Executive Series: Simple Secrets to Success From Execs Who Know
WashingtonExec reached out to area executives to gain insight and share local “secrets to success” stories.
Bob London is president of London, Ink, a Washington, DC-area B2B marketing and communications consulting company serving technology companies and professional services firms. Bob serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for B2B organizations that need an injection of marketing experience and leadership to drive key initiatives and results. He also writes Bobservations, a site that features humorous, satirical and ironic points of view on the corporate world. Bobservations can also be seen each month in SmartCEO DC Magazine.
Bob London: Before you create your elevator pitch, make sure you know your customers’ “elevator rant.”
Almost everyone in the business world has heard of the “elevator pitch,” which is basically a short description of your business or product and the value it delivers. The term “elevator pitch” originated in response to this question: “How would you explain your business if you were fortunate enough to be on a 30-second elevator ride with a venture capitalist?”
But how do you know if your elevator pitch is relevant? Do listeners’ eyes glaze over? Or do they lean forward and engage?
The key is understanding something called the Elevator Rant, a critical but lesser-known prequel to the elevator pitch.
The “Elevator Rant” is what your ideal prospect talks about on an elevator when you are not around. The Elevator Rant is your prospect’s candid, specific and sometimes emotional articulation of his/her pain in trying to get some part of his/her job done correctly. Perhaps it is something your product or service can address, but just as often it is an upstream, bigger picture issue that may be preoccupying them.
The only way for you to know if and how your product or service solves the customer’s pain point is for you to decode his or her rant. Here are some very basic ways to start doing this:
Ask the Prospect. Yes, it’s obvious but think of how infrequently we ask questions unless we’re already trying to sell something. As soon as a sale or deal is in the air, the prospect will go into his corner and put on his company hat, and is unlikely to share any real insights with you. Any successful salesperson will approach the prospect at least once or twice before trying to sell something. They will ask him how things are going. What’s his experience with customer support or service delivery. What was his golf score at the management off site and, by the way, what was on the agenda. Once they start talking, listen carefully as the rant may be in there–it might jump out at you or it might be somewhere between the lines.
Seek Independent/Objective Input. Another key to learning your customers’s Elevator Rant is to be willing to explore and embrace what your skeptics and even your harshest critics have to say about your company or product. The solution? This may sound obvious, but fans of the bestseller “The Wisdom of Crowds,” by James Surowiecki, know that including one skeptic or critic in the process makes everyone in the room smarter and the outcome more sound. The group is forced to address the skeptic’s points and examine their validity. So the process of determining the Elevator Rant should include inputs from people who might disagree with your most basic premise and cause you to consider a completely different perspective. The independent/objective source could be someone from another department, a partner, a prospect or a consultant with relevant experience.
Server Diving. This is the legal, Web 2.0 equivalent of dumpster diving. User-generated content, such as industry or company blogs, company ratings and recruiting sites, is a boon for the savvy marketer willing to do a little online research. Sources include, of course, Twitter, LinkedIn Answers and industry-specific blogs where your customers hang out.
So before you go off developing your elevator pitch and distributing it to your sales team, executives, managers and other employees, make sure you invest the necessary time and effort to uncover your customers’ Elevator Rant. It’s certain to pay off.