Nothing is more important than knowing the right people – but that’s easier said than done. Real decision-makers are barely contactable by phone, email or social media. In the best case scenario you get as far as their impenetrable outer office, in the worst case scenario they are surrounded by a team of bodyguards, like the Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain.
Nevertheless, occasionally – by chance, or not – you find yourself meeting somebody who could make or break your career. Imagine a situation where you find yourself in an elevator with Jain, who is on his way to the 40th floor. You have 150 meters and 30 seconds to present yourself to him. How would you do this? American sales professionals have developed the concept of the ‘elevator pitch’ for this very situation, where you try and pitch yourself. It’s self-marketing.
Career coach Jochen Gabrisch of Indigo Coaching uses the idea of the elevator pitch with many of his clients. Very few financial professionals go in for this type of self-marketing. "There is a difference between selling a fund and selling yourself. Often we need to talk about the basics: What makes up my brand – both in terms of fact and emotions – and how to I communicate it," explains Gabrisch.
How an elevator pitch can help your career
Headhunter Angela Hornberg of Advance Human Capital thinks the elevator pitch is a good way to boost your career. Therefore, the former fixed income sales assistant learns her elevator pitch by heart. Hornberg recommends a three-tiered structure:
First comes the idea: “My name is Angela Hornberg. I am an Italian, former investment banker.”
Secondly, you should outline your unique selling point. This has the aim of gaining the attention of the person you’re talking to: “I have worked as a recruitment consultant in high-end investment banking for 14 years.”
And thirdly, you have to offer the decision-maker something that might help them. “I know you have a problem with XYZ, and I think I could help you with that.” With the final point it’s important that you address the interests of the decision maker as accurately as possible, to gain his or her attention, advises Hornberg.
When an elevator pitch isn't an elevator pitch
Ironically, Gabrisch wouldn’t use the elevator pitch in an elevator: “I would find it inappropriate. Who would listen to you in an elevator?.” Good occasions for the elevator pitch are at trade shows, conferences, job interviews or upon arrival at a new job. “The elevator-pitch is widely used at interviews,” says Gabrisch. In this situation, the pitch could last 2 minutes rather than 30 seconds.
The five questions
According to Gabrisch, financial professionals should be aware of about five questions:
- What do I want to achieve?
- How do I want to act?
- What is right for me?
- What makes me stand out?
- What would interest my target?
Gabrisch thinks the last question is particularly important. “The bait must appeal to the fish and not the fisherman," he says. An elevator pitch is more effective, the more precisely tailored to a specific target it is. According to Hornberg, it is all about matching the specific problems the person has to the solutions you can offer.
An elevator pitch is not a shortened CV
“Many clients try to recount their resume. That is a classic mistake,” observes Gabrisch. “A few details like industry, company and function are enough.” A successful elevator pitch should be based on selected successes. “Where and when is not so important,” adds Gabrisch.
The things you highlight should capture the imagination of your target. “If you can boast about having an international career, give a quick example, like say you’ve worked in Hong Kong.” With the buzzword ‘Hong Kong’ you generate images of a skyline with aircraft landing in the middle of the city, etc. “It is important that you put the picture in their heads in 30 seconds,” emphasises Gabrisch. That way, your target will remember you better and you will have things to talk about in future discussions. “The images remain in your mind,” says Gabrisch.
Use strong verbs
Gabrisch also advises you pay attention to the language you use. Instead of using weak verbs like ‘was’ or ‘did’, people should use strong verbs like ‘ensure’, ‘achieve’, or ‘control’. “This really describes what you did and greatly increases the likelihood of success.”
Practice makes perfect
An effective elevator pitch is a well prepared one. “It’s rarely possible to do it off the cuff,” says Gabrisch. The career coach often spends several hours training his clients how to pitch.
Hornberg also recommends careful preparation. “Write a list of ten people that you want to meet,” advises Hornberg. Research those ten people and develop a tailor-made elevator pitch for each. “If you actually meet an eleventh person, then a pitch will come to you automatically,” says Hornberg.
It all comes down to practice and you should rehearse your 30 second elevator pitch with friends and colleagues. “Role play can be effective. A friend should adopt the role of Anshu Jain and respond, as far as possible, as Mr Jain would,” says Hornberg. Developing and rehearsing an elevator pitch could give you an important career boost. Hornberg knows that “there are few people who go to the effort.”