The art of elevator-style persuasion

6:02 PM


I've always been better at expression and persuasion via the written word rather than spoken word. I'm not a huge fan of speaking on the telephone (my 16 year old self who used to talk on the phone for two hours a night to friends she had already spent the day with would be horrified). The idea of cold calling is my living nightmare, I'm a clumsy public speaker and early on in my PR career, telephoning journalists (who were mostly cranky a-holes) was almost my least favourite thing to do - second only to faxing and refaxing press releases (it was the olden days and I used to also print, staple, fold, envelope and frank them too).

The idea of sauntering up to someone important and influential and telling and selling to them is completely daunting to me, but at some stage we are all given an opportunity to better our lot or realise a dream by convincing another person or people of our competence and potential.

James Altucher's advice on delivering a great elevator pitch got my attention this week. He developed the skill during a rather unique work project:

I had to walk up to random strangers at 3 in the morning on the streets of New York and convince them within 5 seconds to spill their most intimate secrets to me rather than kill me.
Not quite an elevator pitch but the same basic idea. I had a lot of practice. I probably approached over 3000 people cold.
In some cases people tried to kill me. In one case I was chased. In other cases people opened up their hearts and I am infinitely grateful to them.
News to me, he warns against, offering reassurance when someone else is talking by chiming in with 'aha', 'yup', 'uh-huh':

people perceive you as stupid when you do this.
Just keep quiet when someone is talking.
Then, when someone is done speaking, wait for two seconds before responding. They might not be done yet. And it gives you time to think of a response. If you are thinking of a response while they are talking, then you aren’t listening to them.
People unconsciously know when you are not listening to them. Then they say No to you. 

There is so much insight in his post (which you can read here) but the advice I will try to keep in mind the most was about having confidence not only in your product/self/idea but in your ability to persuade your target of it:

People want to know they are talking to a good, honest, reliable person that they can trust and perhaps even like, or love.
Yes, love.
They won’t love you by looking at your resume.
You have to do method acting. Imagine what your body would feel like if they already said “Yes” even before you open your mouth. 

For more ideas on choosing your words of persuasion, check out this earlier post.

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