The Elevator Pitch Myth – What to Actually Say at Networking When Asked, “What do you do?”

We’ve all been there, that moment when you introduce yourself to someone and the inevitable question pops up,

“So, what do you do?”

Immediately you’re on edge, “erm,” trying desperately to remember your elevator pitch you were primed and ready for.

The elevator pitch that almost every business advisor tells you that you MUST HAVE.

Well it’s a load of BULL! We’ll tell you why…

The whole concept is about concisely fitting your whole value proposition into 30-60 seconds, just enough time to ride an elevator and clinch a sale in doing so.

But when you’re in a casual meeting environment like a networking group and you get popped the question (no not a marriage proposal) how awkward is it to come out with a robot script full of jargon. It feels scripted, salesy, and not at all authentic. And that’s why in general people don’t use them, and just babble on instead or just say something like, I’m a web designer. And stop there. That’s not giving enough, that’s not selling yourself at all, and often it stops the conversation dead.

So we need to find a balance, non salesy, but something that gets across what you do and how you can help in a powerful way. A way that gets people to ask more questions and get a conversion flowing… Well there is an answer! It’s this: Simply tell your story.

Never mind your USP, your story is the most unique thing about you, and the most interesting. Think about it. Consider instead this story the web designer could have started with to lead onto a selling conversion…

“So what do you do?”

“Well i’m a web designer, but I like to think of myself as the anti web designer”

“Why’s that?”

“Well because when I was young and I was trying to start my own business, I invested thousands of pounds in web design and developers, but got ripped off, not once but twice by different firms, they left me high and dry. I’ve heard a lot of people say the same thing too. But the thing is I was good at graphic design so I was designing the site how I wanted it to look and then the developers would just ruin it completely. And I thought to myself, if only I could do that, so I learnt! I strive to be the nice guy when it comes to websites”

“oh wow that’s impressive, I like that, I’ve heard so many horror stories about bad web designers, so you’re a graphic designer too?”

“Thanks, yeh so now I can build websites that not only work, but look great too”

“Well that’s interesting because mine looks awful, i’m sure you could help do a better job…”

…and so on. You can see here that it gets people asking questions, so you don’t seem rude just talking about yourself, people actually find you intriguing and want to know more. They can cotton on to what you are saying and chip in and find similarities. The more they learn about you the more they feel they ‘know’ you and the sooner they trust you enough to buy.

The other great thing about telling your story in this way is that you can layer in other stories and selling points to build your credibility the more questions are asked. In this example graphic design was a crucial part of the story, but then that also led to the web designer being able to get across a main selling point (that he has the extra skill over developers to make the websites look good), but get this across in a way that wasn’t salesy or pushy. Ultimately this led to the other business person opening up about their issues with their own website, and perhaps a lead in to sales talk naturally.

Now this is a real example (ok not exact words but you get the point) and it works time and time again to sell. Telling your story is really powerful stuff that leads into sales talks, it builds your credibility, it builds your trust and rapport, it makes you seem nice and interesting, and it opens up conversations and opportunities.

So what do you do?

Post below!

ACTION: What’s your story? What great experiences led to this moment? Why do you do what you do? and why are you credible at doing it?

ACTION: It’s going to take time to smoothly tell your story in a natural but engaging way, and the more you do it, the easier it will come. So take time to practice and try it out next time someone pops the question.