Formerly, an elevator pitch was a short summary designed to describe your company or product.  As the name implies, it should be short enough that it can be delivered during the span of an elevator ride.

Why the brevity? The truth is that when you are “cold calling” into a prospect, ten to fifteen seconds is all you have to make an initial connection and get permission to continue the conversation. In light of this, it is critical that you can quickly establish trust and pique interest.

Today’s prospects are receiving so many incoming sales calls, that they are particularly wary of being “sold.” The old way of delivering your company’s message is no longer good enough.

Let’s take a look at how elevator pitches have traditionally been made and how they should evolve to become more effective in today’s selling environment.

The Old Elevator Pitch

The call starts with, “I’m Bob with XYZ Printing. How are you today?” 

The “clever” segue into the sales pitch, assuming we still have the prospect on the line, goes something like this.  “We’re the premier printing company in the area.  We’ve been serving the local market for over 20 years and have the most advanced digital printing equipment in the area.  Our specialty is quick turnaround and competitive pricing.  I’d like to set an appointment to meet with you to show you how we can save you time and money on your next printing project. Would Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning be better for you?”

Does that sound familiar?  It probably does and there are many problems with this approach:

  • “How are you today?”  Every telemarketer in the world starts the call by asking about the prospect’s “well-being.”  While this is an honest attempt at politeness, prospects know you don’t really care, so it comes across as insincere and makes you sound like a telemarketer.
  • The “compelling” pitch by the printing salesperson sounds like the other printing company that called the prospect yesterday.  They said they were the best in town and could save him or her time and money too.  Whom should he or she believe
  • “Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning?”  How many times have we heard that over-used alternative choice close?  Nearly every salesperson uses it.
  • The salesperson wants an appointment but doesn’t want to take the time to find out if there’s any pain.  This is the typical product pusher’s strategy and the prospect knows it.
  • The easy blow off that the prospect can, and often does, use is to say, “Just send me some information about it.”  And you know how sincere that request is.

The New, Improved Elevator Pitch

Never fear, there is a better way. Take a look at this new, improved approach.

This call starts with, “I’m Bob Smith with XZY Printing.  Thanks for taking my call.  Can I take about 20 seconds to tell you why I called, then you can tell me if we need to talk further?”

When you get permission, you say, “I’ll be brief, right to the point.  We’re one of the leading commercial printing companies in the area.  Typically companies switch to us because they’re upset with long turnaround times, concerned about the inconsistent quality of the final product, or frustrated that their printer can’t offer any creative ideas to improve the job.  Are any of these issues for you?”

Or, you may want to give a specific example of how you’ve helped a competitor with a specific pain, something like “We recently helped [competitor’s name] save $2,000 per month on printing fees and reduce their turnaround time to 48 hours. Is this something that would be helpful to your business?”

If the answer is affirmative, you then go on to explore the pain further.

If the answer is negative, you could conclude the call quickly by saying, “Sorry to have bothered you.  Have a good day.”  And make another call.  Remember, you’re trying to find that gold nugget quickly and not waste time with people who are not good prospects.

There are many benefits to this approach:

  • It’s different.
  • You won’t have done anything to destroy rapport.
  • You won’t sound like every other salesperson that calls.

Your ability to differentiate yourself in your initial call with a prospect will dramatically improve your success at developing new business. Try our new and improved elevator pitch for yourself and see how it works for you.

The use of stories to transfer information has been around as long as humans have walked upright and used language to communicate. Even before we had a written language, humans have used stories to teach, to entertain and to track their histories. We are innately drawn to stories as a result, even in the digital age. That makes storytelling a compelling method for the sales person to master, both the engage prospects and discover opportunities.  

Using Stories in Sales 

The use of storytelling in sales can help a sales person enter into a dialogue with a prospect to connect with them before going into a questioning sequence. There should be some situational fluency exercised by the seller to get to the primary business objectives that the prospect or customer would like to discuss.  

We encourage our customers to enable their sales people to be ready to share a story at any point in early opportunity development, as it is a powerful way to introduce ideas, and then get the prospect to speak. However, it’s not enough to simply tell your sales people to tell stories. They need to be trained in an approach in order to be effective.  

The STAR Story 

We suggest using a storytelling format called the STAR Story. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Trial, Ah-ha, and Result. Each element is explained below:  

  • The Situation helps to set the stage for the rest of the information you will share as part of your story. It describes the environment that another customer was in when you first met them as a prospect. This narrative should be described in a way that the person you are speaking to can relate to in a similar capacity, by job title or the role that they play in their organization, or by the business environment that was unfolding.  
  • The Trial part of the story describes the challenges(s) that your other customer was facing during the situation described above.  
  • The “Ah-ha” moment is the part of the story when your customer made the connection to the capabilities or solution that you offered as a way to solve their challenges.  
  • The Result is the positive outcome that you helped your customer to accomplish. Be specific in your description of the quantifiable outcomes that resulted, whether it was monetary, a percentage increase, a numeric value improvement or a morale lift. 

Stories are told to transfer information. They demonstrate to the prospect that you have insight into their industry, and have helped others to meet their primary business objectives. But they also generate interest because stories appeal to people. A story can make possible a dialog that you might not otherwise be able to enter into with a prospect.  

Ask to Hear Their Story too 

Conversely, you should also try to have the prospect share their story with you. In this way, you can learn more about their business objectives and challenges, and the capabilities they are looking for to improve their results. And since we all like stories—both telling them and listening to them—this exchange should do a lot to move your relationship with the prospect forward, either closer to a sale or closer to realizing this is not a solid lead after all.  

Prospecting Spotlight: 3 Trigger Events to Watch For

Artist Jenny Holzer says in her piece Truisms, “A sense of timing is the mark of a genius.” This couldn’t be more accurate within the world of prospecting.

When you’re cold calling and someone picks up the phone, the first question on their mind is often “Why are you contacting me?”

A well-researched answer providing your prospect with a potential benefit is the key to unlocking access from the gatekeeper. This step is critical for reaching your decision maker as soon as possible.

We spoke with a woman who was a Business Development Representative at NetSuite, responsible for setting introductory meetings for Account Executives. This series discusses the top three trigger events she had the most success with and why they work:  they are Leadership Changes, Expansion and Awards & Accomplishments.

1.     Leadership Changes

Reviewing press releases, company blogs, and other news sources like corporate LinkedIn pages are the best ways to learn of any changes in executive leadership. Setting up some sort of news alert feed that summarizes from these sources is an easy, time-efficient way to stay on top of your target accounts.

Executive promotions often go hand in hand with some sort of bigger strategic agenda. Understanding why this person has a new role could ultimately lead to a new opportunity. Start with a congratulatory note or call and see where that takes you.

If your congratulatory email gets a nibble – congratulations to you! How you respond sets the stage for the course of your relationship with this individual.

The key to success here is establishing yourself as someone who is genuine, can provide value, and who has their best interests first. Even though we all know you’re here in hopes of closing a deal, one must remember the old proverb “The best archer never reveals his target until it’s been hit”. In this case, your target is the deal.

Sometimes you will luck out and there is an immediate need for the products or services that you are offering. If not, patience is required (see our previous post, Building Patience into the Sales Process).

Illustrate how your company is an industry expert in their field. Thoughtful whitepapers, articles on industry trends, and any other resources you come across are helpful tools you can share with your decision maker to keep you on the top of their mind.  The secret is not to overwhelm.

When the buying time arrives, you’ll be far ahead of the competition because you already have a relationship with the decision maker. You are the one informing them of best practices, the tough questions to ask, and will be the one they’re comparing everyone else to. In a sense, they are deciding why not to go with you – pretty amazing position to be in all from a little “Congratulations on the new gig!”

Sales can be a numbers game and prospecting is a key success factor we must not underestimate. Effectively tailoring your prospecting strategy enables a sales force to work smarter, not harder. Analyzing and addressing the right trigger events will distinguish you and provides a head start against the competition.

Check in on our next post elaborating on how to leverage a prospect’s news of expansion into closing a new deal.



referral_3Referrals are the best way to increase your sales.  When you begin to build your business through referrals you will lessen your dependence on having to make cold calls and other less productive (and frustrating) prospecting activities.  Yet getting qualified referrals is not automatic, by any stretch of the imagination.

The most important concept to understand about referrals is that you must provide outstanding service, superior products and be professional in every way in order for anyone to consider providing you with referrals.

Why Don’t Salespeople Get Referrals?

  • They don’t know how to ask for referrals
  • They don’t tell the referring source what they’re looking for

When to Ask 

  • Set the stage early in the relationship.  (“At some point when you’re totally satisfied with us as a supplier, I’d like to ask you for referrals.  How do you feel about that?”)
  • After you’ve just completed delivery of your solution and your customer is satisfied.  (“Who do you know…?”)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Ask them about their willingness to give you referrals.  Don’t assume they will.
  • Don’t ask to be recommended – it puts too much pressure on the prospect and is presumptive.
  • Focus your question on the end result to the client – a benefit or problem you can solve.

How to Ask for a Referral 

  • “How do you feel about referring to me?”
  • “How do you feel about helping people you know with similar problems?”

Your Ideal Client Profile

Salespeople will experience more success if they can be specific when asking people for referrals. Take a moment to develop your ideal client profile.

  • Description: (ex. an owner of a small to medium sized business who has a sales force; VP of Sales larger company)
  • Typical Pains:  (ex. who is frustrated with excessive turnover, not making his/her sales goals, etc.)
  • Mindset:  (ex. open minded about training; deadly serious about growing the business.)

“Upgrade” Your Referrals 

  • Probe for pain:  “What problems do they have that you think I could help them with?”
  • Solicit their help:  “Would you feel comfortable calling him to see if he wants to speak with me?”
  • Try for an introduction:  “What would you think about the three of us having lunch one day.  I’ll buy.”

Finally, Give More to Get More 

  • Try to provide them with referrals in return.  Make a point of asking your clients whom they would like to be introduced to and see if you can help them.
  • You can make them look good if product/service benefits referral.
  • You might provide a reward such as lunch or small token of appreciation.

Key Points

  • If you don’t ask for referrals, you usually don’t get them.
  • The more referrals you give, the more you will receive.
  • Don’t let them guess about whom you’d like to do business with.
  • The only way you’ll get referred is if you are exceeding their expectations.