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June 11, 2008

The infamous "elevator pitch"

As someone who has been around consulting most of my career I find the entire concept of the elevator pitch quite repugnant.

If ever I was trapped in an elevator, or at a bus stop or where ever, with some clown who decided this was the time to try to sell me something I would scream blue murder.

You do need a summary, but that’s a 30 second sound bite for when someone asks you what you do.

Instead of an elevator pitch, what you need is an attention grabbing statement or question, not the full frontal sales pitch.

For example, I work in engineering (as I have often stated) and I have on many occasions, found myself sitting or standing near people who could drive a lot of business my way.

The goal has always been to be engaging, not invading. If I know them, or of them, I try to talk directly about something related to that business.

For example, I was standing near the CEO of a water utility in the UK during a black-tie event in that industry. I introduced myself and asked him how his regulatory planning was going. (Tied in to their regulatory cycle, how they get funding)

He was immediately guarded, as one would expect, until I mentioned I was working with the committee who were developing the assessment tool for the regulator.

A short exchange ensued where he asked me how it was going, and expressed doubts about his people’s handle on the whole situation, after which he gave me his card and invited me to call him. We did well out of that…

Another occasion saw me seated next to a director of a major rail infrastructure company in my discipline. This was a committee type meeting where all I did was be myself, and he ultimately came to ask me to visit him one time. Again, we did okay there.

My advice? Don't pitch budget holders if you get their attention, engage them!

They have enough clowns pitching foolishness to them every day of the week.

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