There are a lot of challenges entrepreneurs and/or the self-employed to must consider. Explaining what you do and why someone should hire you shouldn’t be one of them. However, it’s shocking how many entrepreneurs have a difficult time explaining this when asked: “what do you do for a living?”. If you don’t know how to tell someone what you do in a succinct, easy to understand the way, an opportunity will go knocking elsewhere.
What is the solution? Craft a stellar elevator pitch.
Don’t be a Deer in the Headlights
The worst thing budding entrepreneurs can do is freeze up when asked: “So, what do you do for a living?”. Don’t be a “deer in the headlights”! Take time to consider the question BEFORE you are asked by a potential client or influential networking contact. However, don’t drone on and on, make sure the response is clear and succinct by having an “elevator speech” or “elevator pitch” ready for delivery.
If you haven’t heard of this term before, it basically means a brief statement explaining a product, service or idea. It’s called an elevator speech because you should be able to deliver it about 30 seconds, the average time it takes to “ride an elevator”. That’s not a lot of time, but it is doable if you remember the point of the speech.
A good rule of thumb is to remember, you know what you do, but a perfect stranger probably won’t, especially if you are in a highly specialized field (e.g. IT, science, engineering). So get ready to put yourself in someone else's shoes so your message will resonate and not bounce off causing the other person to look like a “deer in the headlights”!
Who, How, Why
According to an article in themuse.com, every business person should spend time crafting and perfecting their elevator pitch. It’s a good idea to self-reflect and come up with answers for the following questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I do?
- How I do it?
- Why I do it?
- Who I do it for?
By answering these pointed questions, you will see whether the layperson will understand what you do. In other words, if you are a software developer, will someone know what you are talking about if you say “I am a full stack developer who creates scalable solutions for companies that want to improve production”. What?? Unless the listener is intimately familiar with software development, they will have no clue what you do from this statement.
If what you do is hard to explain, take time to write down the answers to the questions above and then find someone to practice on that is not privy to the ins and outs of your skill set. Remember, the intent of the elevator speech is to sell your services or trigger a conversation so the person you are networking with, yes this is networking, will know someone who needs your services.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s important the elevator pitch is engaging. The only way to truly know this is to practice it whenever you can with people of varying backgrounds. Then ask for feedback, tweak it and keep on tweaking it until it resonates for most people.
When formulating and refining it keep in mind:
- Don’t bore with the details by saying too much; there are ways to formulate an effective pitch if you are transitioning into a new career, getting back into the workforce etc.
- It’s okay to sound a little sales-y, just make sure to convey the value you add
- Avoid buzz-words (e.g. outside the box, streamline) or industry-specific jargon
- If what you do is really hard for the average person to grasp, try opening with a question addressing a “pain point” they can relate to, no matter the business (e.g. When a sale is made, does your staff have to enter in the same information in multiple places?)
- Be prepared for follow up questions to back up the pitch (e.g. don’t claim to be the top provider of “xyz” if you have no idea who your direct competitors are within your space)
Once you’ve formulated a clear, concise, and engaging elevator speech, practice, practice, practice. The questions relayed back will provide insight into what needs to be tweaked or approached in a different way to tell your story.
Coworking Environments Force You to Refine Your Elevator Pitch!
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