Gini Dietrich

What’s Your Pitch in Today’s Online World?

By: Gini Dietrich | October 19, 2009 | 

online_business_networkingLast week I was on a flight doing my second favorite thing…eavesdropping (people watching is my favorite). I was so intrigued by the conversation behind me that I stopped reading to listen.

Guy #1: What do you do?

Guy #2: Business process investigation.

Guy #1: I see.

Guy #2: What do you do?

Guy #1: I am part-owner in one company and full owner in another. We do disinfecting and decontamination of large businesses.

Guy #2: That’s very interesting.

Are you kidding me?! Business process investigation? Disinfecting and decontamination of large businesses?

Does anyone know what either of these guys do for a living?

One of the things we work on with clients, especially in today’s age of text messaging and social media, is how to deliver their elevator pitch so they quickly gain interest from their audience – reporters, customers, prospects, candidates, even someone just checking out your Twitter bio, trying to decide if they’re interesting enough to dive deeper.

Can you imagine if these guys were on the news? What if this is what their Twitter profile said?  Would you have any inclination of wanting to learn more?

What if, instead, the conversation went like this?

Guy #1: What do you do?

Guy #2: I go into businesses to help them streamline the processes they use for operations and sales so their people are able to go home and have dinner with their families every night.

What are you compelled to do if the guy sitting next to you says that? Do you want to learn more? Ask questions about what it is he does and how he can make sure you’re home with your family every night in time for dinner?

Turns out that’s what business process investigation means.

Guy #2: What do you do?

Guy #1: We go into locker rooms before and after every game to disinfect the floor, the lockers, the showers, and the walls in order to keep germs and viruses at bay. One of our clients is the NFL and, as you can imagine, it’s really important the players not get sick. It’s our job to make sure they don’t.

I know, if the guy sitting next to me says that, I want to learn more about which locker rooms he’s been in and which teams he works with. Likely I’m not going to hire him, but I am interested enough to have a conversation and, perhaps, refer him to businesses I know who would use his services.

Keep this in mind not only when you’re networking at in-person events, but also in the way you present yourself in everything from your Twitter profile to the “about us” on your Web site. The name of the game is to encourage people to want to learn more, not use vague sentences and large vocabulary because you think it makes you sound smart.

Some people are master networkers and use even plane time to prospect for new business. If either of these guys changed the way they introduced what they do for a living, they likely would have exchanged business cards at the end of the flight.

How can you become a master networker, both offline and on?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I think a lot of times people just want to sound smart or important instead of being clear. That’s a really great point you bring up, I think we all could use a little practice on our “elevator speeches” because you never know when you’re going to need it.

  • Sara, you are absolutely right, as evidenced by “I am part-owner in one company and full owner in another. We do disinfecting and decontamination of large businesses.”

    Did he really have to start by saying he’s part owner in one company and full owner in another? That was just his narcissistic way of saying “I’m important.”

  • Gini,

    I take it one-step further. I remind people that we are all in the same business – the results business. People are far less interested in “what you do” than they are in “what they get.”

    I’ve got a formula that we teach that makes the “elevator speech” interactive, interesting and effective. Here it is:

    1. Statement of the problem you solve.
    2. Confirmation
    3. How you solve the problem.

    Thanks for the post.

  • And THAT is why I’m the message person and Doug is the sales person. MUCH better tip. Thank you!

  • Excellent points and excellent examples, Gini. Loved how you restated their elevator pitches to be clearer and more meaningful. You’ve got me thinking about my own :30. It’s a wise idea to bounce it off someone else, because we can end up too satisfied with our own creations, only to realize that it’s not resonating with anyone else.

  • Gini,

    Thanks for addressing a great topic. What do you do? is a perfect and common question that contains huge opportunity for all of us – and many blow it by trying to sound …
    (fill in your own blank). My response? “I do what others can’t or won’t” which invariably brings a “what do you mean?”

    Dan Collins

  • Reminds me of bogus titles like Ceramic Sanitary Engineer (instead of Janitor).

    I think people get caught up in what their industry calls what they do versus what the general public would understand. But the key, as you and your commenters have mentioned is to show how you make a difference in a way that makes people want to say, “Tell me more.”

  • Gini,
    I LOVE this, and what an interesting way to position it. It goes back to telling your story. We all enjoy a good story. When you restated their elevator pitches, that is exactly what you did.

    I suggest people step out of their element, just like these men had (on a plane), and practice their story/pitch. They will learn new things about themselves by paying attention to the ensuing questions. By watching what their listeners find fascinating, the story is born.

  • Love this post! I think people’s desire to sound smart or feel important diminishes the ability to have a connection with them. Being a real person and making connections is what networking is all about. I’m not going to refer someone if I know they are an egomaniac. Who wants to work with that kind of person?

  • Everyone commenting here is so smart! Let’s tell stories. Cut out the jsrgon. Lose the ego. Find ways to connect and engage. And remember that everyone you meet can be a potential client, talent candidate, or a referral for you.

  • Great post. And when you think about the fact that you could be sitting next to a prospective client for a couple hours, why not take advantage of the time.

    My down and dirty elevator speech — “I help businesses and organizations tell their story.”

  • Great post. The elevator pitch (or cocktail party spiel) may be easier if you work for a well-known brand or company, but for most people it’s one of the hardest things to get right.

    “What do you do?” can have a lot of answers from the mundane (write, sell) to bogus like Brad mentioned (create your own here to the generic, unintelligible like the ones you mentioned. All the “I help maximize this, facilitate that” sounds like your selling your own resume.

    Doug makes a great suggestion: tell a story, your story. Start with the most interesting part of your job, a good anecdote from the week before, something that has human and personal context. That will get the conversation going.

  • Gini,
    Great post – I love the first question. If the guy next me says “I make business simpler so employees can have dinner with their family,” I would respond with, “Great – how can I work with you?” I hope most people would.

  • Brilliant post. Wouldn’t the answer change with who you’re talking to? It’s a framing issue: What images do you want to evoke in the minds of the person with whom your talking so she wants to keep the conversation going. Regardless, do you agree it should be brief?

    Love your writing Gini!

  • I do think it should be brief. You can lose a person in 30 seconds so it’d better be good. I always liken this to going to a social event with my husband, who does politics for a living. Suddenly one of the three things you’re not supposed to talk about socially becomes acceptable because it’s what he does and people are always interested. So I have to be even more interesting when they FINALLY ask me what I do or they inevitably listen politely and then go back to him. So brief and interesting (I make it easier for you to have dinner with your family every night) works the best.

  • Great post… so very mush needed the reminder, Thank you

  • Gini

    Great story and I have always done what Lisa Gerber said, tell your story and make it short. To add one thing would be when done with your short story would be is be a good

    Gini sorry about being late been a little busy.

  • Wow! I always thought of buzzwords/phrases being used when pitching clients/media but not in normal, everyday, personal conversations. If everyone resorts to using buzzwords in everyday convos, no real networking/relationships will ever develop.

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