Networking: The Informal Elevator Pitch

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Here’s how to use a quick elevator speech to introduce yourself – and your company’s services.


“People don’t want to talk to me,” Joe Nemmers explains. A compact and athletic father of two boys, Joe is one of the most easygoing and amiable people I’ve ever met. Nobody wants to talk to you? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

“It’s because”, Joe says, “I’m a realtor.”

According to Joe, the most hated professions for the last 20 years are (in order):

  1. Lawyers
  2. Car Salesmen
  3. Realtors

“You know why lawyers are number one?” he deadpans, “Because they hang out with a lot of realtors!” So, what’s a guy to do, when his own persona is overshadowed by his profession? “ Right or wrong, people are not crazy about realtors”, Joe says. “But my business depends on referrals and networking, and so I’ve had to develop my own strategy for telling my story. I call it ‘The Starbucks Pitch’”.

Picture yourself in your favorite coffee shop….

“By the time [your contact] gets to the counter to order their drink, they’re gonna be thinking about what they want, so you gotta catch ’em before they place their order,” Joe says. It’s a quick pitch!

Find a way to engage: “Say hello, notice the surroundings. Comment on something – maybe something that you see in a newspaper headline. Maybe [the contact person] is in running gear, and I’ll say, ‘So how was your run? I feel guilty that I’m not out there!’ Just anything to initiate the conversation.”

Joe Nemmers, Ebby Halliday Real Estate Dallas

Joe Nemmers, Realtor

Know Your Audience: Some people are ready and willing to talk, and some people aren’t. “Some folks aren’t in a social mood – but maybe that’s just caffeine withdrawal, in either case, you just have to bail out,” Joe explains. “But just making a friendly comment can start a conversation. Some folks aren’t interested in having a chat – so, I watch for body language: going to their phone, fidgeting in their purse, stepping closer to the counter. Those moves are usually a pretty good indication that they don’t want me invading their space.”

Have an Objective: “My goal, beyond just being friendly, is to create an exchange of information. I want to get my business card in their hand, and – my ideal – is to get their email address or some way to connect with them. I don’t jump to ‘what do you do’ – that’s too common. If the person is a professional, I might ask, ‘So are you getting some coffee to take to work? That’s what I’m doing’. I don’t want people to feel like I’m trying to pull information out of them; it has to be a conversation.

“If you ask a question, get a response, and you have a follow-up question – you’ve created that conversation. ‘So, is this your Starbucks Office?’ is a funny way to break the ice, especially if it looks like someone is getting ready for a meeting. After a chuckle and a response, my next comment might be: ‘Oh, is that your client over there at the table? What do you do?’

“Ideally, the person would reply back. For example, ‘Yes, that’s my client – I’m an interior designer.’ Wow, I would say, I work with interior designers all the time – I’m in real estate and I do a lot of staging with interior designers… I’d be very curious to learn more about your specialty, and what it is that you do… and we’re off and running.”

Expect the “Tell Me More…” : “I don’t let the conversation go, until I establish what I do. Because once I establish what I do, I’m confident that they are going to ask me one of three questions:

  1. How’s the market?
  2. How’s your business?
  3. What’s your neighborhood/area specialty?

Does it work?
“All the time,” Joe says.

Accelerators: You really have very little time, so here are the three keys to the Starbucks speech, according to Joe:

  1. Be Authentic:You have to be real, and engage in real conversation. Any business relationship starts with a genuine interest in the other person
  2. Courage: “If you don’t start a conversation, there’s no conversation to end.” No risk, no reward – it’s that simple.
  3. Find a way to follow-up: “ Suggest that you connect on facebook, and give ‘em your card,” Joe says, and by way of example, “’Would you mind if I followed up with you, with some information on the current market, or real estate, or something that offers some value (and service)?’ Some will say ‘yes’, just to be polite, but you never know who may need your services one day.”

What About Rejection? “I don’t take it personally”, Joe says. “People, for the most part, aren’t saying no to me because of me (unless I’m uncomfortable with my message). They simply don’t have a need for what I have to offer. That’s different than who I am. You have to change your thinking from how many people tell you ‘no’ vs. how many people tell you ‘yes’. Any time you’re trying to establish a business relationship, people respond to confidence more than anything else. Confidence establishes credibility, and credibility establishes trust. If you’re speaking to someone with the expectation or fear that they are going to say ‘no’, you aren’t going to come across as confident. But, if you speak to them as if your expectation that the audience will say ‘yes’, your confidence and your results will increase.”

What’s your strategy for making connections? How do you pitch yourself, in a networking situation – and why? For the introverts out there, does this story sound like a fairy tale? Comments, please!

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