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The anti-elevator speech

Julie Hansen //January 5, 2012//

The anti-elevator speech

Julie Hansen //January 5, 2012//

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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