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The Elevator Pitch is Out of Order

Six years ago we blogged about how to differentiate yourself with your elevator pitch, in the unlikely scenario that you’re sharing a 22-floor elevator ride with a potential prospect.  And in the last six years, you – like every other marketing and salesperson – have probably spent a lot of time and resources trying to perfect that pitch.

Here’s the problem.  You’ve been toiling away perfecting a feel-good summary that tells YOUR story, not your audience’s.  It’s what makes everyone proud to work for your company.  It’s filled with lofty ideals, big words and corporate platitudes that look great on a banner in the cafeteria, but quickly decompress and fizzle to nothing when you get to the one-on-one customer conversation.

You need to translate your messaging in a way that is relevant to your prospect’s story. The conversation should hit on the following points:

  1. The challenges your customers face;
  2. The risks these challenges pose for their desired outcomes;
  3. And how your capabilities uniquely solve these problems.

Let’s imagine how this might play out.  You’re at an industry event when you spot Joe Car Man.  The company name and title on the badge makes you quiver with excitement, as you are Jane Brake Woman.  You sidle up, introduce yourself and casually say, “GoFast Cars, huh?  I’ve heard that sports-car makers have started moving into your market because of your customers’ interest in race-car caliber safety features.”  He pauses, mid-sip and nods. “Must be tough for you to compete, as adding race-car safety standards, such as big rotor brakes, is potentially cost-prohibitive for you.” He looks mildly impressed and smiles slightly. “We’ve started making brakes based on big rotor technology that have the same response time but are much cheaper for our car manufacturer customers.”  He puts down his drink, motions toward a chair and asks you to sit down and tell him more.

This is clearly blind meeting nirvana, but the approach is much more compelling and engaging than spewing out the value, features, benefits that you’ve memorized as your elevator pitch.  Offering a distinct point of view that helps your customers see why they can no longer stay in their status quo will not only grab their attention, but  might also get them to care enough to hear the rest of your story.

 

What's In It for Me?

When my oldest son Timmy was a small child, potty training was quite a battle. We tried everything, but we just couldn’t get him to understand that it was time to be finished with diapers and all the hassle that went with them. I remember taking him to the bathroom about every hour, hoping that through some sort of miracle, he would make the connection. We also tried giving him a reward after every successful trip to the bathroom. He liked the reward so much that he started skipping the bathroom and coming straight to his mother or me to show us that he had successfully completed his task.

It just wasn’t working, until one day my wife discovered something that Timmy really wanted… a Batman toy figure! So here was the deal: if he could make it through an entire day with clean (and dry) pants, that evening he would be guaranteed a trip to the toy store. The rest was history, and it only took two days. However, the first trip got him so excited that he wet is pants as he entered the toy store.

What happened to make Timmy remember that he had to do his business in the bathroom and not in his pants? It was the reward! We finally discovered a reward that was so great, that he remembered the goal at hand. What we had discovered was the connection between reward and memory.

In a recent study “Reward–Motivated Learning: Mesolimbic Activation Precedes Memory Formation” published in Neuron Magazine, the authors found that there is an interaction between reward and memory (Adcock et al., 2006). More importantly, their research “identified a neural system that supports motivated learning, promoting memory formation prior to learning on the basis of anticipated reward.” What this means is, that you can remember something simply based on the higher degree of reward that you think you might obtain. They also hypothesized that “reward cues could also enhance memory by providing an additional association with the stimulus, allowing easier retrieval.”

If you are wondering why this is important to you, I want you to remember two Power Messaging concepts – Power Positions and the Hammock. First, remember what Power Positions are. A Power Position is something that you do that your competition doesn’t – it’s what is unique to you. It is stated in a way that describes what this uniqueness will “DO” for your prospect. When you message to your prospect something that they are going to get from you that they can’t get from anyone else, they begin to “anticipate” what life will be like with your solution.

When should you message this to your prospect? Remember the Hammock?

Hit them up front with it! Begin your message at 100%. Let them know what they’re going to get from you that they can’t get from any of your competitors. They will begin to anticipate the rewards that they can only get from you throughout your message. This, in-turn, will make you and your message unforgettable!

By David Lane, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.

References:

Adcock, Alison R. et al (2006). Reward-Motivated Learning: Mesolimbic Activation Precedes Memory Formation. Neuron, 50, 507-517.

 

What’s In It for Me?

When my oldest son Timmy was a small child, potty training was quite a battle. We tried everything, but we just couldn’t get him to understand that it was time to be finished with diapers and all the hassle that went with them. I remember taking him to the bathroom about every hour, hoping that through some sort of miracle, he would make the connection. We also tried giving him a reward after every successful trip to the bathroom. He liked the reward so much that he started skipping the bathroom and coming straight to his mother or me to show us that he had successfully completed his task.

It just wasn’t working, until one day my wife discovered something that Timmy really wanted… a Batman toy figure! So here was the deal: if he could make it through an entire day with clean (and dry) pants, that evening he would be guaranteed a trip to the toy store. The rest was history, and it only took two days. However, the first trip got him so excited that he wet is pants as he entered the toy store.

What happened to make Timmy remember that he had to do his business in the bathroom and not in his pants? It was the reward! We finally discovered a reward that was so great, that he remembered the goal at hand. What we had discovered was the connection between reward and memory.

In a recent study “Reward–Motivated Learning: Mesolimbic Activation Precedes Memory Formation” published in Neuron Magazine, the authors found that there is an interaction between reward and memory (Adcock et al., 2006). More importantly, their research “identified a neural system that supports motivated learning, promoting memory formation prior to learning on the basis of anticipated reward.” What this means is, that you can remember something simply based on the higher degree of reward that you think you might obtain. They also hypothesized that “reward cues could also enhance memory by providing an additional association with the stimulus, allowing easier retrieval.”

If you are wondering why this is important to you, I want you to remember two Power Messaging concepts – Power Positions and the Hammock. First, remember what Power Positions are. A Power Position is something that you do that your competition doesn’t – it’s what is unique to you. It is stated in a way that describes what this uniqueness will “DO” for your prospect. When you message to your prospect something that they are going to get from you that they can’t get from anyone else, they begin to “anticipate” what life will be like with your solution.

When should you message this to your prospect? Remember the Hammock?

Hit them up front with it! Begin your message at 100%. Let them know what they’re going to get from you that they can’t get from any of your competitors. They will begin to anticipate the rewards that they can only get from you throughout your message. This, in-turn, will make you and your message unforgettable!

By David Lane, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.

References:

Adcock, Alison R. et al (2006). Reward-Motivated Learning: Mesolimbic Activation Precedes Memory Formation. Neuron, 50, 507-517.

 

What Do You Mean, “Use Story in Messaging”?

The word ‘story’ means many things to many people. The most useful way of thinking about ‘story’ in sales messaging is to compare it to its opposite, which is data. The differences can be subtle. Data is, “the queen and king died.” Story is, “The queen died and the king died of a broken heart.”
Let’s start with an example that lives in the world of sales messaging.

Data – Corporate Visions was founded in 1986. We have 25 employees. Over 10,000 students have taken Power Messaging. Here is our list of clients. We believe that what sets us apart are our values. We believe in being ‘in service’ to our customers.

Story – Rather than hit you with a list of figures about our company, probably the easiest way to explain who we are, would be to share something that happened a couple of years ago at a company Christmas party. The party was at the home of our founders, Chuck and Karen. They own a beautiful home on Lake Tahoe. One of our employees brought a date to the party. Unfortunately, his date accidentally spilled red wine on Chuck and Karen’s beautiful white carpet. Not surprisingly, she was terribly upset and embarrassed about it and started crying and sought out Chuck to apologize to him. When Chuck learned why she was so upset, he took his own glass of wine and poured it over the top of her spill. He smiled and said to her, “There. Now it’s my stain, not yours. Please, go back to enjoying the party.” That instinctive reaction from Chuck is wired into his and Karen’s personality. And it’s their values that are in the DNA of the company and everything we do.

So, what are the differences between these two examples?

Data takes less time to deliver than a story. The data explanation consisted of 41 words, while the story explanation used 178 words. When you’re using story to communicate your message, you’ll find things that you used to zip through take longer to communicate. You need to be aware of that issue as you transition to more storytelling. Don’t let this increased length bother you. Story will shorten your overall sales cycle, which is the most important thing.

Story has emotion; data doesn’t. Part of what makes a story so effective in messaging is the emotion it evokes in the audience. When you use a story, it’s important to remember the emotional landing point you are shooting for. Otherwise, you can get lost in the weeds of telling the story and forget your point.

Story is more memorable than data. If you were asked to recall this data and this story tomorrow, which would be easier to remember? It’s the story that’s easier to remember. It has to do with the way your brain is wired. Everyone remembers story better than data.

Showing versus Telling

Professional writers of books and movies understand the power of ‘showing versus telling.’ Showing involves the reader/viewer/listener in the actions of the story, so that they come to the conclusion you want. Telling is simply handing out the facts. Here’s how science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer describes this:
What’s the difference between the two? Well, “telling” is the reliance on simple exposition: Mary was an old woman. “Showing,” on the other hand, is the use of evocative description: Mary moved slowly across the room, her hunched form supported by a polished wooden cane gripped in a gnarled, swollen-jointed hand that was covered by translucent, liver-spotted skin.
In the exposition/data example, you get the facts: Mary is an old woman. In the showing/story example, you know that Mary is an old woman, even though it’s never explicitly stated.

In sales messaging, you want to use story in the same way. Rather than say, “We are a market leader.” Instead, share a story about a way you helped a client that clearly establishes that you are the market leader without you having to say it. Rather than say, “We are customer-focused.” Share a story that leads your prospect to that conclusion, without you ever having to use those words.

Two final tips: First, not everything needs to be wrapped in story. Inconsequential points, assuming they absolutely have to be mentioned to a client – like, we are already on your approved vendor list – don’t need to be messaged through story. Second, practice delivering your message out loud using the stories you come up with. This will let you know how it affects the timing and flow of your presentation.

Remember, stories take longer than data, but stories are far more memorable and they create the emotion you want in your customer. In final analysis, it doesn’t matter how good your message is if your client can’t remember it when they go to make their buying decision.

By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.

 

What Do You Mean, "Use Story in Messaging"?

The word ‘story’ means many things to many people. The most useful way of thinking about ‘story’ in sales messaging is to compare it to its opposite, which is data. The differences can be subtle. Data is, “the queen and king died.” Story is, “The queen died and the king died of a broken heart.”
Let’s start with an example that lives in the world of sales messaging.

Data – Corporate Visions was founded in 1986. We have 25 employees. Over 10,000 students have taken Power Messaging. Here is our list of clients. We believe that what sets us apart are our values. We believe in being ‘in service’ to our customers.

Story – Rather than hit you with a list of figures about our company, probably the easiest way to explain who we are, would be to share something that happened a couple of years ago at a company Christmas party. The party was at the home of our founders, Chuck and Karen. They own a beautiful home on Lake Tahoe. One of our employees brought a date to the party. Unfortunately, his date accidentally spilled red wine on Chuck and Karen’s beautiful white carpet. Not surprisingly, she was terribly upset and embarrassed about it and started crying and sought out Chuck to apologize to him. When Chuck learned why she was so upset, he took his own glass of wine and poured it over the top of her spill. He smiled and said to her, “There. Now it’s my stain, not yours. Please, go back to enjoying the party.” That instinctive reaction from Chuck is wired into his and Karen’s personality. And it’s their values that are in the DNA of the company and everything we do.

So, what are the differences between these two examples?

Data takes less time to deliver than a story. The data explanation consisted of 41 words, while the story explanation used 178 words. When you’re using story to communicate your message, you’ll find things that you used to zip through take longer to communicate. You need to be aware of that issue as you transition to more storytelling. Don’t let this increased length bother you. Story will shorten your overall sales cycle, which is the most important thing.

Story has emotion; data doesn’t. Part of what makes a story so effective in messaging is the emotion it evokes in the audience. When you use a story, it’s important to remember the emotional landing point you are shooting for. Otherwise, you can get lost in the weeds of telling the story and forget your point.

Story is more memorable than data. If you were asked to recall this data and this story tomorrow, which would be easier to remember? It’s the story that’s easier to remember. It has to do with the way your brain is wired. Everyone remembers story better than data.

Showing versus Telling

Professional writers of books and movies understand the power of ‘showing versus telling.’ Showing involves the reader/viewer/listener in the actions of the story, so that they come to the conclusion you want. Telling is simply handing out the facts. Here’s how science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer describes this:
What’s the difference between the two? Well, “telling” is the reliance on simple exposition: Mary was an old woman. “Showing,” on the other hand, is the use of evocative description: Mary moved slowly across the room, her hunched form supported by a polished wooden cane gripped in a gnarled, swollen-jointed hand that was covered by translucent, liver-spotted skin.
In the exposition/data example, you get the facts: Mary is an old woman. In the showing/story example, you know that Mary is an old woman, even though it’s never explicitly stated.

In sales messaging, you want to use story in the same way. Rather than say, “We are a market leader.” Instead, share a story about a way you helped a client that clearly establishes that you are the market leader without you having to say it. Rather than say, “We are customer-focused.” Share a story that leads your prospect to that conclusion, without you ever having to use those words.

Two final tips: First, not everything needs to be wrapped in story. Inconsequential points, assuming they absolutely have to be mentioned to a client – like, we are already on your approved vendor list – don’t need to be messaged through story. Second, practice delivering your message out loud using the stories you come up with. This will let you know how it affects the timing and flow of your presentation.

Remember, stories take longer than data, but stories are far more memorable and they create the emotion you want in your customer. In final analysis, it doesn’t matter how good your message is if your client can’t remember it when they go to make their buying decision.

By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.