Let us make a deal
It’s been suggested that you have about seven seconds to make a good first impression in an interview. The way you say, “Good Morning”, the way you dress, smile, shake hands, or even sit down are considered to be defining factors. And while these “niceties” may hold some water for a new graduate in search of a first job, by comparison they might be seen as superfluous to getting the business deal that you hope for. That’s not to say that you should ignore these things; rather, it means that, because a positive first impression will buy you about as much time as it takes for the vapour that appears when you exhale on a chilly day, you need something more than that to get and to keep the attention of your prospect.
If you’re truly obnoxious, then you will blow your opportunity, whether it’s on the phone or face to face; but even if you’re all sweetness and light, you still will have to have something to say that’s so riveting that the person with whom you’re speaking will hang on every word in rapt anticipation of the next one that you utter. The “elevator speech” is intended to do just that. It&ith a new contact. Consider this: When a gatekeeper answers the phone, who controls the conversation? It’s that gatekeeper, right? And what do the best pundits say should happen next? That you should get control of it; right?
You want the gatekeeper to stay in control of that conversation. If you try to take control, then you’ll lose every time. So what you have to do is to help that person to decide to give you what you want. In other words, you want the gatekeeper to recognize that passing you through to your contact or making an appointment for you to see him/her is a decision that the gatekeeper has made. How do you do that? By telling the gatekeeper something that will make him/her want to pass your call through or to make an appointment for you.
“Good morning. XYZ Ltd. May I help you?”
“I’m Mr. Management Consultant from the Bees-Knees Consultancy. May I speak with . . .?”
Now here you may get any one of a number of replies. The person you want may be in the proverbial meeting, on holiday, out of the office, on another call, and so on. Whether you believe what you’re being told or not, there’s not a great deal that you can do. If your contact doesn’t know who you are, then he/she won’t be ringing you back.
There will be times, however, when you’ll be asked instead, “Can I tell him/her what it’s about?”
This is your opportunity. This is where you make it or blow it. If you show respect, then your call will be put through. So you need to think of something to say that honours that gatekeeper.
“Can I say what it’s about?”
“He/she will know.”
“I’m sorry. There’s seems to be a bad line. It’s the rain, you know.”
“Can I say what it’s about?”
“I want to talk to him/her about a new method we’ve developed for increasing market share.”
“Just putting you through.”
Why does that work?
It’s because you gave that gatekeeper a meaningful answer. Your reply did two things. It proved that your contact was indeed the right person for you to talk to, and it also made it clear that the gatekeeper was out of his/her depth, and therefore couldn’t make the decision not to put you through. In other words, you didn’t insult the gatekeeper. Instead, you showed respect for the job that that person was hired to do. Now, what does this have to do with getting past those fleeting first moments and onto a path that enables you to make the deal? How can knowing how to honour the gatekeeper improve your chances of getting the new business you want? The answer is that it gives you a process to follow that respects your contact. It leads your contact from the beginning into your pitch. That probably doesn’t seem very significant. If that’s the case, then you need to remember that we’re talking about how to make the deal, and how to avoid blowing it. The fact that you’ve read this far proves that you think that there’s a possibility that you might or that you have already done so.
Let’s look at it another way
The “cut to the chase” style of doing business often leaves out the respect that has to be there from the beginning. So does the elevator speech. And the thing is, that everyone knows one when they hear it. That means that even before you deliver the punch line, they know what’s coming. Their defences are up; and their defences are their personal gatekeepers. If you’re going to get through to them, then you’ll need to deal with that first line of defence. You’ll have to persuade them before you do anything else that you respect them, as well as their time.
Elevator speeches are about time. So are gatekeepers. If you have something important to say, then your contact will make time for you to say it. Start by focusing on the value that you can give them in the few seconds that you have. If they’re interested, then you’ll be the first to know.
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