When you only have a small window of opportunity to make a lasting impression, it's crucial to be prepared long before a chance encounter.
In her book Small Message, Big Impact, Fortune 500 consultant Terri Sjodin discusses the most effective ways to deliver an elevator pitch. She's given us permission to outline the best tips from her book here:
1. Know exactly what you want the outcome to be
Whether to get the ball rolling on a job or project or something larger, you should know exactly what you want from this presentation before you plan on going out and executing it.
"Your message is like your song, and you have to let it be heard," Sjodin wrote. "Believe in it, share it, and eventually, it becomes a natural part of your communication."
If you don't have an aim or goal for what you're setting out to accomplish, there won't be much conviction or direction in your message.
2. Tell your audience what they'll get from your proposal
Use "Monroe's Motivated Sequence" to be informative and persuasive in your speech:
1. Gain their attention by being able to relate to them.
2. Convince your target that they "need" your services or product.
3. Satisfy their problems with a suitable solution.
4. Get your audience to visualize their future with your product or service.
5. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to do today and exactly how to do it, and explain what you will do once they have made a decision to move forward.
3. Speak in your own authentic voice
Unless you practice your speech, you won't be able to speak with poise and polish. And with poise and polish comes certainty and confidence. Finding the right words and using a comprehensive vocabulary will allow you to make your case with conviction.
4. Control movement to attract your audience
Is there a way you should walk and pace to best control your audience's attention? Sjodin has created a six-position approach to aligning your stance and movement:
1. Start in the center of the room to make your introduction.
2. Take 2-3 slight steps to the right, plant your feet and make your first point.
3. Then walk 3-4 steps back to the center and make your second point.
4. Next, go 3-4 steps further to the left and make your third point.
5. Walk slightly ahead and towards the center to start your conclusion.
6. Finally, finish your conclusion by taking 1-2 steps forward.
5. Break down each talking point
You can break it down into:
1. Argument: You have to show your audience why they need you, your company and your product.
2. Proof: Use statistics, stories or analogies to make your point and satisfy your audience so they'll have the incentive to need you.
3. Visualization: After your argument and proof, your audience may be thinking "so what?" You need to show your audience what your argument means to them and how it will directly benefit them both immediately and down the line.
6. Close in an unforgettable way
You spent all this time on developing your argument, but getting your audience to make the next step is crucial. It's the reason you came up with this speech in the first place.
At this point, you should have engaged and enticed your listener or listeners in a creative and mildly clever way.
If you don't build a strong argument with a compelling case for why your pitch should matter, you won't be taken seriously.
If you knew that you had a 70 percent chance of failure before starting something, would you still go ahead and do it? Those are the odds B2B leaders in marketing and sales (M&S) face when they embark on a transformation effort, and they underscore why attempts to raise brand visibility, customer satisfaction, and sales often flounder.
That’s a big problem because an effective M&S transformation drives significant growth. We’ve seen companies increase their operating income by as much as 10 times the cost of the transformation program in its first year.
grow the top line or when the company finds it needs to switch to a new business model to keep up with changes in the industry or with its customers. These transformations need to focus on increasing ROI for the company, improving organic growth, or out-executing competition.
One steel processing company, for example, overhauled its M&S function to stop a steady deterioration of margins. It reorganized the sales organization and built account management, prospecting, and customer segmentation skills across the entire company. The result? Product profitability increased by almost 50 percent within one year, and the company outperformed its peers for the next three years.
The 70% – why they fail
Our survey of 2,300 executives unearthed three key reasons why M&S transformations fail:
No love. Marketing often does not have a seat at the executive table because of a perceived lack of bottom line impact. This issue makes it hard for marketing to get the kind of support from other departments that it needs for the transformation to work.
No discipline. All change efforts take time, but M&S programs take even longer because they tend to be more complex and require more cross-functional cooperation. “Get-it-done-yesterday” pressures undermine the discipline and patience required to see big changes through.
No muscle. Our survey found that 75 percent of companies lack people in M&S groups who are skilled in change leadership.
Joining the 30 percent
So how can you make sure that your company is among the 30 percent that succeed? Here are the five things you need to do:
1. Hold yourself and others accountable. Our survey found that this aspect was the most important influencing skill in up to 52 percent of successful transformations. Leaders need not only to model activities and report results for which they’re responsible, but also to identify issues that slow down the change process. One European telecom company, for example, was trying to improve its customer experience to help avoid churn. The head of sales asked that 25 percent of his variable pay and that of his direct reports be determined by the company’s success in delivering a great customer experience. That accountability sent an unambiguous signal to the organization about how important the transformation was.
2. Reach out across the organization. M&S leaders can’t do it on their own. The IT department, for example, can help develop relevant analytics; product development can work to increase customer satisfaction. While the CEO must encourage cross-departmental collaboration, our data make it clear that ultimately it’s up to M&S leaders themselves. We recommend holding regular “marketing summits” with members from relevant departments to discuss progress and concerns. Make sure that everyone understands their individual and team role in the transformation, and is responsible for specific assignments.
3. Monitor project performance AND health. It’s critical to focus on performance during a transformation, of course, but 63 percent of successful M&S transformations balance team health with performance. Morale can flag and transformations run out of steam, especially when it can take more than a quarter or two to put numbers on the books. So it’s crucial to have a balanced scorecard that measures both performance (e.g. How have we generated more revenue?) and health (e.g. Are people building their capabilities?) to track how everyone involved is doing. When signs of flagging surface, you need intervene quickly with more training, for example, or better progress communications.
4. CEO: Step up and step in. Yes, change starts at the top. But for an M&S transformation, the CEO has to really step up to make it happen because M&S often lacks the support across the organization. We’ve seen two areas where the CEO can really help: i) being intimately involved in both planning and process. For example, the CEO of one industrial company demanded the project have discrete, measurable, carefully-sequenced initiatives so that sales could “ring the cash register” quickly to win over skeptics within the organization; ii). acting as a “Communicator-in-Chief.” The CEO/ needs to use simple, clear language to inform the organization about goals, successes, and progress. This is much more than sending the occasional email. CEOs need to consider, for example, regular internal webcasts, internal blogging, and visiting local offices to talk with leadership and employees.
5. Promote trickle-down leadership. More than 60 percent of our survey respondents said that having committed change leaders across the organization was ‘extremely important’ to the transformation effort. Companies that succeed install strong change leaders who lead by example, help people maintain their energy and focus, and constantly measure progress. They also celebrate wins, evangelize the transformation, and reward and promote people who successfully build new capabilities.
While these five lessons are critical to make an M&S transformation succeed, the actual design of the program has must take into account specific needs of the company, such as short-term financial impact. With customer behaviors and technologies changing rapidly, M&S transformation is not so much a choice as a necessity. When done well, it can drive significant growth.
1) Don’t interrupt. This takes a great deal of patience in my experience. When you see someone to whom you would like to be introduced, take note of their body language. If they are in a group of three or more and standing, by all means, go up to the group, stand quietly and slightly back and wait to be acknowledged. Once you are, introduce yourself, ask if they (and other parties to be polite) have a few minutes later to chat. If they are speaking one on one in a private room or sitting down, wait for another opportunity.
3) …as a way to eventually talk about your own. Networking does you no good if you don’t have a succinct and interesting way to talk about how you fit into the picture. If you’re anything like me, you might stumble over your words a few times, so as silly as it sounds, practice. Learn how to explain what you do and why it’s important to at least three audiences (in under 30 seconds).
4) Talk to the vendors or sponsors. This is probably the most overlooked networking idea… ever. It might surprise you but the vendors and sponsors of networking events and conferences have done this many times before, they've been to loads of sessions and talked to your counterparts all over the country, either face to face or during implementations and service calls. So, they know a lot. Talking to vendors can yield a ton of information and they are literally there to speak to you.
5) Go to the dinners and not the parties. I ignore this one because I have the attention span of a gnat, but you shouldn't The intimacy and conversation that comes from a dinner far outweighs the crazy shenanigans that comes with the parties. But if you have the energy and the bandwidth, go to both.
6) Stay comfortable. Or as comfortable as possible in networking attire (ties, heels et c . If you want to have a conversation longer than 5 minutes, always be the one to suggest that you and your companion(s) sit down. I guarantee they’ll take you up on it and then you can all focus on doing some business rather than how much your feet hurt.
7) Be friendly. I used to wait for people to come up to me at networking events because I didn't want to bother them and then I realized that almost everyone feels the same way. A smile and a warm approach go a long way toward making new networkers and conference goers feel welcome and (I don’t care if this sounds corny) makes a first impression that people really do remember, for years.
1) Live with awareness. There was a resounding consensus that inspiration is in everything and everywhere. Some of the artists I talked to draw their inspiration from contemplating nature, some from reading history books or reminiscing about their childhood, while others from observing and playing with architectural designs, shapes, and colors. The bottom-line: creativity does not happen in a vacuum. Picasso, for example, is known to have drawn inspiration for his Young Ladies of Avignon from roaming the hallways of the Ethnographic Museum of the Trocadéro.
2)Make space for your unconscious mind.Artists pointed out that they can best tune into their creative spirit when their critical, conscious mind is at rest. Some achieve that by meditation, some by hiking, while others by drinking a glass of wine or listening to music. The connection between our unconscious mind and creativity has been vastly supported by research, which found that we are most creative during our ‘non-optimal’ time of day (i.e. evening for morning people and morning for evening people), when we are more inclined to see unlikely connections; or when we distract our conscious mind with puzzles and other mentally challenging activities, thus making room for our unconscious mind. The old adage, “sleep on it” can in fact do wonders.
3) Exercise the creative muscle. Most artists agreed that just like any other skill, great creativity comes with practice. Of the artists I met, many admitted they often started with one idea and end up with a totally different one. Creativity is not just a spark of genius; creativity is also a process. So why wait, start today! You may be surprised with the outcome.
Linda Peia has worked with Ashoka in Mexico, Brazil, and currently D.C. An economist by training, she loves to explore the intersection between behavioral economics, neuroscience, and entrepreneurship.