When a Positioning Statement Trumps the Elevator Pitch

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A plethora of books, videos and seminars are devoted to writing an effective elevator pitch—a 30-second commercial to be swiftly delivered at a moment’s notice. Although elevator pitches still serve their purpose at business networking events, they are less suitable in social situations when an adviser is inevitably asked what she does for living.

At a social gathering, such as party or fundraiser, I recommend that our firm’s adviser clients refrain from addressing the question “what do you do?” with a canned commercial. Its ready-made nature does not help the adviser make a good first impression and establish a bond with the other person. Regardless of how well articulate, grammatically impeccable and smooth flowing an elevator pitch is, people can easily sense that you are reciting a nonspontaneous answer.

As the financial advisory space continues to undergo myriad changes, advisers must understand that what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future. The relentless progress made by technology makes all of us feel somewhat harassed by the unending influx of commercials on TV, radio, computers, phones and tablets—the last thing we want to hear is another pitch for a service or product we may not need. When the question “what do you do for a living?” pops up, advisers should take it as an opportunity to lead the conversation and create a response that induces the other person to ask, “How do you do that?”

At our firm we help advisers craft concise positioning statements that focus on the problem they solve, not the service they offer. A well-crafted positioning begins with your name or that of your firm and encompasses the following three core elements:

  • A strong action verb to define what you do—I devise, preserve, build, create, etc.
  • The problem(s) you solve—I help transfer wealth, maintain lifestyle, leave legacies, etc.
  • Who benefits from your expertise (who your clients are)—business owners, high-net-worth-families, CEOs, female business owners, etc. 

Here are some examples:

We create customized strategies that empower affluent families to maximize the accumulation, preservation and transfer of their wealth.

ACME Advisers helps business owners create and implement successful transition plans.

I empower individuals and families to achieve their financial dreams and goals.

What is the key benefit for advisers to use a positioning instead of an elevator pitch? The latter, by its own nature, pushes your mini commercial onto the audience. The former instead attracts the attention of your audience pulling it into the conversation and prompting it to pose questions.

To effectively engage a potential prospect’s attention, you must persuade her that you are capable of solving her problems. If your positioning statement is effective, that individual will likely feel compelled to pose you a few specific questions about problems and issues you may be able to address. When that happens, listen actively to fully understand the nature of her problems and then offer your best insights and guidance. This will help position you as a trusted expert source, peak her attention and prompt her to continue the conversation.

Remember, in the end, your personality is what counts the most in an interaction. People will be attracted to you if you take the time to conscientiously listen to them to gather good intelligence about what they worry and care about. Your attention rather than your elevator speech will create for them a memorable moment.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

One thought on “When a Positioning Statement Trumps the Elevator Pitch

  1. This is directionally good advice; you are quite right that we live in times where we’re bombarded without choice by advertising, and that it’s your attention, rather than an elevator speech, that will be remembered.

    I’d push those same thoughts further, though. The question, “What do you do?” can have a number of meanings, and often doesn’t even really mean they’re particularly interested – in many social contexts, that’s just the opening line for someone who can’t think of what else to say, and it just makes them uncomfortable if you actually take them up on it.

    I’d suggest we all have elevator speech (which is still useful sometimes), an escalator speech, and a stairway speech. They get shorter in time as you go down that list, but the key point is the speed with which they turn the conversation back to the other party. As you note, it’s your interest and your attention that make the difference, not your pitch.

    More if you’re interested at

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