Physical networking is a necessity for a personal brand. This blog post presents an alternative to the traditional elevator pitch: a social selling un-pitch.

Yes, you caught me. ditch the elevator pitch

You may have read me and heard me repeat that you need an elevator pitch to lead your physical networking and job search.

By elevator pitch, I am referring to a personal branding sales pitch that you could verbally offer during the short time needed for an elevator ride to the upper floors of success.

Yes, you need an elevator pitch to lead your personal branding.

Yet, I am starting to rethink the concept of an elevator pitch.

“Unless short and naturally presented, a typical elevator pitch can easily scare or repel rather than attract.” ~ Denny McCorkle

Think back.

How often have you rolled your eyes and imagined an exit strategy when someone has walked up to you with a gleam in their eye, handshake on their arm, and a canned elevator pitch rolling off their tongue?

They did not have you at hello.

Or, how often have you played the nervous giver rather than the taker of an elevator pitch? And, how did that work out for you?

Did you think to yourself:

Did I do that right?

I hope I wasn’t seen as pushy.

Why are my palms sweating?

Why am I so uncomfortable doing this?

Why can’t I just be myself?

I’d rather just get a drink and go and stand in the corner.

Calling All Personal Brand Introverts.

I myself have not done well as physical networker. I am not much for small talk. And, I am usually uncomfortable talking about myself to strangers. My genetics are missing these stereotypical qualifications for a good physical networker.

On introspection, I am probably a personal brand and physical networking introvert.

No matter how versed and practiced I am with my own personal sales pitch aka elevator pitch, it rarely spills out with the aplomb and smoothness of a natural born salesperson.

Too often, efforts at an elevator pitch come off as do too many efforts at using social media: too automated, too hard sell, and too unsuccessful.

As with social media networking, physical networking should be more about making a good and memorable first impression leading to the beginning stages of building a relationship.

So Here is My Novel Idea: Ditch the Pitch.

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.” ~ Jay Danzie

Just make eye contact. Say hello. Extend your handshake. Then, share your name and a short phrase to set the stage for a conversation.

“Hi, I am Denny McCorkle. I teach students how to market themselves.”

“Hello, I am Debra Johnson. I manage others’ money.”

“Hi there. I am Jim Hastings. I turn data into strategies.”

Reduce your 30 second elevator pitch into a 5 second personal brand mantra.

Short. Simple. An introduction. And, hopefully a conversation starter.

So what’s next?

Silence. Or, at least a pregnant pause.

Try not to speak more until you get a response. If there is an awkward lull, then simply ask: “__first name__, what do you do?”

Then let your curiosity and short questions take the conversation to a natural place.

And, don’t start talking about yourself.

When you do get those questions about you, keep your answers short. Do not, I repeat, do not jump into your misguided-full-blown-it-is-what-everyone-else-does elevator speech.

If there is another lull in the conversation, just ask an open-ended question that eases the networking tension, shows a genuine interest, and allows the others to take a breath.

“Is this the first time at this event?”

“How is your day going?”

“How long have you been working at ______.”

“What do you think about ______.”

Keep the tone positive.

Don’t invite a negative or potentially controversial or two-sided response (nothing about politics, religion, sports, weather, etc.).

Find a common interest or a topic triggered by the other networker and away the conversation goes.

When there is another lull, implement a conversation exit by saying it is “nice to have met you” and leave them smiling because you didn’t talk so much about yourself and avoided the dreaded elevator pitch.

However, before exiting you should exchange business cards.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

And, Replace it With a Social Selling Strategy.

In a previous blog post, I defined and described “networking convergence” as a strategy to ground or converge an individual’s social media networking with their physical networking.

An extension to this is a social selling strategy:

Social selling for personal branding and job search is the process of using physical networking to make new connections, then using social media networking and content marketing to build relationships and amplify your personal brand.” ~ Denny McCorkle

And, here is the physical networking alternative to an elevator pitch:

  1. After your conversation exit, step aside and make some notes on the back of the business card about your new career worthy networking contact. Where did you meet? What did you talk about? What do you remember about the contact?
  1. That same evening, sign-in to LinkedIn. Search for this new contact.
  1. From their profile (and not from the app), click the connect button. If not a fellow alumni of your education or work, then choose the Other category. Add the email from their business card.
  2. Write a personalized invitation to connect. Begin with the details of where and when you met. Say something about your shared conversation. And, ask them to add you to their LinkedIn network. Avoid the temptation to break into your elevator pitch.
  3. Once connected, add your notes of how, when, and where you met in the Contacts section of your LinkedIn profile (this is private for your eyes only).
  4. Tag the connection (perhaps using the place of meeting, name of club or organization, type of potential relationship).
  5. When you plan to return to the place of connection (such as a monthly networking meeting or opportunity) review: (1) the tagged connection’s profile (to remember their background and photo), (2) recent social sharing activity (to use as a conversation starter), and (3) previously noted conversations (to use as a reminder of how you connected) of those most important for your career or job search.
  6. And now, when you see them again at a return networking opportunity, you can meet and physical network with the confidence of a friend.

Call It Your Social Selling Un-Pitch.

When you finally get that acceptance to your invitation, then smile, send a quick response to thank them for their connection.

Now, let your: (1) optimized-career-focused-personal-brand-storytelling-All-Star LinkedIn profile, (2) your regular social sharing activity (shares, likes, comments, or re-shares), and (3) your continued social engagement be your elevator pitch.

Yes, every time you have social activity in your LinkedIn Updates, Groups, or Pulse, your connections are reminded of you and your personal brand (assuming your LinkedIn headline, summary and the rest of your profile is optimized).

Thus, your social activity on LinkedIn will amplify your personal brand to all of your connections and contribute to your social selling un-pitch (the alternative to the elevator pitch).

“An elevator pitch represents outbound marketing; a social selling un-pitch represents inbound marketing.” ~ Denny McCorkle

What to Do With Your Unused Elevator Pitch?

No doubt, you have worked hard to refine and perfect your elevator pitch. And, you do not have to let it go to waste. Your options include:

  1. You could kick it to the curb and never let it sweat your palms again.
  2. You could share it to a bathroom mirror to build your self-confidence prior to working the room.
  3. You could expand upon it to improve your LinkedIn headline and summary.
  4. You could save that elevator pitch (or an extended variant) as a response to a common question asked in a job interview: “Tell me about yourself.”
  5. Or, even better, you could make a video of your best elevator pitch, seek honest feedback from others for refinement and added professionalism, and then attach it to the Summary section in LinkedIn to add a good dose of authenticity to your profile.

The Take-Away.

When your physical networking attempts go introvert . . .

When delivery of your elevator pitch seems lackluster . . .

When you just don’t want to do what you know you need to do when physical networking . . .

Then ditch the pitch and replace it with a social selling un-pitch.

These are my thoughts. Now they are yours.

Let the benefits of this strategy sink in, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Image credit: Denny McCorkle

This article originally appeared on Digital Self Marketing Advantage and has been republished with permission.