When you were networking and making connections at The PPAI Expo last week—or any industry event for that matter—did you have your elevator speech ready? You know, that 30-second commercial that engages the other person, reflects your focus and expertise, and encourages the opportunity to continue the discussion?

Elevator speeches can be challenging and intimidating, but when delivered in the right way, they are extremely important for business development.

This week, Promotional Consultant Today is featuring insights from a few of the most popular presenters at The PPAI Expo 2018, including Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS, a 37-year veteran of the promotional products industry and CEO of her own creative marketing agency, The Scarlet Marketeer.

Here’s what Sokalski has to say about elevator speeches:

You step into an elevator on the 82nd floor, and push the button for the lobby floor. Another person enters with you, so you decide to begin a dialogue. You introduce yourself, and then you naturally segue into a brief, and naturally-sounding summary speech about what you do, laden with benefits for the prospect. You nail your delivery. You have good eye contact. You elicit a smile and a nod. The elevator reaches its destination. You initiate a handshake and get ready to hand your business card to the new prospect.

Sounds textbook correct, huh? It’s actually totally wrong.

If the elevator door opens, and the prospect exits and enters the great world beyond, what have you learned about them? You talked. They didn’t. You have nothing to follow up on. You don’t even know if they’re a real prospect.

The truth is, the natural presenter in me did this exact scenario for almost 20 years. And then I went to a networking seminar that taught me the real purpose of the elevator speech—to develop your listening skills, and ask more than you talk. The true art is to develop a series of questions that make your prospects feel at ease and begin to trust you—enough for them to open up and tell you enough about themselves so you can qualify them as a prospect.

So, developing great opening questions became more important. “Tell me about what you do,” or “Why are you here?” became a couple of my ice breakers. I wasn’t focused on me anymore. I was focused on them

My other mistake I used to make was using my opener to sell them, rather than help them. What I learned after working two decades with some of the greatest (and not so great) salespeople is that the best sales pros help their prospects. They listen. They process. They then offer solutions instead of pushing products or services. And it all starts with that single opening exchange.

Then, and only then, after the prospect tells you what they do and what their challenges are, do you explain how what you do aligns with them. Why talk industry jargon, spouting off your benefits, when you have no idea if they need what you provide?

In understanding what they do, you can tailor what you do to help their role if they’re a true prospect. For example, “Well, I help companies like yours get better results in doing (fill in the blank) through creative branding.” It’s always all about them, not you.

Here’s to more productive elevator rides for all of us.

For more of Sokalski’s insights into effective use of the elevator speech, read PCT again tomorrow.

Source: Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS, a 37-year veteran of the promotional products industry, is the CEO of her own creative marketing agency The Scarlet Marketeer, which helps suppliers and distributors market themselves on an as-needed basis. Reach her at maryellen@scarletmarketeer.com