Friends who supervise transition programs often reach out and ask me to speak to groups. I’ve probably done almost a thousand talks about my life and employment for teenagers and adults who are blind or low vision. Suffice it to say, recently a number of my talks about career and employment have been virtual due to the impact of the pandemic. I am a consultant for the entertainment industry, and when I work outside of entertainment it’s often for the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) because I truly believe in their impact. Earlier this year my work in film was temporarily put on hiatus due to COVID-19. That opened up some free time for me to help out with the ConnectCenter’s The National Transition Conversation.
What is a sales pitch and why do you want one?
Whether in person or remote, during these talks, I almost always cover your elevator pitch and sales pitch. Most teenagers ask, what is an elevator pitch? I explain it like this; if you were getting on to an elevator with the person who has the ability to give you your next job, and you have from the ground floor until the 22nd floor to sell them on who you are and what you would bring to their business, what are you going to say? This brief opportunity is where you use a short sales pitch – you’ll often hear this called your elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch, should be 20-30 seconds long and cover the basics: your name, where you go (or where you went) to school, your skills or interests, and your goal: this is your closing statement. You can search YouTube or the internet for examples of elevator pitches for students. Developing an elevator pitch is a life skill, not just an employment skill. You will use a short introduction when meeting new people throughout your life. This takes practice, but it’s the key to making sure you are talking about yourself with confidence. The more you use your elevator pitch, the more comfortable you will be saying it to people.
You will also want a longer sales pitch to use when you have more time to introduce yourself, most often you’d use a sales pitch at something like the opening of an interview, or you might use it as a follow-up to your primary elevator pitch. This second sales pitch should be a minute or so (up to 2 minutes) long. You pick how much detail to give and how long to speak depending on the audience and situation. I meet new people quite often, mostly virtually right now, but when I meet new people I use my sales pitch.
Once you have the basics of your elevator pitch, create a list with your education, experience, skills, and goals, then craft a little speech out of it. Feel free to add something fun or humors in these areas, as it might make you memorable. I have a friend who mentions his first job where he had to stand outside of a store wearing a costume to suggest people enter. I throw in a “go Pirates” or “go ‘Noles” for my colleges. Personally, I also bring up my vision. Not everyone will agree bringing up the disability part, but I believe in taking control of my messaging. I want to open the door to that conversation, but I also want to control the message. I don’t want an interview to become just about my disability, so I am quick to move on to how I use technology, and the skills that I bring to the job. I don’t just mention the blindness-related technology, as I explain how I use mainstream tech. In an interview, I might be prepared to demonstrate my Apple iPhone or another device to show my skills.
Take the time to craft and refine your sales pitch by writing it out, reading it out loud to yourself, revising it, recording it, reviewing the recording, and then practicing again via phone or video calls with trusted friends or a mentor: You never know when you will have an opportunity to use your sales pitch, so you want to be comfortable and fluid with briefly telling someone about yourself.
What should you include in your sales pitch?
In general, a sales pitch should include:
- Your name
- Volunteer work (depending on how much of the above you have to include)
- Work that you do or hope to do (this is your closing).
As a person with vision loss you also want consider including:
- Your disability in practical terms: not medical diagnoses or details
- How you use technology
- How you travel
How to use your sales pitch
If this is just a conversation with a new person in everyday life, I keep my pitch short and simple. I use my elevator pitch and focus on my name and two or three items that might resonate with my audience. I don’t dig out a lot of the information from my longer sales pitch and I don’t go into great detail. A good plan is to always leave your audience wanting. I keep my pitch brief to give my new acquaintance some space to ask questions instead of trying to tell them everything upfront. This way, I’m not coming off as a bore by monopolizing the conversation. Starting with a short introduction ensures you leave a good impression without overwhelming someone or losing their interest. If my new acquaintance asks questions or seems to genuinely want to know more about me or my experiences, I can break out stuff from my longer sales pitch. Bonus, using your short elevator pitch and longer sales pitch more often gives you added opportunities to practice and become more comfortable speaking about yourself.