Flashback Friday: Revisiting the Elevator Speech

Happy Friday, everyone. This is the day we dig into the archives and recycle a SFB Post from the past. Today it’s from our second month in existence and I laughed when I re-read it: I remember the exchange between the Financial Planner and myself vividly – and we are still friends. As you read, pay attention to the ‘Set Price’ bit near the end. Really: what do you think about that? Enjoy!

I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman yesterday about the Elevator Speech. When I told him I worked for Help-U-Sell®, he asked (as if from a script): ‘What do you do?’

Like Pavlov’s dog, I spoke right up. ‘We are REALTORS® and we do all the things the other REALTORS® do – and more – except instead of a commission, we charge a low set fee, which can save you a lot of money when it comes time to sell your house.’

He scowled.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘You lost me at REALTOR®,’ he replied. I continued to look puzzled, so he went on. ‘As soon as I heard you were a REALTOR®, I thought I knew exactly what you do. I didn’t really hear anything that came after . . . nothing to set you apart or make you different.’

‘Nothing?’ I asked, aghast. I was in shock. Seeing my discomfort, he smiled.

‘I’m kidding,’ he said, ‘I heard what you said, I really did. But I was listening like a consumer.’

Turned out he was a Certified Financial Planner and had been working through an exercise in his company to get at how to most effectively communicate their message to consumers in a quick, concise and differentiating way: an Elevator Speech.

‘What we discovered was that when we differentiate first, our message gets through,’ he said. ‘We don’t lead with ‘We’re Financial Planners’ because people have a mental image of what that is and if they put us into that picture we look just like everyone else. Another thing – we did away with all the ‘buts’ and ‘ands’ and ‘excepts’ in our speech. We found that those kinds of qualifiers negated what went before in people’s minds.’

My original impulse was defensiveness: I learned that elevator speech seven years ago. I knew why every word was chosen and I knew why it was supposed to work. But when I ran through it again, in my head, I remembered that the opening phrase was chosen to combat the rumors our competitors were spreading, not to differentiate us from them. We said we were REALTORS® right up front – and sometimes elaborated to say we were ‘full-service REALTORS®’ – because the other guys were telling everybody we weren’t!

‘Let me hear your speech,’ I said. I wanted to turn the tables, put him on the spot and see if I could find the holes in his dialogue.

‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘We fix people’s broken investment portfolios.’

‘Really?’ I asked, ‘How do you do that?’

‘See?’ he answered, ‘It works.’ I continued to look puzzled. ‘The whole point of the speech is to let people know you are different in a way that might benefit them and get them to ask for more information. You played your part very well.’

I’ve been thinking about our speech ever since. Perhaps it is littered with little land mines that could blow up and ruin our chances of getting through to the consumer. I remember Mike Miller, during his brief stay as our Chief Communications Officer, insisting that ‘set fee’ was a negative: Lawyers charge fees, banks ‘fee us to death,’ airlines charge excess baggage fees. He was pushing for ‘set price.’ Personally, I’m not ready to go there; but it is something to ponder.

Here’s what I’m thinking: the answer to ‘What do you do?’ might simply be, ‘We are a set fee real estate company.’ Period. It says you’re different, hints that there might be a benefit to the consumer and begs the question, ‘How does that work?’

Please don’t change your elevator speech – you know, the one you currently have that is working. But chime in: What do you think about the advice I got this weekend? Should we rethink the Elevator Speech? If so, how do you see it in the future? Click the ‘Leave a Comment’ link above and speak your mind!

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