Let what happened to my young friend, Dermot, be an object lesson to all who want to learn how to fuse love with business. Now, as Valentine’s Day looms on February 14, this is as good a time as any to tell his story…
Dermot was a handsome, twinkle-eyed corporate salesman from the hitchhiking-friendly world of Ireland. His golden tongue could charm the signature for a contract out of any hardened buyer.
We were walking in London’s theatreland on our way to a show, when he suddenly gasped, broke away, ran across the road to a street florist and hurriedly bought a rose.
Then he swung around and beamed in on a dark-haired gamine girl with sparkling kitten eyes and offered his gift.
“I just want you to know dat I expect nuttin’ except an understandin’ that in dis moment I fell in love wit you, went out wit you, kissed you, married you, gave you moi babies, grew old and eventually doid in your arms.”
Her long dark eyelashes twitched in a gooey glow and just as she took the beautiful flower and opened her pretty mouth to speak, he shushed it with a gentle finger.
“No, say nuttin’,” said Dermot, “Don’t spoil it.” Then he blew her a soft kiss and rapidly walked away.
Loving an elevator: business lessons
Where were the business lessons in that? Well, consider it a genius elevator pitch. All enterprising students should know what that is. It’s the term describing the short yet compelling speech you make to a prospective client you meet in a lift.
If successful you end up by continuing your pitch once the elevator gets to the ground floor or there’s an exchange of business cards, or an arranged meeting…
In New York, where the concept was created, the skyscrapers mean that the pitchers have between 30 seconds to two minutes to succeed. In Britain it’s usually considerably less than that; and in low-rise Ireland, Dermot’s territory, it goes by in a flash.
So brevity is the golden word when it comes to the elevator pitch – telling it how it is in the shortest distance between a capital letter and a full stop. And whether you’re talking to a CEO or to a prospective partner at a speed-dating session, the principle is the same – make your introduction irresistibly fascinating. First impressions don’t just count, they rule.
Analogies are also to be found in online dating sites, although there is one major difference. Business pitches are usually face-to-face, whereas many internet dating services rely on little except photographs in a good light and some teasing written words.
Only the rare internet sites which use Skype or FaceTime allow you to communicate a subtle raising of the eyebrow or fluttering of eyelashes to fan the flames of fascination – a process much easier in a lift.
It’s a cruder, wilder process when you watch the gyrations in Aerosmith’s 1999 video hit, ‘Love in an Elevator’ in which the rock anthem seems to be over as soon as it began with a wham, bam, thank you ma’am. (Hold your breath and look at this)
Elevator pitch advice
But my research shows that pitching to the business boss has big similarities with those who like Aerosmith, guitar-twang a cleverly-targeted arrowhead to pierce armour. Described here are a few techniques that apply to both. They suggest that you should: –
* Really read your love/business target’s profile. In other words researching their background is necessary to create a pitch. (OK, Dermot’s research wasn’t obvious but it was in clear that she was probably going to see a West End production and how dramatically romantic was his approach? It was an instinctive performance aimed exclusively at her.)
* Keep loving an elevator light-hearted, but nothing designed to induce hysterics. Your pitch is serious, but there’s no reason why there can’t be a hint of humour driving it. Dermot’s theatricality was bound to evoke a smile, if not a sigh!
* Be yourself. Whether pitching to a suitor or a suit, don’t try to be someone you aren’t. You can smell lies in a lift…
There’s more useful information about the elevator pitch here where a sturdy bit of advice is not to prepare a speech that you can use all year round. Your business is changing, evolving all the time, and your clarion call to its services must change with it.
And it’s not a question of simply assembling a myriad of facts and talking rapidly. Those facts must be infused with your enthusiasm for your project and how it can help your target’s business to move forward.
They must be tailored to the individual or audience.
Finally – and my thanks to this article for these pearls of wisdom. Whether addressing a corporate boss or would-be Valentine, avoid clichés ‘like the plague’, as they say. And dump the buzz phrases like “I’m laid back” or “sensitive”.
And remember, people who think out of the box eventually end up in a box. In other words steer clear of generalities that are silly and unsubstantial. Of course, if you want to know how to really screw up a pitch, read this with a wry smile.
Back to Dermot: Did his pitch work? You bet. The girl’s sister caught up with us breathlessly and told him. “Oh that was so romantic. She wants your phone number. Here’s hers…”
And soon his prediction came true. He and Annabelle – that was her name – met again, courted, married, had two children and now live in Dublin where he is the sales director of a large, successful company.
No doubt, when the time comes, he will die in her arms.
Now doesn’t that give you a lift?
Key Learning Points: Loving an elevator pitch? A good elevator pitch should test your powers of brevity and confident self-control. It should be driven by knowledge of your subject and his or her project. Prepare carefully but don’t deliver robotically. Let your Aerosmith-style passion drive you. Inject humour but subtly rather than resorting to slapstick. Avoid phrase mongering. Hyperbole is out. Stick to the truth. Stay true to yourself . Then you might just find you’re Loving an elevator.