We’re really proud of the team at the UI. They now provide accelerator and support programs to Social Entrepreneurs in over 30 countries!!! Since the institute’s inception, we’ve provided pro-bono mentorship and coaching to these entrepreneurs.
We think of Unreasonable Institute as a platform that finds, attracts and supports the most promising Social Entrepreneurs on the planet – they are GREAT at this.
For our part, we benefit from proximity and relationship with entrepreneurs all over the world – working on some of the most complex problems ranging from clean water, to climate change, to housing, to health (access). In terms of impact, we view this as a huge leverage point. We get to be with these entrepreneurs as they BEGIN their journey (toward scale).
The Future Cities Accelerator:
Kerry and I are preparing to leading a two-day Boot Camp around Storytelling and Sales at the Future Cities Accelerator. This is a new Unreasonable Institute concept developed in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation to find, support, and scale ten game-changing ventures supporting poor and vulnerable populations in the US. As we prepare to spend time with these entrepreneurs, here are some key refrains we will share:
We become what we think about.
In addition to the global power of this insight, we caution social entrepreneurs from getting too caught up in messaging ‘earned-income revenue’ or ‘biz model’. These are HUGELY important, but entrepreneurs can get distracted as they make their way through awards circles, fellowships, and conferences. They seem to be sucked into a world that debates the how at expense of story about the why and the what.
Eyes on the prize. And the prize is the impact.
There are no rules.
(Assuming ethical and legal baseline, but beyond that, there are no rules.) Everything we share in terms of our frameworks are simply constructs that we’ve made up (and tested A LOT). Don’t ever think there is some magic fundraising (or entrepreneurship) secret that you don’t know. There isn’t.
We are taught to present, not to engage.
Simply ask yourself before every pitch, or sale, “What would ENGAGEMENT look like in this situation?” Use more visuals. Be simple. Ask questions. (Despite the fact that every entrepreneur is going to have you make a pitch deck – outside of silicon valley, boulder and wall street – nobody uses a pitch deck.)
Think Big. Build Simple. Act Now.
We don’t believe that ‘Changing the World’ has to be cliché. ‘Changing the World’ is the epitome of THINK BIG! And it’s only cliché if you can’t follow-up with how you’re going to do it – SIMPLY and IMMEDIATELY.
Entrepreneurs will complete the boot camp next week after which our team will provide coaching and support for nine months. I hope to be able to share some great stories about innovation and promise for impacting our most vulnerable populations.
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!
In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:
30,000’ WHY? VISION
Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
How does it relate to our Vision?
Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
Have we explored Partnerships? Multi-Use Facilities? 24/7?
14,000’ WHAT? STRATEGY
Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support
3’ HOW? EXECUTION
Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?
In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!
Instead, we PREDISPOSE the prospect or potential investor before, during and after the visit. We predispose them to our phone call to set up the visit … we predispose to the visit/presentation itself … and yes, we even predispose to the follow-up!
The word PREDISPOSE means to make someone inclined, in advance, to a specific action or attitude. You need to be predisposing potential investors:
To expect your contact,
To look forward to visiting with you about your amazing organization,
About your goals for the visit and how much time you need,
About when to expect your follow up and what you will be communicating in your follow up.
I’m constantly trying to get people to think about what it means TO ENGAGE! I think we’re taught how to present, but we’re not always taught how to engage.
I define engagement as a dynamic within a relationship that holds attention, heightens interest and motivates action.
Think about a movie or a performance you’ve attended where you were engaged and left with that feeling of being present and excited. Think about how that engagement consumed your mind! Now think about how you felt the next day.
I believe engagement has a 12-hour half-life. That is, if we could measure engagement in some way, it seems to dissipate by half every 12 hours.
This means that within 24 hours of your visit the prospect has an engagement level at 25% of what it was after your visit.
THINK ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS!
As salespeople, we need to be making engaging presentations and asks. And, more importantly, we need to pounce on timely follow-up. It’s better to follow-up immediately, even if it’s 60% of your best effort, than it is to wait three days. At three or more days you’re just working to recapture engagement.
The Elevator Pitch may be one of the most powerful framing devices ever. By common definition, the Elevator Pitch means being prepared to cram as much about ourselves/our organization as we can in between floors one and three.
But, did you know that the world’s first elevator pitch involved Elisha Otis climbing on top of one of the first elevators and taking an axe to the cable, showing that the brakes would work?
When you think of it this way, it becomes much more an Elevator ENGAGEMENT than an Elevator PITCH.
If you have 60 seconds with someone on an elevator, to pitch yourself, your impact or organization, presumably the goal is to get the other person to say, “Hey, this sounds interesting. Let’s keep talking.” If that’s the goal then we should be asking ourselves, “What’s the best way to engage in a short time frame?”
You engage more in a short time frame by asking questions than you can by talking. Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds, even if succinct, think about one great question you can ask of the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
I’m not throwing out the concept, but I do want to draw your attention to the difference between a one-way communication and a two-way communication. Focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch.) Think about the difference between SAYING and ENGAGING.
When you’re with a prospect on a visit, by phone, leading a tour or on an elevator, are you SAYING or ENGAGING?