You lost me at “Hello”

Don’t risk that. Be ready to tell them what you do in 30 seconds or less

By Richard McKinley

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

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Know what you’re going to say

The first moments of a conversation with a prospective customer are your best opportunity to establish what you and your business can do for them. It’s your chance to make it clear you’re a professional and to take control of the conversation.

The Elevator Speech or Elevator Pitch is it’s a brief but persuasive summary of who you are and what you do. It’s the first step to leading the customer through the sales process and getting the order—and the deposit.

Here’s what you need to remember as you create your elevator speech:

Establish the goal of your speech. You want to start a dialog that will lead to a sale and solve the customer’s signage problem or need.

Explain what you do. Use an effective description featuring your accomplishments.

Put it together. Your description should be no more than 20 to 30 seconds long.

Maintain a smooth and easy-going delivery. Speak as if you were talking with a friend.

Finish with an open-ended question, one that cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Watch your body language. This is the right time for a smile. Don’t slouch or cross your arms.

Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the more natural your delivery will be. —Richard
A prospective customer enters your shop. After the “Hellos,” what do you say?

I have heard sign shop owners say, “Why am I in business for myself? I could be working at the XYZ company, making a good living, rather than giving my work away.”

The reason for this feeling begins after “Hello.” What you say makes a critical difference in establishing credibility. You can identify yourself as a true professional sign maker, radiating confidence worthy of earning prices listed in the higher-level rates of SignCraft’s Sign Pricing Guide.

Being unsure what to say usually forces the shop owner to remain passive, eager to please, allowing the prospect to control the conversation and the price, resulting in a sale but at a low profit margin or no sale at all.

Take the elevator
All you need to do is to utilize what successful, professional salespeople have done for years: Deliver what’s known as “The Elevator Speech.”

After exchanging pleasantries, you use the next 15 to 30 seconds to deliver a brief, persuasive speech describing who you are and what you do. It should spark immediate interest in your company and its services. It quickly describes who you are and what you do. It’s called “The Elevator Speech” because it should last no longer than a short elevator ride.

Begin by thinking about the goal of your pitch. Will it describe your sign company, its products? Or do you want a good speech to describe what you do for a living? The elevator speech works for both.

You should begin your pitch with a short, effective description of what your company does. Feature your accomplishments in helping other businesses successfully. It may take a little time before you feel comfortable with the wording, but take no shortcuts.

However you say it, the wording should excite you. If the wording fails to excite you, it won’t excite other people.

How it works
Here is an example of what one person might say to describe their sign business. “We design, manufacture and install some of this area’s most effective signage.”

Perhaps a better version might be: “Large and small businesses utilize (name of your company) as a single source for signs and promotional products to grow their business. Our forty years of success is credited to our dedication to client satisfaction, saving their resources, providing effective designs and personalized service at the best cost per profitable contact. We’ll work for you like your own personal employee, but not be on your payroll.”

After completing your elevator pitch, get your listener engaged by asking an open-ended question. (That’s a question that cannot be answered with a yes or no.)

An example might be, “So how does your business generate its targeted marketing efforts?”

Practice your personal version over and over until you can deliver and maintain a smooth, easy delivery in less than thirty seconds. Be smooth but not aggressive or pushy. Success will follow if your delivery is like talking to a friend or your mother.

Be sure your body language and movements convey the same image as your speech. It’s a good idea to practice in front of a mirror.

You should give the prospect a small item to keep that reflects the same message you have just delivered. This could be a brochure, business card or promotional product attached for reinforcement.

Richard McKinley is semi-retired from the sign business and the promotional products industry. He lives in Howard, Ohio. He can be reached at

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