I was about to fail miserably and I didn’t know it yet.
It was 2007, before cell phones replaced land lines.
My office phone rang.
A woman’s voice came on the line.
She sounded stern, like someone used to being in control.
It came as no surprise when she announced herself as Dean of Students.
She was “Dean” for a local school of interior decorators who were about to start a segment on marketing.
My name came up in her professional circle as someone to connect with.
She had the patience of a small child in line at the grocery story, and the command of a woman accustomed to getting her way when she asked “what exactly do you do?”
I recited my elevator pitch with the ease of a ballerina performing a well rehearsed rendition of Swan Lake.
Her reply made me nearly choke on my spit!
“Well, you sound like one of those moronic radio commercials. Is this what you teach, how to sound robotic?”
Did she just call me moronic?
I hadn’t been this mortified since the time in catholic school when one of the nuns caught me trading bubblegum cards – instead of watching the blackboard – and wouldn’t stop scolding me until the entire class roared with laughter.
The Jenny from the block in me wanted to take off my earrings and give dean dread a taste of my skills as a tongue fu master.
But the pro in me knew a pivotal point when it slapped me in the face and this definitely felt like a moment that would change how I played in business.
For weeks after that call, I was hyper aware (and more than a little gun shy) that my elevator speech was no good because:
1. When said aloud, it did in fact make me sound robotic (that despicable Dean was right!),
2. What I was saying didn’t explain what I did in easy to understand tangible, ooh, tell me more! terms and
3. Everyone else was using the same damned template which put me in the Stepford category – lifeless and forgettable.
It wasn’t until later, on a discovery call, that I had an accidental Aha moment…
Instead of asking the caller what they did, I asked them how they chose their line of work. In other words, their story.
While recapping what they said, I realized a better way to describe what I do, how I do it and who I do it for is through storytelling.
Overused templates are, for most people, a queue to stop listening but
story gets people to sit up in their seats and take notice.
I’d been using story to pitch brands, get buy-in on strategy and even keep the brands I worked with on track but completely ignored using story to talk about my own business.
Gotta love those Doh! moments.
What about you? How did you choose the line of work you’re in right now?
PS. As you can imagine, I didn’t end up working with that Dean but her ruthless comment stuck to me like that pint of Rocky Road I had on Saturday…it’s the marshmallows, I’m obsessed!
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