When companies hire new sales professionals, they typically put them through a rigorous course of training that includes specific instruction on how best to “pitch” the company’s products to customers. They then coach the new hire through many rounds of practice, often videotaped, until the individual can deliver the desired sales pitch smoothly, successfully, and effortlessly when circumstances require it.
Unfortunately, most job hunters don’t have sales backgrounds, so they fail to recognize the importance of going through this same intensive pitch-shaping process, themselves. The parallels are unmistakable, however. Just as a company needs to make the world aware of what they offer, and get their customer base buzzing about their products, job hunters need to get as many people as possible (aka “their network”) engaged in their employment quest — and must prime the people around them to be a source of useful referrals in the weeks and months to come.
This is where a great “elevator pitch” comes in. Job seekers of all stripes should carve out the time necessary to whip up a list of the 5-7 strategic talking points that will best communicate their career goals to their network and make them highly memorable (in a good way) so that the message has staying power. Once these key talking points are assembled, the individual in question should then practice delivering the pitch at least 10-15 times until it really starts to flow and they can weave the talking points together, appropriately and effortlessly, in almost any networking context.
How do you ensure that your pitch is a good one, however? How do you make it truly “sticky” when so many job hunters are out there reciting dull, dreary messages that are just as likely to be hurting their cause, as much as helping it? It certainly takes some work to accomplish, but as a starting point, I’d encourage everybody to borrow a few proven storytelling techniques in crafting this all-important marketing message:
• Inject Passion (“I’d love to help a company embrace the power of blogging” or “I’d kill for the chance to help an organization develop its first-ever Project Management Office” or “If you ever come across a company looking to recruit more female engineers, let me know, since I could absolutely blow the doors off a challenge like that.”)
• Use Imagery & Metaphors (“My last boss always called me the ‘rock’ because of my ability to stay calm, composed, and focused under pressure” or “I pride myself on ‘defibrillating’ sales departments that might be getting a bit stagnant” or “As the CEO, I specialize in getting every individual in the organization, from the board room on down to the shop floor, rowing the oars in the same direction.”
• Try Some Light Humor (“I’m a recovering CPA who now focuses on recruiting accountants” or “I’m a teacher, and if you think herding cats is hard, you should try herding junior high kids” or “I get doors slammed in my face all day; did I mention I’m in sales?”)
Additionally, while perhaps not a bonafide storytelling technique, it’s imperative that your elevator pitch…
• Shows Excitement About the Future (“I’m seeking to make the jump from Controller to CFO, since I think I’ve got all the skills needed now to lead the finance function for a growing $10-20 million organization” or “I’ve been a sustainability nut for many years and am now concentrating on helping companies become more eco-friendly as their Director of Corporate Responsibility” or “I’m brushing up on my web design skills, since my goal is to marry these skills with my psychology background and break into the user interface design field”)
Incorporating these types of techniques into your pitch is critical, because without them, it’s going to be tough to “wake up peoples’ brains” and get them to pay as much attention to your elevator pitch as you ideally would hope. Additionally, since 60 seconds (the recommended length of a pitch) goes by extremely quickly, you will need to rely on language forms like humor, passion, and imagery to convey a lasting and powerful impression in a limited amount of words.
Once you put in the hard work necessary to get your pitch in order, however, and test it out on a few people, you’ll be way ahead of the game — and will instantly stand out from the thousands of transitioning professionals out there whose networking efforts are starting with a whimper, not a bang!