Networkers often hear about the importance of an elevator pitch—that quick introduction to your work that’s designed to pique someone’s interest. But will it actually bring in clients? And what makes a good pitch?
President, Himmelman and Associates, Halifax, N.S.
Years in business: 17
I’m careful about when and how I use my pitch. If it’s always being used, it seems too prepared. I try to tailor it towards the listener. If I’m speaking to a family that needs retirement planning, my pitch isn’t as fast as when I’m speaking to a businessperson. For instance, if I’m at a charity event and I’m at a table of business people, I’d say, “I help business owners and professionals design and achieve their lifelong financial goals.” They might want to know, “What can you do for me? Why are you different? Why should I do business with you?” I’ve got a short window to answer them.
Shorter is better, but you never want to come across as a generalist. If you just say, “I’m a financial advisor,” then you have no control over how the listener views you—whether you’re mid-market or broad-market, for example.
Fellow of the FPSC
Principal, Bespoke Financial Consulting, Toronto, Ont.
Years in business: 24
Having that three- or four-sentence elevator speech helps, whether you’re trying to make a professional connection or a neighbor asks you what you do. And when networking, it helps the other person remember you more easily, so when a business opportunity comes up, you pop into his mind.
Using a unique word or phrase also helps people remember you. If you say, “I’m a financial planner. I work with clients in transition, like those who’ve recently gotten divorced,” they’ll remember you. I could talk for five minutes to someone about what I do, but that will be the one thing they remember: “Susan works with divorced people.” The easier you can make it for them to tell other people about you, the more your message will spread.
The pitch also creates credibility, because you know who you are and what you do, and you’re able to summarize it in a quick and interesting way. It also removes some of the awkwardness of networking with people you don’t know, because the speech gives you something to talk about.
Fee-only advisor, Macdonald, Shymko and Company, Vancouver, B.C.
Years in business: 12
You have to know what you do, why you do it well, why you’re passionate about it and why you’re doing this job. It should be a part of who you are already, so it should come out in a way that doesn’t sound forced or unnatural.
I communicate what’s unique about my work, and that I’m a fee-only financial planner. But I don’t frame it against commission-based advisors; we all have to earn our keep. An advisor should never portray her colleagues in a negative way. Some clients are perfectly happy dealing with advisors who charge commission. So I say, “I’m a fee-only financial planner.” Usually people say, “Oh what’s that?” I’ll just say I charge a fee for my time instead of taking a commission for my work. Either they’re interested and I invite them to talk further, or they’ll politely smile and we’re done. I estimate 50% to 60% of the people I pitch become prospects, and of that, another 50% become clients.
Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.