Speak for Yourself An elevator pitch can be an ideal tool for selling your services. Here’s how to craft one. Make It Work
Make It Work  |   July 01, 2014
Speak for Yourself
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   July 01, 2014
Speak for Yourself
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.19072014.30
The ASHA Leader, July 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.19072014.30
I’ve always been surrounded by salespeople. My father was a successful entrepreneur who always identified himself as being “in sales.” My husband has held a variety of sales positions and I’ve been exposed to the sales tips of business gurus Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey, Jeffery H. Gitomer and others.
I don’t have the training or finesse of a professional salesperson, but I have picked up some tips to better market my practice—for instance, I’ve learned that identifying typical parental concerns along with potential solutions is more important than simply offering a great price. (Parents might not realize, for example, that working on articulation issues can help with early reading and spelling.) But I know that marketing my practice is an area I need to continue to develop, especially because it doesn’t come naturally to me.
There seems to be an assumption, particularly among those in helping professions, that sales skills are unnecessary or somehow beneath what we do. I disagree. As a private practitioner in a school setting, I find myself needing to “sell” my skills and services to families and teachers to receive appropriate referrals.
If I didn’t put thought into this area, not only would I find myself with a greatly diminished caseload, but I’d be solely focused on articulation!
So, back in the fall, one of the 2013 ASHA Convention sessions that first caught my eye was “Elevator Speeches: Get the Word Out: Advocating for Your Profession, Yourself, Your Clients!” It was a tough time slot—early Friday morning—and up against some big names in our profession. Still, I assumed there would be a large turnout. Hmmm … attendance was much more modest than it should have been.
The enthusiastic ASHA presenters (Shelley Victor, Catherine Gottfred, Christine Frieberg and Kellie Ellis) based their session on Terri L. Sjodin’s book “Small Message, Big Impact: The Elevator Speech Effect.” I was keen to read the resource itself. Filled with practical tips and handouts, both the book and the session offered guidance on developing and honing a short sales pitch. Here’s how I used their tips to create a pitch for my own services.
Consider your goals and your audience. To whom do you need to make your case and what message do you want to convey? I decided to focus on marketing my literacy services, since the ability of the SLP to provide support for pre- and early reading skills is often overlooked. I’d need two quick pitches.
The first pitch would target parents, explaining in layman’s terms the foundational skills for reading and how reading overlaps with speech and language. The second would target teachers and administrators, summarizing my specialized training and how it dovetails with the classroom lessons.
Embrace a new set of CCCs—case, creativity and communication! Using an authentic voice, build a logical and persuasive case that will stick with the listener. I’m a parent of school-age children myself, so I was easily able to tap into how my services could help other parents with typical concerns. I mentioned difficulties with finding time to practice classroom lessons and keep up with homework. I noted how much easier it is to get compliance when difficult activities like reading are specifically tailored to a child’s level and interest. I showed them why phonemic awareness (although I usually say “pre-reading skills”) is imperative to becoming a successful reader; that we all need to crawl and walk before we can run.
Write it out and practice. It might seem like grunt work but it’s worth doing. I “sold” my kids, my husband, the mirror and the dog. (The mirror was by far the harshest critic.) I’ve always felt uncomfortable speaking in public, so I went back to my ASHA notes on public speaking tips. I made sure I was avoiding the biggest pitfalls, such as including too much information (and not enough persuasion) and using acronyms or technical terms.
Now that you have it, you own it. With subtle tweaks, you can adapt the pitch for e-mail, a casual conversation in a hallway or a more formal parents’ night presentation.
Specify the next post-pitch step. When talking to parents, this might mean asking if you can set up an appointment for an evaluation. With teachers it might be asking for referrals for their three most struggling readers or offering a letter to send home to parents that highlights the foundational skills needed to become a proficient reader. (This letter is really the written version of your elevator speech.) This is the most important step in the process. If you don’t ask for a next step, it won’t happen!
It took me hours to craft a two- to three-minute pitch and more time to practice it, but it’s paid off! Because parents are better educated about what our “big picture” is, they’ve been more apt to refer me to friends. I’ve had a surge in my caseload in an area I love to address. Plus, I no longer need to deal with that after-the-fact cringe of “why didn’t I say that?” because I’m always ready to go. Trust me, I’ll hold the door for you.
1 Comment
July 31, 2014
Margaret Anderson
Examples please!
I would love to have a few examples of both "good" and "not so good" elevator pitches. It would be very helpful with crafting some of my own. Thanks for your article.
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July 2014
Volume 19, Issue 7