Why the Elevator Speech Is Dead and What to Do Instead

Ten years ago, clients asked me to help their sales teams to perfect their elevator speech. Not anymore. It’s dead. Nobody has time to listen to your elevator “speech.” How often do you hear a TV anchor say to a guest, “I’ve just 10 seconds left; give me your reaction to X.” Impatience has quashed the elevator speech.

That’s not a bad thing. I see it as a step forward for all concerned.

Elevator Speeches: Too Similar, Too Vague, Too Memorized

A month ago I had occasion to sit at a round table with 8 other guests at a large event. The emcee assigned an ice-breaker: Introduce yourself and take a few minutes to tell the group at your table what you and your company do. At the first go-around, like clockwork, everyone delivered their memorized “elevator speech” practiced to perfection to be delivered for just such occasions—introductions to large groups, networking events, tradeshows, and conferences.

All the “elevator speeches” sounded much the same:

―We work with organizations to increase their productivity and decrease their downtime.

―My name is Sally Smith, with XYZ. We help top-tier leaders fine-tune their skills to achieve peak performance.

―Bob Molina. We’re a financial services firm, helping clients realize their dreams by making the best decisions for their retirement.

―I’m Cesar Posente. We provide software to keep your secrets safe so you can sleep well at night.

And so they continued around the table. Only the names and industries changed. Sometimes the statements were so vague that I couldn’t even tell what industry they served or what service they provided.

Elevator Speeches: Boring, Boring, Gone

Following those boring “elevator speeches,” there was a long, dead silence.

Then something intriguing happened. Someone asked, “Bob, I’m curious. Isn’t there a lot of turmoil going on now in the industry—with the potential for overhaul of our tax code? How do you offer solid advice in a situation like that—with the chance for dramatic change so uncertain?”

Bob gave a brilliant answer. Several others jumped into the conversation, asking him further questions that showcased his expertise and services.

The situation repeated itself with another guest at the table: Another person asked a colleague at the table to elaborate on what she’d meant by her earlier statement. A similar conversation followed. An energetic conversation. A conversation that actually engaged all around the table and revealed much more about each person’s expertise and organization.

To repeat: The elevator “speech” is dead. In my experience, it has been dead for years. An elevator “conversation” is the new sales communication model.

(Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I’ll address that conversation model!)

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