All of us are in sales according to Daniel H. Pink in his award-winning book To Sell Is Human. He is not just referring to the people on a car lot doing whatever they can to make a commission, he is using a much broader definition. It’s a definition I cannot disagree with.
Certainly there are the people in sales. But we are all trying, at one point or another, to get a person to make one decision over another. We work in higher education, so think about the accepted students’ day on your campus. My campus refers to it as Welcome Day, where we all try and make our campus seem better than all the other options. We are selling our campus. Or, think about every interview you have ever been on. You are, essentially, trying to sell yourself as the best candidate in order to receive the job offer.
With all of this “selling” that happens every day, it means that all of us are sending and receiving all sorts of messages. Constantly. Think about the last time you were at a conference or professional development meeting. How many new people did you meet and how many did you still remember two days later? How do you cut through all of that noise to make sure your message is heard, to make sure you are remembered?
This is where the elevator pitch comes in...
It’s your professional tagline. Take a second and pull up a new tab on your browser then open up your LinkedIn page. I’ll wait. In your professional headline I’m betting you simply wrote your job title. I attended a workshop where a LinkedIn staffer said that the profiles with the most traffic have a custom tagline, something a bit more about who the person is rather than what their door name plate says they are. They have their elevator pitch written down on their profile.
The elevator pitch helps you to be remembered past the initial handshake. It does not need to be a real pitch, just something that actually gets the other person interested. The all-important response you want is “tell me more.”
You need to give the other person a reason to keep reading your profile or to continue the conversation. At a networking event, you haven’t successfully networked if no one remembers you were there. Simply handing out business cards is not enough. We all live and work in a competitive environment. Small, thoughtful things can give you an edge.
Here's my elevator pitch:
I am an experiential education matchmaker. It is my job to provide students with the opportunities they need to be both academically and professionally successful.
That first sentence about being a matchmaker resulted from how I was once introduced to a class. I was going to speak about my internship program and when the professor did my intro, she called me a matchmaker. As I mulled that little nugget over in my head during the next few days, I realized that is a perfect description of my job. I’m more than just an intern advisor because I do a lot more of the leg work than you generally find in that job. I’m not prepping students to find opportunities on their own, I recruit both research opportunities and students and pair them together based on desired qualifications on either side.
It’s an interesting way to look at my job, but it is no less accurate. I have found that using that word “matchmaker,” piques people’s interests. It’s not what they expect to hear so they almost involuntarily tune into me just a bit more. This allows my pitch to continue so I am able to provide a bit more substance and give a description that more people can understand. My goal responses are the “Tell me more” alter egos, “oh, that’s interesting…” or “Really? How do you do that?” I’ll even get people repeating my pitch back to me, “Matchmaker? How so?” All of these allow me to continue on to discuss how I do my job.
“Really? How do you do that?”
“The program I run, we are part of the The University of Rhode Island, so we recruit our research faculty to take on students to work specifically on aspects of their research during the summer.”
“Matchmaker? How so?”
“Because I am based at The University of Rhode Island, I am able to work with our research faculty and convince them to take on students to work on their research as part of the program I run.”
“Oh, that’s interesting. Where do you work?”
“I work at The University of Rhode Island.”
(That one’s a bit of a dud, but not everything works out the way you want it to).
The conversation ender is “What?” Usually it’s paired with that facial expression where the eyebrows furrow and the nose crinkles and goes up a bit at the end. You are so put off by the other person’s reaction that in the half second before they are able to turn on their heels and walk away you can’t think of a recovery statement. You. Don’t. Want. That. Therefore, it is imperative that you can pull off your elevator pitch.
I bet at least a few of you had the “what” reaction when you read my pitch. It has a bit more sparkle than what you would normally find in an introduction. I happen to have a bit of spunk and so the particular brand of sparkle in my pitch is something I can pull off when I’m speaking to someone face-to-face. Your pitch should have a bit of oomph to attract the person you are speaking with, but still reflect who you are both personally and professionally.
Now that you know my elevator pitch, what’s yours?
Pink, D. H. (2012). To Sell is Human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York: Riverhead Books.
About the Author: Brianne Neptin graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a B.S. in Environmental Economics and Management and from the University of Connecticut with an M.S. in Agricultural Economics. After spending 2 years in Eastern Europe volunteering with the Peace Corps, she was hired as URI’s Coordinator for the Coastal and Environmental Fellowship Program. That position helped her realize her true passion was working in higher education and chose to enter into the College Student Personnel program for Master's degree round two. She enjoys spending her free time cooking, writing about cooking, and getting crafty. Feel free to connect with her @brianep.