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Life Health > Life Insurance

The reverse elevator speech: A test of authenticity

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One of the first things that people in professional sales are taught is that they must perfect their elevator speech, or the short narrative that exactly conveys their value proposition. This applies to both individuals and companies.

The term gets its name from the challenge of describing what you do to someone in a short amount of time (e.g., an elevator ride). The perfect elevator speech is one that you can recite consistently, on demand, with just a sentence or two.

These conditions met, your elevator speech may still not be perfect. The only way to have a perfect elevator speech is to also have a perfect reverse elevator speech.

To wit: a short narrative that people in the elevator would say to describe the value proposition they heard from you — after you leave the elevator. The speech thus describes what people say about you when you are not around.

Ideally, the elevator speech and the reverse elevator speech should match, not necessarily in words but in the meaning and attitude behind them. For example, let’s say an agent in the life insurance business has this elevator speech:

“I help families and businesses achieve and protect their financial dreams, using a powerful, proven process.”

The reverse elevator speech might sound like this: “Sounds like an insurance agent.”

While that might seem like a “match” (because technically it is), you cannot ignore the attitude of sarcasm. This isn’t good because the listener was left with an impression that the agent was not genuine.

Perhaps he was hiding something? He spoke in language that wasn’t the way real people speak with one another. His elevator speech was inauthentic.

But what about this elevator speech:

“I help families and businesses determine the right kinds of insurance they need, at a price that’s right for them.”

Even if the reverse elevator speech sounds like “He’s an insurance agent,” the note of sarcasm would be gone. Why? Because the second elevator speech has more elements of authenticity than the first.

Let’s examine each of these in the context of the six elements of authentic communication.

  1. Easy to understand — Using common, everyday words. Both of the elevator speeches do that well.

  2. Down to earth — Being approachable and painting a picture that seems attainable. The second wins because so many people are not progressing towards their financial dreams; therefore it could feel unattainable.

  3. Memorable — It sticks. The use of the word “right” twice in the second speech makes a stickier sound bite.

  4. Credible — Trustworthy and in the listener’s best interests. The second one does a better job because it’s clear that it’s about what’s right for them as it relates to coverage and price. The first sounds like the process could be more for the agent’s benefit and that insurance is being hidden.

  5. Positive — Warm and comforting. Both are about the same on this dimension.

  6. Relevant — It applies to the listener. The second one does the best job here, again because the value is clear. Protecting dreams is not very clear as to what it means.

The second elevator speech beats the first on four out of six dimensions, at least in one person’s opinion. This is a start to understanding how to improve the way we communicate.

Of course, the best results come from a variety of opinions. If you have an elevator speech, consider ways you might find out how well it matches your reverse elevator speech. Ask people what they took away. You will definitely learn something valuable.

Ultimately, what the insurance industry needs is to shift its thinking from outputs to outcomes. The elevator speech is an output.

The reverse elevator speech is an outcome. This is critical to improving perceptions of our industry and designing the customer experiences of the future.

Are you making that shift?


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