“What’s your elevator pitch?”
The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.
You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”
The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.
We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:
- In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
- We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
- If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
- Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.
Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.
The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.
She was awarded the grant!
Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!
A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!
This week’s theme is: ACT/EXECUTE on YOUR ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY!
A ‘Campaign’ is all about ACTION. The literal translation or definition of a ‘Campaign’ probably has its provenance with Napoleon and War. As any great general or military leader will tell you, success in war is about MASSIVE ACTION – NOW.
We’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of organizations screw around for years trying to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to hold the kickoff, etc. There are great organizations out there who, right now, are still debating the “impact of the economy and the recession,” or “somebody else has kicked off a campaign in our community” or “our donors are tired and maybe we should wait” and on and on. UGH!
CHALLENGE FOR THE DAY: What are the 3 ‘MASSIVE ACTIONS’ that you could take RIGHT NOW that would cause an EXPLOSIVE EXPONENTIAL JUMP or a QUANTUM LEAP for your organization?
WRITE THEM DOWN.
Then, GO DO ‘EM.
It happens at every organization, every day, every where. A founder, executive director
or fundraiser is trying to gather support (financial and otherwise) from someone, such as
a board member or community leader. He or she should be the perfect prospect and easy
visit … instead we encounter ‘objections.’
I’ve always struggled with this concept: objections. We have a terrific opportunity. The
people with whom we visit (prospective investors) WANT to SAVE LIVES, CHANGE
LIVES and IMPACT LIVES. What are widely viewed as objections are more often (1)
real questions, (2) ways of saying “I don’t understand” or sometimes even (3) “I don’t
understand but I want to help so let me suggest a lot of stuff that I’ve seen work
How you address these situations is critical. For that, turn to philosophy + martial arts.
Turn to Aikido. Aikido translated literally means “the way of harmony of life energy.”
It’s a form of martial arts in which you join incoming thrusts and redirect them with
minimal effort and without inflicting harm on the aggressor. According to Aikido’s
founder, it is literally the Art of Peace.
If you get a zinger of a question or a response that could take you off course – work with
it. Don’t try to ‘oppose it.’ Don’t get defensive. Raising your hands to block a person
means you absorb the blow … you literally have to push back with equal and opposite
force (wasted energy) to absorb the blow. Instead, practice Aikido and redirect the
incoming zinger back to your impact, your message or your plan.
Note: Politicians practice Aikido every day. Watch ANY political debate. Instead of
getting defensive when a tough question is asked, the politician redirects toward his or
My partner and President/Leader of For Impact | The Suddes Group, Nick Fellers, is a borderline genius. Smart. Action-oriented. Authentic.
He has many great lines, but I heard him say this on the phone once and it just struck me as so freakin’ right on in his role as COACH.
“You can’t SCREW UP … if you just SHOW UP!”
While Nick was speaking with one of his coaching clients, I think that message needed to get out to everyone.
Before you can JUST ASK.
Before you can PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY.
Before you can MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.
You need to SHOW UP! (JUST ENGAGE!)
If you (or someone in your organization) is not out making VISITS, making
PRESENTATIONS, making ASKS … who do you think will???
Nobody woke up this morning and said to themselves, “This would be a great day to
give $10,000 (or $100,000) to my favorite IMPACT organization.”
Deciding the ORDER of your visits is very different from simply starting at the top of your Master Prospect List and working your way down.
‘MO-CO’ – ‘LEAD-CO’ – ‘CO-CO’
Begin like Archimedes on his best day by trying to LEVERAGE your commitments… building on each previous visit and commitment as you move along.
Here’s one way to look at this: ‘MO-CO’s,’ ‘LEAD-CO’s’ and ‘CO-CO’s’:
- MO-CO’s are MOMENTUM COMMITMENTS. These commitments are not necessarily about magnitude or size but rather ‘COMMENSURATE’… ‘SURPRISE’… and ‘STRETCH’.
These are the ‘EARLY ADOPTERS’ who get it, buy in, and provide the MOMENTUM to get going.
In Good To Great, Jim Collins’ world, we would call these ‘FLYWHEEL’ commitments. In order to get a FLYWHEEL moving, it takes a lot of energy at the beginning… but once there is some ‘MOMENTUM’… the wheel flies.
- LEAD-CO’s are about LEADERSHIP COMMITMENTS that literally TRANSFORM the organization or the project or the campaign. These are ‘Top of the Pyramid’, lead gifts that create a sense of “We can do this.” Many times they prove that our best prospects/investors have ‘stepped up’, and now it’s up to the rest of us.
- CO-CO: CONNECTOR COMMITMENTS. Going after some of your most important ‘CONNECTORS’ early on is a terrific strategy to not only get their financial commitment (which may or may not be significant) but also to generate REFERRALS and STRATEGY on getting visits with your best prospects.
TO LEAVE OR NOT TO LEAVE (THAT IS THE QUESTION)
My primary response to the question of VOICE MAIL is that it is a function of authenticity.
I believe it is appropriate to leave a voice mail on the first follow-up call:
- Referencing the predisposition.
- Leaving a return number.
- Indicating that if you don’t hear back, you will call again on (day).
After that, it’s a combination of authenticity, good judgment and professional perseverance.
- “Sorry I missed you again. Let me know a good time to catch up. Text or my e-mail is _________.”
- “I know we keep missing. I also know how important this is to you. I’ll keep trying until we connect.”
***This is another example of ‘Practice’… and thinking out the exact words you can use.
Nothing worse than hemming and hawing and fumbling your way through a voice mail.
Everything good in life doesn’t come easy or just happen. Getting a visit takes FOLLOW-UP and PERSEVERANCE.
Here are 3 things that might help you with this.
- Attitude Is Everything
- Whatever It Takes
- Yes or No
1. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.
Getting a visit is all about SFP: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy! If you’re trying to a get an ‘appointment’ with someone you are convinced doesn’t want to see you… that’s exactly what will happen.
The person responsible for getting a visit must go at this with the attitude that the:
- Qualified Prospect wants to be with you.
- Qualified Prospect wants to hear the opportunity.
- Qualified Prospect will be the big winner after the visit.
This ‘attitude’ will come through on the phone.
Special Note on Authenticity: You cannot mess up a contact to set up a visit if you
- “Really important that we meet with you.”
- “Been trying hard to set this up because of urgency, importance, etc.”
- “Sorry we have missed connecting so often, I’m feeling like a stalker.
2. WHATEVER IT TAKES.
I know. Old and cheesy coaching cliché. However, if you take ‘perseverance’ and ‘attitude’ down to the ‘how’… the answer is to do WHATEVER IT TAKES! Call back until they tell you not to call anymore. Stay in contact until you’ve got the visit set up. Call in all of your SUPPORT team. WHATEVER IT TAKES.
3.“YES OR NO?”
We have something we call the ‘RESPONSE TREE’. Usually only 3 answers once you get through on the phone:
Anyone making phone calls to set visits will benefit from these GREAT tips from Nicole, a
For-Impact visit-setter extraordinaire. Share these with your team to sharpen skills and boost
confidence before picking up the phone.
- Be Authentic. It’s not about following a script, but about putting it in your own words.
- Your passion shows through on the phone.
- Don’t think of the reasons why they may not give. Think of the reason they WILL give.
- You cannot play out every scenario in your head of the questions that you will receive on
the phone. Just make the call and see what happens.
- It’s OK to not have all the answers and to say, “Let me find out about this.”
- It is all about the change/impact that the prospect can have on the organization.
- Your prospect may already support you and are champions for your cause. You do not need
to sell them on the cause.
- Learn as you go.
- The best way to start is to pick up the phone and call.
- In case you only have a few minutes on the phone and they do not want a meeting, know
in advance the message you want the prospect to take away from your call. You may be the
only opportunity to talk about the impact/message.
- Every investment has an impact.
- Never perceive you know the prospect’s capacity. Let them tell you.
- Based on your conversation, some people will be inspired to send in a check without
needing to meet.
- Everyone wants to feel that they are making a difference.
- And, the more predisposition letters you send out, and the more calls you make,
the more impact it will have.
Julia Cameron is one of my absolute favorite writers, authors, and thinkers. She shares this great quote from Theodore Roethke.
“I learn by going where I have to go.”
The best way to set up a lot of visits is to set up a lot of visits.
‘Practice’ as it relates to getting visits, is to actually ‘practice’ what you’re going to say, how you say it, how to respond, etc. Then, go where you have to go – on the phone, working through your ‘words’ to get the visit.
Here are 3 ways to think about this idea of PRACTICE.
- The Message and the Words
- Handle Objections
- Do the Work
1. THE MESSAGE AND THE WORDS.
One of the best books I’ve read recently is ‘PRACTICE PERFECT’ by Doug Lemov. One of his big points is that the best teachers and coaches focus on small and seemingly mundane aspects of the work… especially on the right ‘words’ they use!
The idea here is to actually practice/test, the ways and the words.
- Keep it simple. (Again, goal is to get visit!)
- Keep it at 30,000’. (High altitude. No detail on phone.)
- Keep it about the ‘story’. (Selling is not telling, unless it’s a story!)
Commit to being able to articulate your message… clearly, concisely, compellingly…in :30 seconds! Then, add ‘story’ after they have responded.
2. HANDLE OBJECTIONS.
Important to be able to pre-think (not sure that’s a word but you get my point) how you’re going to handle the normal objections.
- “I’m in. We don’t have to meet.” (Response could be as simple as “I know you’re in. We just haven’t met in a while and I have some really cool stuff to SHOW YOU around _________, ____________, __________.”)
- “What is this about?” (Response: “We have a plan called Vision 2015 that I would love to share with you. You are one of our most committed Champions and we really want to get your feedback.”)
- Why do we need to meet?” (Response: “We’re meeting with Community Leaders, like you” or “I really want to show you how we are presenting our Message and Story…”)
Bottom Line: We need to convince them that we need a little bit of their time… for a really big impact.
3. DO THE WORK.
Steven Pressfield’s DO THE WORK is another one of those great books that captures everything you need to know on the cover/in the title.
In this case, SOMEONE just has to DO THE WORK. Block out 90 minutes. Get on the phone. Make your calls. Do the follow-up. Do the work.