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Don't Be So Pitchy: Sure, elevator pitches are fine—for elevators

“The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation." —Michel de Montaigne

“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.” —Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to know who you are, know what you do, and know what you have to offer. It’s important to be able to articulate these things in a clear, coherent and pithy manner. (See my 20-10-4 exercise for help in this area.)

However, you want to avoid relying on your “elevator pitch.” (Just in case you don’t know the term, an elevator pitch is your succinct line or two you have at the ready to describe who you are or what you do, so-called because it should be short enough to communicate during an elevator ride.)

Your short summation has its role, but it isn’t the most effective way to get people interested or engaged in what you do, and it certainly isn’t an effective way to secure a potential customer or valuable referrals (the lifeblood of a successful DIYer). As the mighty Seth Godin explains, “the purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale…[it is] to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.”

People, it’s time to get your do do flowing.

No, not that. (Gross.) What you want to do is master what Kevin McCarthy calls the “Do Do Dialogue.” Rather than merely reciting a canned, rote explanation of what you do, the “Do Do” approach has you engaging people by forging a connection between them and what you have to offer.

Remember how I said you need to stop thinking about what you do in terms of you, you, you? Well, the elevator pitch is fundamentally a “me, me, me” one-way street where you verbally shove your spiel at someone (and sometimes that someone is trapped in an elevator, no less).

No matter how quick and painless, a pithy pitch is still a pitch, something you’re throwing, when what you really want to do is play catch. In other words, you don’t want to corner your prey, you want to connectwith a potential customer or someone who can connect you to some. As Kevin McCarthy puts it, you want to engage in a “dialogue, not a data dump.”

Simply put, the “Do Do” Dialogue goes like this:

When someone asks you what you do, instead of you going into your little canned song and dance, you instead ask them a question—as in, “DO you know…?” (That’s where the Do Do comes in.)

Let me give you an example. Let’s say your business is making delicious vegan cupcakes. When someone asks you what you do, you in turn might say, “Do you know that it’s almost impossible for families who are vegetarian or vegan to find kid-friendly food for their children’s birthday parties?” Or you might ask, “Do you know that while one out of 12 families is vegan, there’s hardly anywhere in this community where place they can go to cater their parties, or send out for delicious desserts?”

With this strategy, you’re now in a conversation.You’ve created a dialogue, an opportunity for the other person to ask questions, mention they have some vegan friends, or even talk about you’re shared love of delicious desserts! With the “Do Do Dialogue” you speak with, you don’t talk at, other people. It’s not all me, me, me—the focus now shifts to them—and often, whom they know.

Let’s say you’re a personal trainer. Instead of saying “I’m a personal trainer” and having the person to whom you’re speaking nod politely and hope you’re not judging his or her belly bulge, you might instead ask, “Do you know most people who need to lose 10 or 15 pounds only need to make one change in their workout to see results? I help people make that one change.”

Do you see the difference between the elevator pitch and the Do Do?

Practice some Do Do dialoging of your own. Instead of practicing how to sell people, you can practice learning to connect with people. And that’s really what building success (and life) are all about.

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