“The reason I quit being a sales manager over twenty years now is because I hate elevator pitches. I want to write stories and show people what’s in them when they read them, not tell them all about it ahead of time.”
~ Kurt Busiek

Great networkers don’t have competition. They have colleagues. For that reason, I decided to attend the “Art of Networking” program put on this morning by the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber, sponsored by DFCU Financial. I will admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Most of the networking programs I’ve attended in the past are nothing new and a few of them are positively archaic. Still, I believe that you have to stay aware about what others are doing in your field, so I showed up.

I needn’t have worried.

The presenter, Denise Roberts of Sales Partners Troy, was a delight. Lively, dynamic, funny, and engaging, she took us on a two-hour ride that seemed to be over before we knew it. With her facilitation, we all managed to meet new people around us and found out How we could be of better service to them. One gentleman who sat next to me, Curtis Manuel, had so many people want to follow up with him that he ran out of cards.

One of the aspects of the training that I most enjoyed was the instruction on how to create a great self-introduction. The structure that Denise presented was easy to follow, of course, and getting to practice it with our neighbors definitely felt good. What I liked most about her take on it, though, was the very clear and unequivocal rule that this was not an “elevator pitch”. Its purpose is to connect, not sell.

Finally! Someone who gets it!

As I wrote in Hello and a Handshake:

The elevator pitch, the value proposition, the twenty-, thirty-, or sixty-second commercial. What do they all have in common?

They aren’t good networking.

Think about it. If your goal in networking is to establish powerful connections and relationships with other people, then the traditional “pitch” just doesn’t work. I can think of at least five reasons why:

One, it’s focused on sales. Even the name tells you that. You’re giving them your “pitch”; you are describing your “value.” You’re making them listen to your “commercial”! Tell me the last time you established a strong, personal, mutually beneficial relationship with the person who interrupted your favorite television program to sell you a paper towel. No difference here except it’s harder for your victim to change the channel.

Two, it’s all about you. If you’re talking about your stuff, you aren’t finding out more about them. That means you aren’t connecting.

Three, it’s just not conversational. Imagine having a nice chat with the person sitting next to you at the alumni association lunch. As a part of the natural ebb and flow of the conversation, you ask them what they do. Suddenly they stop being a human being and deliver thirty seconds of their highly scripted value proposition. Talk about a conversation killer!

Fourth, it’s fake and more than a little manipulative. Imagine you ask someone what they do for a living. Instead of telling you directly that he’s a dentist, he says “I make children smile!” Yuck. Whenever I hear a response like this all I can think is, “What is this guy selling?” Listen, you know when someone is trying to manipulate you into asking more about their business. They can tell if you’re doing that, too.

Finally, at the bottom of it all, they just don’t care. Or at least they won’t care about your business until they do care about you as a person. Really, the only good side about these techniques is they’re short. You at least won’t be in danger of boring the other person to tears.

The structure that Denise taught us was definitely not any of those things. In fact, I think what I learned from her has improved my response to the question “So what do you do?” immensely.

If you get a chance to see Denise in action, jump on the opportunity. I can’t recommend her enough. If you would like to know more about her self-introduction formula, check out her website.

Are there any speakers or trainers you would recommend?

Image by The Noun Project