Your Pitch is your stepping stone to opportunity.

What is an elevator pitch, anyway? You can read tons of books on the subject, watch a bunch of videos, listen to pitches at networking events and, you will find, everyone has a different take on what it should be. In essence, it’s a brief statement about WHY you do what you do, WHAT is special or unique about it and WHY you are the solution to someone’s problem.

Notice I did not say it’s a brief statement about WHAT you do. I said it’s all about WHY you do it.

But, even with that formula, not every pitch works.
In fact, ditch the traditional elevator pitch.
Forget canned messages.
In other words, STOP SELLING!

The goal is to seek ways to get connected, to find commonalities.

This is a bit off topic but it carries a message.

In 1977, I joined my father’s business. I was but a shadow of the person I am today. I had low self-esteem, lacked confidence, my hands always sweat. I was entwined in a difficult divorce and the idea of shaking strangers’ hands filled me with dread. I didn’t even like to touch my own skin with my own hand, let alone offer it to someone else!

I would have preferred to jump into Lake Michigan in 40-degree temperature than walk into a roomful of strangers and have to shake hands.

Fast-forward a few years and I became a whole new person. Confident, forthright, stuck my hand right out there.

And, why? Well, a wise mentor of mine helped me see that:

Networking has nothing to do with me!

“What! How is that possible?”, I asked. He wisely answered, “Because networking has everything to do with the other person, potentially your future prospect or referral source.” That moment changed my networking life.

When I walk into a room now, I forget completely about me. In fact, I check myself at the door and get a tag so I’ll remember to go back and get me. My whole reason for attending networking events is that I am totally interested in Who YOU are? Who’s in the room? Who has an interesting story to tell? What can I learn?

The way I operate is that if anyone asks me “What do I do?” I try not to respond to the question. Instead, I turn the conversation around and try to find something out about them first. Finding out about their journey gives us clues as to how we can connect. The idea is to relate with each other, not go into selling mode.

Here are some questions you can ask to keep the other person talking. Once I get them talking, it’s easy to keep asking questions, and use open-ended ones, like these:
1. Where do you work?
2. What inspired you to go into that?
3. What do you like most about what you do?
4. What was that like when you started?
5. How do you approach the work you do?

Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Think of all you will learn if only you learn how to get the other person talking.

Another key is, when you really focus in on what the other person is saying, you are able to respond with stories that move the conversation (and, the relationship) along. For example: I was talking with a woman who had recently gone into fashion. She told me how fashion had played a role in her life and how much she enjoyed what she did. I then told her how I had loved going to L. Star, a boutique dress store on Devon Avenue, with my mother when I was in high school and, I, too, loved wearing beautiful clothes. Soon we were exchanging childhood stories.

Common ground is found in Storytelling.

Storytelling humanizes us. It lets us see who the other person really is.

(When my SPECTRUM partner, George Berlin, and I run our Jeffersonian dinners at my home, we instruct our guests beforehand not to talk about what they do. Who they are is what we, and the other guests, want to know. It’s exciting and gets the conversation revved up.)

When we exchange stories with people, we get to know each other. We start to build a relationship.

But, okay, what does that have to do with elevator pitches?

It’s true, when you are standing in a circle you do have to introduce yourself. (That used to make my palms sweat, too.) And, if you should be so lucky to actually meet that coveted prospect in an elevator, what comes out of your mouth can make all the difference in whether you shine or sink.

But whether you are in a circle or circling a room, you can use the same pitch.

Let’s look at what else you can do to perfect your pitch and stop selling.
TIP #1. Learn how to Maximize Impact.                                                                                                       Every word, every syllable and every pause in your lead off statement counts.

Think of the last networking event you were at. How many different people did you talk to? How many people spoke to each of the people you spoke to? You are competing with every one of them to be heard. If you immediately launch into what you are selling, they shut down!

TIP #2. Consider your pitch A Stepping Stone to New Relationships. That should make you genuinely interested in the other people in the room.

TIP #3. Be sure you choose words that Create Immediate Interest for further discussion. That means always include a Call to Action.

Let’s take a deeper look at how you create your pitch.

In addition to choosing the right words, maintaining a professional presence, being upbeat and genuinely interested in the other person – you can always learn something from someone else – your choice of words makes all the difference.

The moral of this is:
Tip #4 – Words Have Power, and
Tip #5 – Words Should Inspire Hope

People buy a brighter future from you, a better tomorrow. It’s up to you to clearly paint that future and put out the hope that your product or service will bring a better tomorrow.

The only thing that counts when delivering your pitch is the BENEFIT your product or service provides. Nobody gives two figs about what you do or how you do it. They only care about one thing: what it will do for them! For your words to have real impact and create immediate interest, you have to capture their intention.

Last year, thousands of electric drills were sold in the United States, but not a single person who bought one wanted the drill. What they wanted were perfectly round, precise holes!

Most products and services are not ends unto themselves. They provide solutions that move people closer to their goals and objectives.

Let’s talk a little bit about substance. What words can you use that capture power and inspire hope?

I put together a little list for you:
a.  Maximize, increase, grow
b.  Minimize, reduce, decrease, eliminate
c.  Profit from
d.  Specific, specifically
e.  Save, conserve
f.  Accumulate, acquire
g.  Prevent
h. Cut costs
i.  Immediate, now

See if you can state your value proposition in 6-10 words using a grouping from the list. Your goal is to use powerful words that inspire hope.

So what do we take-away from this:
• Every single word in your 30 second pitch is important
• You define your value in the way you choose your words
• Your key message must fit into your 30 second pitch

Use these questions to create your own pitch. Limit each answer to 1 or 2 brief sentences:

1. WHY do you do what you do? (What drives you?)

2. WHY should the person, or her company, care? (How will she benefit?)

3. Who are you, anyway? (Why do I want to get to know you better?)

4. NEXT STEPS. (Always end with a  Call to Action)

Finally, delivery is key to whether your pitch is heard and the words are digested.

A few tips:
• Your Words and delivery must be in synch.
• Use natural gestures.
• Maintain good posture; always stand when possible.

The bottom line is:
Tip #6KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE and why they care
When you are out to help people, you immediately create a different level of connection.
If you get a chance to talk with them after your pitch, try to provide immediate benefit.

Introduce them to someone else and tell them why.
Offer to send them something – informational, relational. Ask for permission to send them this, which gets you buy-in.

Constantly ask yourself “What are all the ways I can I introduce myself?”

So, what have we learned?
• The first 30 seconds are crucial to starting a relationship. What you may not know is that people decide in the first 10 seconds if they want to even continue talking with you. So when you start talking , the first words you utter out of your mouth, are key to getting to 1st base.
• That 30 second introduction, then, is a real game-changer.
• Just as every batter in baseball has to concentrate on what’s coming at them, (90 mph) you can never under-estimate the power of your pitch. But, unlike baseball, when you pitch, you want to score a home-run.

And, finally, do you rely on a safe introduction? Is it because you desperately want to fit in?
Don’t fit in! Instead, be your own creative, charming self.

Stop selling and soar.