Tea Talk: The elevator pitch is alive

The art of conversation is disappearing and entrepreneurs, businesspeople and youngsters entering the job market should develop this skill and take it seriously.

As I approached the lift at a Harare downtown hotel a few weeks ago, I debated whether to climb the stairs or take the lift. Let me start networking in the lift I thought.

A tall, young man stepped into the lift and was on his phone. I greeted him and asked if he was attending the same corporate breakfast; and he was.

 I introduced myself and he bowled me over with a 30-second elevator (lift) pitch before we reached our floor. He took my card and by the time I reached my seat he had already messaged me with his details.  He attached the flyer for a course that he would be holding on digital marketing.  I booked straight away and invited two friends to attend with me.

It really has been a while since I have seen that good, old-fashioned elevator (lift) script in action. And chuckled that it is still so effective. An elevator pitch is a brief introduction that creates interest and makes a connection. 

At the training, I identified four people that had potential for collaboration. There was no real time for engaging them and I gave them my business card. No one had a business card to exchange, nor did they open a conversation.

In sales and marketing the prospecting funnel must be filled otherwise there will be no customers and no business. In many years of sales, I would keep a record every day of how many people I met that would be prospective customers. Some people we click with and find that they became customers and friends. Others are colleagues whom we contact. And bingo, there are those that are leads for business.

So many people are wailing about not enough business or not having a job or the job that they want. Approach and timing and the elevator pitch will put you on track and make you visible.

Work on your elevator pitch and collate the contacts that you make each day just by being social, but specific. I have been on a few courses recently and people don’t speak up when they introduce themselves. Men whispering, really is rather disconcerting. Women be confident. Softly spoken introductions means that invariably no one hears them, and you have just lost your first opportunity. 

Look around the room at everyone and where appropriate make eye contact, smile and introduce yourself so that the group registers your name and what you do and think of a different way to present. 

The art of conversation is disappearing and entrepreneurs, businesspeople and youngsters entering the job market should develop this skill and take it seriously.

Listening is the first link. Remember people’s names. Write them down as you are introduced, ask them to repeat their name. Take an interest in people.

This week write out your elevator pitch and start to use it. The first five people to send it to me I shall coach on how to generate leads.

Of course, you are not going to talk to everyone, but start discerning how to select someone to approach or engage with. Working the room at a meeting or function is critical in business. Assess who you know — greet them briefly and if they are talking to someone, they will inevitably introduce you. If they are in deep conversation don’t interrupt. If you don’t know many people, find out from the host who the people are that would benefit your business and then go and introduce yourself.

Do watch your manners and business etiquette. Don’t approach with food in your mouth or a plate filled high with food and start munching whilst having a serious business discussion. It doesn’t create the right impression. Eating and talking with your mouth full is a bad habit at cocktail and lunch functions.

Conversation is what connects you to people. Many people are not just shy, they don’t know what to talk about. It is an art, and it can be learnt and practiced. Know the market and industry that you operate in or wish to work in and have facts and figures at your fingertips and this will give you confidence.

Finding out what people’s hobbies are creates rapport. The old sales trick is to look around the office of the person that you have a meeting with and ask questions about the clues identified.

Speak up, stand up straight, greet and introduce yourself. Take note of cultural diversity. Bouncing up to an older person and being over enthusiastic may not be received well. Absolutely do not ask for a job or for business outright, it’s not protocol.

Put down that phone (note to myself as mine is my best friend). One thing that has died a sad death is sending follow up thank you notes or e-mails. Make it a habit to review your contacts for the day and respond to the contacts. What about a handwritten thank you note after a meeting or conclusion of business? It doesn’t cost much.

This is how sales used to be made. Many layers of contact.  Time to go back to basics is now.

  • White is a born and bred Zimbabwean. A career spanning banking, hospitality and courier/logistics. She wrote a column in The Post newspaper in Zambia for five years and published a book, Conversations with Carol as well as hosting a TV programme featuring entrepreneurs and small businesses. Passionate about team transformation, customer experience mapping, sales and marketing, leadership which combines increases in profitability and performance, she connects the dots. — [email protected].


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