you, incredulous. The elevator pitcher doesn’t get it. All of the experts tell him this is exactly what he needs to do to get a job. If this is the case, why does his elevator pitch turn off so many people?
Because no one likes to be cornered in an elevator, that’s why.
I get that “elevator” is metaphorical and not everyone who gives elevator pitches are actually going to offer resume bullet points between the 5th and 10th floor, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a one on one interview or a crowded conference floor, no one likes to receive the same pitch that is so obviously given to everyone else.
An elevator pitch is lazy and impersonal
People who are buying or hiring want to feel as if you took time to learn something about who they are or what they do. When you robotically repeat the same cookie cutter pitch, it’s going to turn off the people who you’re trying to reach. If you really want to impress a potential client, employer or buyer, take some time to do a little research. Instead of making it about you, make it about them. Instead of creating a one size fits all pitch, take the time to tailor talks to each individual recipient.
Consider the location
Elevator pitches aren’t necessarily relegated to elevators. Before you confront anyone to sell what you’re selling put yourself in their place. Would you want someone calling your home at 9:00 PM? Would you want someone interrupting you while dining out with family or friends? Would you want someone to interrupt you while having a conversation with a five others at a conference? No. You probably wouldn’t. There’s a reason people make appointments for job interviews and conference calls.
There are ways to pitch without being annoying
In the movies the hero always gets the job after busting in on a CEO who is dining with his family or enjoying a drink with friends because the CEO admires the “go getter” attitude. In the real world, not too many people like rude, pushy people. However, let’s say you’re at a conference and you’re looking for work. How do you get a hiring agent’s attention without seeming like a smarmy salesman?
It’s easy. Instead of pitching, have a conversation.
Find the types of people you’re looking for and instead of diving directly into a pitch or asking “who they’re with” have a conversation. Talk about the speakers at the conference or what is being served for lunch. Talk about topics that interest you. Eventually the chat will turn to what you both do. Ask lots of questions to learn about the other party, what he does, his wants and his needs. After that try saying, “I have some ideas I’d like to run by you, may I have your business card to arrange a call?”
Contact first, pitch later
As someone who has been freelancing and consulting for the better part of decade, I’ve come to learn that diving right into a pitch is a turn off. It’s why you avoid the perfume sprayers and kitchen makeover salesman at the mall. You don’t really want to be like them, do you?
By all means, meet the people who you want to meet. Chat them up. Learn about them and find out of you’re a good fit for each other. If you mesh, try taking it to the next level by asking for a meeting. You’ll find the other party now feels comfortable enough to set up a talk and at least hear what you have to say. Chances are, this talk will be a more productive conversation than a five minute pitch where the other person can’t wait to get away from you.
How do you pitch?
How do you do business? Do you pitch first and hope for the best, or do you take time to get to know the other party before launching into the business spiel?
What approach works best for you?