The most common elevator speech mistake and how to avoid it

As a small business owner, how do you answer the question: "What do you do?"

Chances are you get asked that question a lot! It is perhaps the most commonly asked business question and, however you choose to answer that question, IS your elevator speech. The question itself sounds simple enough. It's an invitation to talk about yourself and your business. Isn't it?

Well, talking about yourself is actually the biggest mistake you can make. It is the single biggest error that causes elevator speeches to fail to grab the attention of the prospects that your business needs. Grabbing the attention of your ideal prospects is the goal of your elevator speech. Unless your listeners quickly understand what you do and, more importantly, how that impacts them, they will stop paying attention and the opportunity is lost.

Now, it may seem strange that you don't get to talk about yourself in your introduction. After all, isn't that what you were asked?

An elevator speech has many applications, not simply a response to a direct question. You will use it during networking events, before you give a presentation, in a referral group setting and so on. On the face of it, all these situations are asking you to talk about yourself. Here's why you should avoid doing so.

  1. Attention spans are short. Everyone is bombarded with sales and marketing messages daily. On the TV, on billboards, even cold calls in the evening. As a result, most of us are very adept at filtering out such messages and we will do the same when we are networking. You need a message that cuts through that. Yet another factual description of what a company "does" will fail to do so.
  2. People are primarily concerned about themselves.  They are looking for answers to specific problems with which they are dealing. This is what they are tuned into, not listening to you talking about YOUR company.
  3. Everyone does the same thing. Well, almost everyone. When you sound the same as everyone else, you fail to stand out.

Ask yourself honestly, are the things you say about your business compelling and different? For example, when you talk about the "great customer service" you provide, who isn't saying the same thing? Nobody tells a listener their customer service is terrible, so great customer service is a given expectation.

So what's the answer?

Plug into the issues, problems and challenges that are faced by your ideal clients, and how you help them with those challenges. These are your IDEAL clients, those that you set the company up to serve. Getting very clear on the challenges they face will allow you to compile an elevator speech that addresses those issues directly.

It takes some work, but it sounds something like this: "We work with (this ideal client type) who has (this specific issue problem or challenge) and we help them get (this desired outcome).

That is about THEM not you. You don't get into what you do, how you do it, where your office is located, how long you have been in business, what great customer service you provide or any of the other common elevator speech elements. When a prospective client hears you mention a challenge they are facing, they will pay attention, and that is what you want!