Selling Yourself in 30 Seconds

You’re at a party or a business mixer or you’re in the elevator and someone asks what you do. You either panic, simply say you’re a loan originator, or launch into your elevator speech that explains what you do and how great you are at it.

What are the results? Obviously that depends on what you say. But we all need to be aware of a myth: A great elevator speech will get you business by telling people what you do, how good you are at it, and how you’re different from the competition. The fact is that no one cares what you do. Everyone claims they’re the best, and how you’re different generally doesn’t matter.

There is a better way. What prospective clients want to know is what good you do. More specifically, what good you can do for them. The best way to do this is to tell them a short, powerful, and memorable story about how you’ve helped a client, especially someone like them.

The Challenge

The way you prepare and deliver your 30-second elevator speech can make the difference between having a receptive audience and being ignored. How do you make an initial impression?  How do you engage people so they want to know more? Initially, you don’t do it by talking facts; you do it by making what you say personally meaningful.

We believe the way to best engage people is to personalize what you say. Very simply, talk in terms of your listeners’ needs. Then, if you have the opportunity, back it up with a good story.

A good sales-oriented story is one that creates a vicarious life experience. The person is actually living what your saying.  People remember stories, especially stories about people like themselves.

Let’s say you’re at a business mixer or a Rotary club meeting and somebody asks what you do. Telling them where your office is located, how many years you have been in the business, and what kinds of loan programs you offer is all useful information, but not the place to start. Instead, lead with a benefit, and if applicable show how the listener might benefit. For example, you might start with something like this:

“We help people realize one of their most important dreams–financing their home. You know, the one you may have thought about recently or will consider in the future.”

If you see you’ve captured their interest, then elaborate with a story that highlights how you have helped a client overcome an obstacle in achieving their dream of homeownership.
Remember, the key is to get buy-in from the listener before you launch into a detailed description of what you do.

Perhaps the best way to get good stories is to listen to your customers. We participated in a seminar during which one of the attendees—a sales rep from a popular payroll services firm—
began reciting her elevator speech with a listing of the company’s special features. Another participant interrupted her by suggesting a different approach. He had actually used the payroll services company and recommended that her opening should focus on how she had helped save him time and money.

You all have customers who can tell stories about how you helped them. Call and ask if they would be willing to spend a few minutes telling you what your services did for them.  You will be amazed at what some of them will say.

Additional Tips

Here are a few other suggestions:
Target your listener: Let’s say the business event you are at is for people dealing with or recovering from credit problems.  You wouldn’t tell a story about how you helped a doctor get a $3.4 million dollar home. Instead, you would have a story relevant to your client, like the one about helping a client refinance his home and save $250 per month just three months after filing for bankruptcy. That’s compelling.

Try different opening statements. Different settings and different listeners will lend themselves to alternative opening benefit statements. If you’re talking to doctors you might open with: “We help doctors finance their dream home…”  Or if you’re talking to business owners you could to start with: “We help business owners qualify for home financing that their banks can’t offer.”

Sometimes it can be more powerful to lead with a question to better frame your benefit statement.  Start with questions like: “Have you ever noticed…?”  Or, “Did you know?”  Here are a couple of examples: “Have you ever noticed how most banks give business owners a hard time financing their home?”  Or, “Did you know that most business owners qualify for better home loans than their banks can offer?”

Practice your story.  Once you’ve come up with one or more good stories, it’s important to practice them. Practice with a friend, co-worker, or spouse. Practice in front of a mirror. Use a tape recorder, or better yet, video yourself. Join toastmasters or a leads group like BNI where you get to speak in front of people regularly.

Every loan originator should have an effective elevator speech ready for use during various business and social occasions. As we’ve all heard many times: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.


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