Pitch and Pivot: Spark Conversations that Grow Your Business
You’re at a dinner party, on a flight, or at a gala, and someone asks you, “What kind of work do you do?”
You give your one-sentence elevator pitch, but then there's that awkward pause. Neither of you knows what to do or say next.
You’re wondering, "Did I make a connection? Are they interested in learning more? Or, did I blow it? Ummm. O.k. Where do we go from here?"
The other person likely feels put on the spot, which is fine if they're outgoing and interested in learning more. But if they don't quite understand exactly what you do, they may not want to admit it. So, you'll likely get a polite "That's interesting" response and then a glance over your shoulder to seek out other people to meet.
And even if you have a compelling elevator pitch, you may still encounter a long pause that could ice the conversation.
(For tips on how to structure your elevator pitch, see “Crafting a Winning Elevator Pitch is as Easy as A-B-T.”)
So, how do you create a more natural and comfortable transition from introduction to conversation?
Pitch and pivot. That is, give a concise one-sentence intro pitch, allow for a brief pause, and then pivot with the question: “What kind of business are you in?”
For example, here's how I do the pitch and pivot when asked, "Sean, what do you do?"
"I run a consulting company that helps entrepreneurs tap into the power of story to grow their business. [Pause for a second and then pivot.] What kind of business are you in?"
This approach accomplishes four critical objectives that can help you establish and build that introduction into a potentially valuable relationship for both parties.
#1. Eliminate the pressure for them to carry the conversation.
Even if they’re interested in learning more, they may not know how to proceed. Help them along by getting them to talk about themselves and their business.
#2. Engage reciprocity.
You’ve given a little bit of information about yourself, and now it’s appropriate to ask for more information about them to spark an engaging conversation.
#3. Encourage them to open up.
When you go into the pivot, you disarm your audience. That’s because when you give them a chance to talk about themselves, you’re putting them at ease. They feel more comfortable to put their guard down because they sense that you’re genuinely interested in learning more about them and not merely trying to sell them something.
#4. Gain intelligence.
And as they talk about their business, you're able to learn more about that person and how you might tailor your story moving forward to address their interests and needs more effectively. Or, you might discover that they aren't a good fit as a customer, but you could work together in other ways, perhaps as strategic partners or mutual referral sources.
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that the purpose of your one-liner elevator pitch is not to WOW the other person or get them to buy on the spot. It’s to spark a conversation. It’s to give them a concise high-level idea of what you do and where you fit in the marketplace—to kick off a discussion that will be interesting and fruitful for both parties.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tell their story in a way that grabs attention, garners trust, and grows their business.
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