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Junior consultants and baby bankers fantasise about this scenario all the time:
It’s your first day of work, and you’re all dressed up and raring to go. As you step into the lift and the door begins to slide shut, an authoritative voice shouts, “Hold the lift!” Your finger shoots out and stabs the ‘open’ button, and your CEO comes charging up. “Thanks,” he says and then squints at you. “Now, aren’t you that one we hired last week?”
“Yessir,” you say, starting to sweat a little. The door slides shut and the elevator starts its noiseless ascent to the office, on the sixty-eighth floor. Your CEO is still looking at you expectantly, like he expects you to say something.
What do you do?!
This is the art of the elevator pitch – a silent sixty seconds can feel like an eternity, but if you use it wisely, you can convince your CEO that he made the right hire, get a manager to call up your marketing firm, coax a venture capitalist to buy into your startup…
Or convince that cutie at the bar to give you his or her number. Here’re some tips for how!
1) Find a hook.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again – first impressions count. Do you want to be the sixth guy who says, “Hey, pretty lady, let me buy you a drink?” Worse: do you want to be boring?
Consultants and bankers know that they’re up against people who are just as talented as they are, so they’re constantly thinking of how to grab attention within the first few lines. They try to impress clients with a well-chosen factoid about the industry, or to grab attention with a controversial view about where the market’s going. And the dating pool’s just as tough (if a little less combative).
You could tell her something interesting about what she’s drinking! Did you know, for instance, that the phrase “Dutch courage” stems from Dutch soldiers who used to drink gin before running into battle? Or bait the hook with something nonsensical but easy: “I bet five out of the next ten people who come to the bar will have a watch and order beer.” Or play the Would You Rather game: “Would you rather have a million dollars today or two million dollars in five years time?”
2) Sell yourself.
No, not that way! But remember: just as most busy CEOs have lots of people clamouring for their time and attention, so does the hottie you’re trying to attract. One way that bankers and consultants try to sell themselves is to talk about past achievements with other companies.
How does this work for individuals? (do not talk about your ex!)
If you’re a sporty person: stretch a little bit and wince. Then, when he or she asks you what’s wrong, self-deprecatingly say, “Oh, I must’ve sprained something playing football / diving for that last point in squash / when I was trying that new pose in yoga class. But it’s good fun!”
If you’re a high-flying corporate type: “Can I buy you a drink? Something really good happened at work and I want to celebrate.”
Then when they ask you, you can talk a bit more about what happened. The key here is to be more subtle than you would be in a business interview. You want to let the other person know that you’re a person of substance, and that hopefully gives you a way to talk to the other person about his or her hobbies too, and make a connection!
3) Be concise!
No one likes long-winded braggarts. It’s all well and good for you to tell him all about that time you totally detected a multi-million-dollar case of fraud in some company’s accounts, but if the other person’s eyes are glazing over, switch tactics immediately. Ask them about themselves and keep quiet for a bit.
4) Know when to back off… and when to be persistent.
You don’t want the reputation as the shameless creepy person! Please pay attention to body language – if he or she is leaning away from you, giving you single-word answers like “Yeah,” or “Mmhmm,” looking around the bar, texting desperately at his or her phone, or, worse, signaling friends to come rescue him or her, then for god’s sake, take a hint and back off. Go talk to someone else. Cutting your losses is the first thing that junior traders learn on the floor.
But when should you be persistent?
Confession time: sometimes I’m very mean at a bar, and so are some of my friends. Once, a girl asked one of my guy friends (let’s call him X) to buy her a drink at Zouk. X, being a terrible human being, grinned at her and said, “I’ll buy you one if you can give me three good reasons why.”
She stood there stunned for a good thirty seconds before she walked away without having said a word. X. and I ordered another round of shots and laughed about it for the next thirty minutes!
The moral of the story is: don’t back down if they challenge you. It just means you’ve got a feisty one who’s looking for a bit of banter or for someone who’s confident and not intimidated! So long as they’re still engaged in the conversation with you, keep going!
5) The follow-through
Make sure you “seal the deal”, as they say. Let the conversation draw itself to a natural close. Unless the two of you really, really click, twenty minutes to half an hour counts as a big success already. Say, “Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you, but I should really get back to my friends / I’m headed elsewhere for today / I’ve got to head off for now. Do you think we could talk again sometime, maybe?”
Get a number and text them on the spot to let them know yours – and follow through the next day! Forget the old-fashioned rule about waiting three days. This is the age of instant communications and ever-changing opportunities. As they say: strike while the iron’s hot!
And there you have it – five quick tips to up your game when making any kind of cold approach. Remember – these are applicable not only in love but in war, so they’re also good to use when you’re working on impressing your boss. But use them at a bar or a cafe or a bookstore and hopefully you’ll be able to impress that cute guy or girl that you’ve got your eye on!