By Patrick Mahan
You never know who you might bump into. A chance encounter on an airplane could lead to your next big sale. Or the person in line behind you at the grocery store just might be the strategic business partner that helps take your brand global.
As they say, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." The question is, how prepared are you when opportunities like these arise?
For years, you've heard of the importance of having a succinct, well-crafted "elevator pitch". A short summary that explains who you are and what you do. A "personal, 30-second commercial" that can be delivered quickly at a moment's notice.
The idea is to pitch yourself in hopes of making a connection. A connection that could open a new business relationship.
But what worked in the past isn't guaranteed to work in the future. Human behavior has changed. Today, people are much more guarded against strangers. And in most cases, the person you bump into on the elevator is looking down at his phone. And the last thing anyone wants is for someone to interrupt them while checking Facebook!
So if the traditional elevator pitch is dead, what can we do to resuscitate it? How can we break through and communicate with the "digital zombies" that we've all become? After all, what you have to offer is important, isn't it?
If you truly believe in yourself - and your talents and products and services - then you certainly wouldn't want to deny a stranger of this chance to benefit from your offering.
The problem is, people don't want to be pitched. You, me and the guy on the elevator are tired of being harassed by the constant influx of commercial messages flooding our lives. And we've made this clear. The rise of caller ID, call block, TiVo, spam guards, pop-up blockers and other filters have sent a resounding message to salespeople that we don't want to be interrupted.
This is a problem for people making their living in sales (which we all do in some form or another).
So there must be a better way. As salespeople and marketers, we can't just resign to the fact that we're becoming a society of anti-social cynics that don't want to be interrupted.
Stop Pitching and Start Attracting
If people don't want to be pitched, then stop pitching! If someone hires a bouncer to guard their front door, how mad will they be when you try to sneak in the back door? This is essentially what marketers are doing when they invent clever ways to sneak past commercial filters (like TiVo or Caller ID or spam guards or secretaries). The same applies to someone looking down at their phone, which is often a non-verbal cue saying, "Leave me alone!"
So what's the solution?
Well, if pitching is synonymous with pushing, then the opposite would be pulling, right? So maybe we could switch tactics and start pulling (or attracting) prospects to us, rather than pushing ourselves on them.
As best-selling author and sales guru, Jeffrey Gitomer, says: "In today's world, it's not who you know, it's who knows you." He goes on to explain that cold calling has proven to be the least effective sales tactic of all and begs the question, "Why are you calling them instead of them calling you?"
Here's a scary exercise... Have you Googled yourself lately? What shows up? If a prospect Googled you... do you appear to be someone worth knowing? If you don't have a blog, start one. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are completely up-to-date. And above all, make sure nothing appears on your social media sites that you wouldn't want a prospective client to see.
The New Law of Attraction
Everyone wants to do business with people they know, like and trust. But you already knew that, right? It's common sense. But common sense doesn't always equal common practice.
The key to success in the New Economy (one in which people are more guarded than ever before) is to start attracting people to you. This is essential because the rules have changed.
What are the Rules of the New Economy:
- If I want something, don't come to me... I'll come to you.
- I never buy anything until I've read reviews online and consulted my social network.
- As a salesperson, you no longer have an advantage over me, because I've done my homework on the Internet and I probably know more about your product / service than you do.
- Don't pressure me to buy
- Don't "assess my needs". Unless you're selling oxygen and I'm turning blue, chances are I don't "need" whatever you're selling
- No, you can't have my email address because all you want to do is spam me.
With these rules in place, it's awfully hard to breakthrough. That's why attracting people is so critical to your future success. As they've said, if they want something -- they'll come to you. So make them want to come to you!
Here are 10 simple suggestions to stop pitching and start attracting:
- Talk about their favorite subject - THEM
- Sow before you reap. Give something of value before you ask for anything in return. Ask, "How can I CREATE value for this person?" rather than, "How can I EXTRACT value from this person?"
- Ask more questions. Make fewer statements.
- Be a problem solver, not a product pusher.
- Be interest-ed, not interest-ing. As Zig Ziglar famously said, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
- Become a "forensic listener". You have two ears and one mouth, which means you should listen twice as much as you talk. Good salespeople are good talkers. But great salespeople are great listeners. Focus on what the other person is saying, rather than focusing on what you're going to say next.
- Mirror and Match the other person's body language and rate of speech. We do this naturally whenever we fall into rapport with someone. But doing it consciously speeds up the process. And it puts the other person at ease. Remember, most sales situations begin with high tension and low trust. So do whatever you can to lower their guard and make them feel comfortable from the beginning.
- Adopt the mindset: "How can I serve this person?" rather than, "What can I sell this person?" Look at every encounter as an opportunity to open a relationship... not just close a sale.
- Rather than focusing on the product itself, focus on what the product can do for the person
- Always strive to meet a new prospect through an introduction by a mutual friend
But above all else... always practice the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. That means sell to others and market to others the way you want to be sold and marketed to.
Breaking the Ice
The hardest part for many people is opening the conversation. Here are a few tips for breaking the ice:
- Never approach a person from behind and never charge at them face-to-face. Always try to approach them from the side. It's much less threatening.
- Say, "You look really familiar. I wonder where I know you from?" You'll be amazed how effective this line is at getting people to open up. Most people will reveal all kinds of information trying to "help" you remember where you might know them from.
- Compliment them in some way.
- Ask them for directions.
- Ask them a question such as, "I noticed you have the new iPhone... I've been thinking about buying one. Do you like it?"
- Ask for a recommendation: "I'm looking for a good restaurant to take my wife for a special occasion do you have any suggestions?"
- Try what I call the BORED technique. It's an acronym for Born, Occupation, Recreation, Education, Destination. This is a great way to open and carry on a conversation. Using the acronym as your guide, ask questions such as: "Are you from here? Where were you born? Have you always lived here? Where do you work? What do you do for a living? What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies? Where did you go to school?" The final letter in the acronym pertains to destination. You can ask, "What are goals, dreams, plans? Where do you want to go from here?"
These questions help loosen the person up and lower their guard. And by showing a sincere interest in them, they will usual respond in kind by asking you similar questions.
When they ask, "What do you do for a living?" This is your chance to shift from "pacing" the conversation to "leading" the conversation. Respond with a statement that makes them want to ask "How?"
Prospect: "So what do you do for a living?"
You: "I help people sleep better a night."
This response begs the question, "How do you do that?"
In this case, you could be an insurance salesman who helps people sleep better by providing them with peace of mind knowing they are covered in case of an accident. Or, you could be a sales rep for a mattress manufacturer.
Prospect: "What do you do for a living?"
You: "I teach people how to save money."
That sounds much more interesting than saying you are a financial planner, or tax consultant, doesn't it?
Either way, the goal is to formulate a response that encourages the other person to ask,"How do you do that?" This shows they are engaged in the conversation. Essentially, they are giving you permission to carry forward.
Before "stepping off the elevator" be sure to give them a business card or some other means of carrying on the conversation. Ideally, your business card contains a link to a website where they can download something of value, such as a free e-book or a free sample. Just as important, try to get their business card. And if you've done a good job earning their trust, you may be able to get their email address.
And the final question you should always ask...
"Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Even if you didn't "do anything" for them specifically, this question implies that you did. Especially if you spent the majority of conversation listening to them talk.
I hope you've found some of these suggestions helpful. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Have you discovered any techniques for breaking the ice and opening up conversations? Any tactics for turning strangers into friends and friends into customers? Feel free to leave your comments below.