Monday, August 4, 2008

Is Your Elevator Speech in Your Customer's Language?

I was talking last week with the General Manager of a service business -- Information Technology Services, to be exact. He was lamenting that he and his new sales person didn't have a very good "elevator speech." What he said he wanted to do was "Get each of our technical resources to write a few sentences about what he or she does, or is really good at." The idea was to distill the elevator speech from those descriptions, then embed it into telephone prospecting, collateral, the website, etc.

So, an elevator speech, constructed with this material, would presumably be something like: "At ABC Technologies, we install and support xx, yy and zz systems using dd, ee and ff languages" (You fill in the blanks with systems and tools that are meaningful to your business). That is, if you KNOW what systems and languages are meaningful to your business.

Just a minute -- is that something the average business owner or corporate decision-maker actually knows?? Doubtful. More important, he probably doesn't care (if he's got his priorities straight).

So, how many organizations build their elevator speeches around what they do or provide? Most, in my experience. We get so focused on who we are and what we do, we completely forget the point -- that what we do is inconsequential to the customer. He doesn't care. He doesn't need to care. That's generally a foreign language to him.

What, then, is the "language" of the customer? A friend of mine once taught me it's PROFIT -- the Esperanto of business languages. It's not even his OWN buzzword vocabulary, which he may be trying to convert to his customer's language. If you don't have something in your bag that makes me more profitable, I'm probably not interested.

And the best part is you don't need to be fluent. In fact there are only a handful of words, phrases and definitions you need to know in order to speak this language. The "big words" are:
  • Sales (revenue)
  • Gross Margin (gross profit)
  • Overhead (SG&A + Interest)
  • Net Profit (operating income)

Even better, generically speaking, there are only a handful of general things one can do to help any of those improve:

  • Sales (revenue)
    • Raise prices
    • Sell more things to existing customers
    • Sell to more customers
  • Gross Margin (gross profit)
    • Raise prices
    • Reduce material cost
    • Reduce labor cost
    • Shorten cycle times of production/delivery activities
  • Overhead (SG&A)
    • Improve productivity
    • Reduce selling costs
    • Eliminate waste
    • Reduce assets required (inventory, accounts receivable, equipment, buildings, etc.)
    • Shorten cycle times of front-office activities
  • Net Profit
    • Any and all of the above

So, let's try some combination of those "customer vocabulary" words in our elevator speech:

Something like: "We at ABC Technologies help our customers effectively use their business data to reduce costs and improve return on assets."

Now, perhaps we have a CFO's or CEO's attention, and we'll know that when he asks "And how do you do that?" Of course we have to have some credible answers, preferably backed up by case studies or testimonials from other customers.

We've applied this idea ourselves. At Chief Executive Boards International, we've moved from:
"Chief Executive Boards International provides members with peer advisory meetings, both locally and nationally"


"Chief Executive Boards International helps CEOs and business owners earn more money, and find more time to enjoy it"

Is there a difference? And, the next question is probably, "How do you do that?"

We put CEOs and business owners together with experienced peers in a "bring-your-own-agenda" advisory board format. Our members get some of the best advice available -- from others who have "been there, done that." They get ideas during these advisory board meetings that they would never have found on their own. And they'll gladly tell you that they're earning more money and working less than when they joined Chief Executive Boards.

Is your elevator speech in your language or the language of your customers? If you've reworked your elevator speech lately, please click "Comments" below and share the "before" and "after" with others.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

1 comment:

  1. Hi Terry,

    I enjoyed your post on writing an elevator speech. It was well-written and quite informative. Congratulations on a job well done!

    I just made a post on crafting an elevator speech. I use a three-step process that follows a problem/solution/referral method that works for virtually any situation. Perhaps you can give a a try and let me know how it works for you.

    I appreciate your feedback.

    Best regards,

    Glenn Andrew


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