You can burn the midnight oil fine-tuning your business plan. You can hone your PowerPoint pitch to a razor sharp edge. You can rehearse your elevator pitch in the shower every morning. But no practice will help you if you can’t answer the simplest question you may ever hear.
When you meet someone in a social situation, the most common progression of questions is:
What do you do?
1. Who are you?
2. Where are you from?
3. What do you do?
Occasionally the order changes, but those questions pop up constantly. And they happen at times when you’re not ready with your honed pitch. They happen after you’ve stuffed a crab puff in your mouth, while you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop, and — yes — when you’re in an elevator.
What an opportunity! Now and again, the person wants to hear your entire pitch and learn about your profit projections from ancillary revenue streams in secondary markets. Don’t count on it. Most people are being polite, but you can turn polite inquiries into genuine curiosity by answering the question well.
Paul Kedrosky at Infectious Greed has created a simple, two-part template to help craft your response. Keep it short, keep it pithy, and deliver it with some energy.
Part 1: What We Do
* For [insert customer company/department/type here]
* Who want to [insert what prospective customers want to fix/improve here]
* Our product is [insert how your technology helps the people in line 1 do line 2]
Kedrosky follows part 1 with a great kicker about why you’ll succeed. If you nail the delivery on Part 1, they’ll ask you for part 2.