Trick Question: ‘What do you do?’

Simone Hughes
Make it Count
A great “elevator pitch” is an essential component in your networking toolkit. A good one will spark interest and propel you into an engaging conversation. The test of a great elevator pitch is if the other party ends up asking you for your business card and an invitation to meet with you again.

“What do you do?” He asks as he reaches past me for another appetizer at an industry awards event. I answer, “I lead a smoking marketing team that collaborates with Field Law lawyers to deliver excellent client and legal services at great value. I also volunteer for an affordable housing non-profit and the Calgary Stampede! We Fielders are encouraged to be part of the fabric of our communities so that we can understand our clients and their businesses better. What do you do?”

This is called an “elevator pitch” or “elevator speech” or “elevator statement” and is an essential tool for you to engage people in conversations. It’s called an elevator speech because you should be able to deliver it in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator, i.e. 20-60 seconds.

You can Google “how to write an elevator speech” and you will find half a million links, and a variety of techniques to craft yours. Here’s my advice to you:

Know your purpose/goal

Do you want the person you are talking with to give you more business, stay with you, help you with a volunteer activity, or refer business to you? You may want to have a few elevator speeches for a variety of purposes.

Identify their needs

This is the trick part of the question. It’s actually not about you. When people ask you what you do, they are really thinking: “How does what you do affect me?”

This is a very important point to understand. It’s like job hunting. Your resume isn’t really about you. It’s about what you can do for your firm. A poor resume is just a bunch of facts on your background and accomplishments. A strong resume is one that turns your accomplishments into benefits for the firm.

For clients, in order to turn you and your firm into a desired benefit for a potential client, you must understand their business and needs first.

Communicate relevant and unique benefits or solutions

The persuasive part of the speech is to concisely deliver an answer to their needs that no one else has yet provided to them. By doing this, you are compelling them to engage you in further discussion, and hopefully begging to meet you again. Having understood their needs, you can craft a sentence about how you and your firm will help them solve their challenges and meet their needs.

Understanding what differentiates you and your firm from others and fitting this into the speech will make it even stronger.

Get a question in

Including a question in your elevator speech is a sure-fire way to keep the conversation going and relevant.

Make it feel great

Try to convey your passion for what you do and to share it in an interactive and concise way. Practise delivering your message again and again. Smile as you deliver it and be warm, humble, and respectful.

Dissecting my elevator speech for clients or prospects, I know my goal is to retain and grow business. To do that, clients/prospects want two basic things from lawyers and law firms: excellent legal service and client service.

They don’t often get great client service nor do they often feel they get value. I know these are trigger words for clients. I also know that clients want lawyers to understand their business and be committed to them and give back to their communities. I also want my firm’s name to stick with them and so I have repeated it.

This particular speech might be appropriate for a cocktail party. I’d need other ones for other purposes.

If you are a wills and estates lawyer and you were at a legal event, what might your speech be?

This isn’t the only elevator speech a wills and estates lawyer could have, but if we assumed that:

1. Your goal is to get referrals from other lawyers who don’t have this type of practice but have business clients looking for will and estate assistance.

2. Their needs are to keep their clients but to also keep them happy. They want a lawyer who won’t be a threat to taking all of their client’s business. They also want to be confident that the lawyer they refer to is competent in their field, and also provides great service. You also know that a small business owner has a lot of cross-over with their personal situation and that a strong client-service offering considers the two together when crafting a will. You also know that if a client were to pass away, that wealth is transferred and the business may not be protected or remain with the business lawyer.

How about: “I am a wills and estates lawyer who helps business lawyers offer these services to their clients to supplement and strengthen their existing client relationships. I am not interested in any other business, but in helping my referral partners look like superstars to their clients by providing estate services that integrate with their business law services. Do you find that business clients often don’t think about what will happen to their business after they pass away and that you could help preserve their business forever by ensuring that it’s addressed in the estate?”

Well, I am not a wills and estates lawyer, but you get the drift that you have to: know what your ultimate goal is; understand and find a unique, compelling solution; be engaging; and practise, practise, practise your speech.

If you do no other business development or marketing activities this week . . . write and practise your elevator pitch!

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