It seems as though every few months, someone in the legal marketing world posts advice to attorneys about crafting or framing an elevator pitch.
I’m begging you. Please stop.
I can’t think of anything worse that being stuck in a small, enclosed space, inaccessible by others, with someone who is adamant about selling me something. My only thought would be to escape, and I have to think that prospective clients who get cornered by attorneys so they can deliver a similar self-promotional rant feel precisely the same.
The reason an elevator pitch repeatedly fails is because it necessarily requires the attorney to talk about himself when it shouldn’t be about him at all. It should be about making the other person feel important and special and heard. It should be about asking questions, not making statements, about engaging with the audience.
My advice? Craft an opener, a quick sentence that piques the other person’s curiosity and brings them into a conversation. Here are some examples of what you can say when asked what you do:
- “I help business owners take care of the most valuable assets they have – their employees” (instead of “I’m a labor and employment attorney”)
- “I help the smartest people I’ve ever met protect their inventions and innovations” (rather than “I’m an intellectual property lawyer”)
- “I help businesses grow by removing obstacles and letting their owners sleep at night” (not “I’m a business/corporate attorney”)
Do you see the difference? An opener tells the audience that, first and foremost, you help others solve their problems, that you care and provide value. The description of how you help should resonate at both logical and emotional levels, and by avoiding titles like lawyer and attorney, you free yourself of any possible stigma.
Strategically, the opener seeks to do one thing – engage the other person by compelling them to say, “That’s interesting – tell me more” or to ask, “How do you do that?” The conscientious business developer will then respond with her own question, such as “Have you ever managed people?” or “Do you know about the patent application process?” or “Are you a business owner?” The ensuing exchange becomes a rich conversation rather than a boring monologue.
So please – ditch the pitch.
And if you have any other suggestions for creative openers, I hope you will share them!