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One of the hardest things to do when you work for yourself is explain what you do to others. You likely wear a lot of hats and your income probably comes from numerous sources.
When someone asks what you do, where do you even begin?
In the episode, we help you find your “hook” or unique selling proposition. It’s not enough to give someone the WHAT and the WHO. You’ve also got to explain the WHY in a way that makes you memorable.
We walk you through developing your pitch and beyond. After all, a pitch is not meant to close the deal, it’s meant to start the conversation. We talk about how to do it and provide real examples of what that looks like.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Share something unique about what you do—why should someone remember you?
- During an elevator pitch, you don’t have to tell the person everything you do.
- If your target audience is everyone, your actual audience will be no one.
- The purpose of an elevator pitch is not to close the deal, it’s to get a conversation going.
- A good way to wrap up your pitch is to ask an engaging question.
- Listen to someone else tell your story back to you.
- You should have a one sentence pitch, a 30 second pitch, and a 90 second pitch.
- You can talk about concepts and principles all day long, but what drives a message home is when you give a story.
- Caring about what you do and the people you do it for requires that you put a confident foot forward.
- 04:21 Sean: People are familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch, so we’re just talking about how you tell someone what you do and why you do it in a short amount of time. You can use this in a number of places: meetups, conferences, or places where you don’t know someone, but you want to establish common ground so you can start a conversation.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
- 04:49 An elevator pitch is something that allows you to communicate in short form what your business does and what it is that you do. You’re trying to communicate something memorable about you—that’s the ideal pitch. It’s not just what you do: “I do video for a company that produces media.” That’s not super memorable.
Share something unique about what you do.
Why should someone remember you?
- 05:21 What’s unique about you? What makes you different? What’s your selling point? We were talking in the chat earlier, and Cory Miller asked if you should talk more about yourself or more about your company. Do you talk about what you do in your position or about who you do it for? It depends on the company you work for, whether it’s your own business, you work for a large company, or you work for a small company. If the company is ubiquitous, that’s one thing. You don’t have to explain what Apple, Adobe, or Google is. If it’s a smaller company, you may have to spend a little more time explaining what the company does, because you’re trying to get someone to care. What’s the hook here? What sets you apart and makes you different from all the other person someone could talk to?
- 06:22 Ben: When you say “hook”, I think about fishing. You throw the hook out there with the bait on it, and the fish gets ahold of it. The process of reeling a fish in, depending on what kind of fish you’re going after, can take quite a bit of time. It can be a struggle. There’s technique that goes into it. Sometimes, people think of an elevator pitch and they think of that whole process: casting the hook, hooking something, reeling it in, and holding up the fish for the picture. That’s not what the elevator pitch is; it’s getting the fish on the hook, and that’s where it stops. If you can’t get the fish on the hook, you’re not going to have the rest of the process.
Find Your Unique Selling Point
- 07:28 Sean: Someone was asking, “What do you do if you’re overlapping?” I think they meant that they have a day job, but they have this other thing they want to do that isn’t their full-time deal yet. When someone asks, “What do you do?” that person thinks, “What I spend nine hours out of my day doing is this day job,” and they feel like they’re being dishonest if they say that they’re doing something else when it’s just what they want to do. I would encourage you to think about this like your portfolio. What kind of work do you put on your portfolio? Do you put everything you’ve ever done on there? No, you don’t want to do that. You only put up the kind of work that you want to be hired for or known for. It’s the same with a pitch.
During an elevator pitch, you don’t have to tell the person everything you do.
- 08:13 You don’t even have to tell them what might take up right now the most time in your day. Tell them what you want to be known for, what you’re working towards, what you want people to come to you for, what you want people to see you as an expert on. That’s the thing you want to hone in on, even if you have a day job that you spend most of your time doing. If I were to give a pitch on Learn Lettering, what’s my hook? What makes my thing different; what is memorable about it? Let’s say I’m at a convention for artists or hand letterers. Why should I take Learn Lettering vs. this other lettering course, workshop, or book? My unique selling point for Learn Lettering is that it’s a hybrid between the art and business worlds. You learn the techniques, but you also learn the practical business knowledge you need to succeed, like working with clients, pricing, and licensing. All of that is stuff that will allow you to make a living from this full time in the real world.
- 09:27 That’s a unique selling point. Also, my production quality is very high at seanwes. If you’ve ever taken “Share Your Skills” type stuff or anything else out there, you see that there’s a lot of low quality production. Someone turns on their webcam or they’re not paying attention to the quality—the audio isn’t good, there’s no transcripts, it’s not edited, they’re rambling, etc. This is highly condensed, high-production quality stuff. These are examples of hooks, not how to present it. I’m trying to explain what a hook is. Another example is the seanwes Community. What’s different about the seanwes Community from some other community, local meetup, or some other grow-your-business-online type of membership site? The seanwes Community is filled with people who start from a standpoint of values.
- 10:29 They care about values and quality. They aren’t just there to make a quick buck or to optimize their conversions and sell as much as they can. Yes, there is practical stuff. We do talk about pricing, selling, launching, finding customers, and validation, but that’s not at the core of what we’re about. There’s a lot of sketchy marketing-type membership stuff. If you don’t want to buy into the sketchy, shady practices, you’re going to have to wade through a lot to find the gold nuggets. There’s a threshold here. All these other membership sites run $1 trials, free trials, and 7 day trials, trying to get as many people in because they want your money. They want to get you addicted and hooked. They’re going to close the doors, re-open them, discount, etc. You can imagine the kind of people in those membership sites.
- 11:34 We never discount. We never bring down that filtration, so the people here are high quality people. We have a custom chat system. You can pay $97 for memberships that are trying to do the same thing we’re doing, but all you get access to is a Facebook group. Really? A Facebook group? Or they might only have a forum. We have a custom chat system we’ve been working on for a year that’s built around the Community needs. We have a company mobile app. We have live shows streaming every day of the week. These are things that set the seanwes Community apart.
Find out what sets you apart and distill it down for your delivery.
- 12:27 Don’t just say, “I do video for this company who produces media.” What kind of video do you do? What makes it different from other companies? What does the company that you work for do? What makes it different? That’s the hook. You don’t want this person to say, “Okay,” shake your hand, go on to the next person, and never remember you, your face, your story, or what you did. You want them to go home and think, “Man, that guy talked about giving all of his employees a paid seventh week.” That’s going to stick with someone.
- 13:07 Ben: Yesterday, Aaron Dowd recorded a podcast episode with Cory Miller for The Podcast Dude called Podcast Artwork and Branding with Cory Miller. The idea they were trying to convey was that the purpose of podcast artwork is not to get people to be so compelled by what they see that they start listening to your show right away. The purpose of podcast artwork is to get people intrigued enough to read your description and start going down the path of discovering who you are. That’s what the elevator pitch is. You’re not trying to walk away from that first conversation with a sale or a new Community member. You’re trying to get them intrigued enough by this short thing you’ve delivered to them that they’re compelled to continue the conversation, they want to know more, and they start asking questions. That’s when you start reeling them in.
- 14:48 Sean: I like the parallel here, because podcast artwork isn’t trying to do all of the selling. It wants to get you in to experience some of this, to peak your interest.
The purpose of an elevator pitch is not to close the deal, it’s to get a conversation going.
What’s In an Elevator Pitch?
- 15:20 Clarissa asks, “How can you make your elevator pitch not seem like an elevator pitch? I was at a networking event the other day and was introduced to someone who immediately launched into, ‘This is my company, this is what I do, and this is how amazing it is,’ and then handed me her business card in about 30 seconds.” That is an example of bad networking, of someone who thinks that an elevator pitch is where you’re supposed to close the deal when it’s really supposed to be something that gets conversation going. A good format would be this:
- Here’s what I do.
- Here’s who I do it for.
- Here’s why that matters.
- 16:06 The way you could say that is, “I do x for this person so that they can y.” Why are you doing it? What are you enabling people to do? A good way to wrap up your pitch is to ask an engaging question. Again, this is not about closing the deal, it’s about starting a conversation. You’ve got this pitch and this hook, something memorable, and then you ask a question about them to hopefully get a conversation going. That conversation is going to be what someone remembers, and only after they’ve had that experience would you want to give them a business card so you can follow up and connect.
- 17:03 Ben: Someone in the chat asked, “Do you tweak your elevator pitch depending on who you’re talking to and what their specific needs are?” This doesn’t mean changing what you say that you do but what aspects you talk about. There may be a number of different benefits to your client from the service you provide, and you can highlight specific benefits as they pertain to the individual in front of you. What’s going to speak to them the most? You have to get to know them a little bit before you can determine that. Maybe you should always endeavor to get to know the other person a little bit first. Learn about them, let them speak first, and be the better listener.
- 18:04 In the Disney movie, Monsters Inc., there’s a scene where they’re going through different profiles of children and what they’re afraid of. There’s a different scare tactic for each one. The idea behind this is that you get to know this person and build a mental profile for them, and based on what you learn, you can call upon the specific way of presenting what you do that’s going to be most compelling for that person. It would take a lot of practice. Before I sat down and started thinking about this episode, I thought, “I should type out my elevator pitch and memorize it,” but you actually need to be so familiar with the unique benefits you provide, what your goals are, what you’re passionate about, and the language you use to describe those things, that it doesn’t matter what’s in front of you because you’re already armed with everything you need. Then, you just need to practice speaking that confidently.
- 19:23 Sean: Do you have an elevator pitch, Ben?
- 19:32 Ben: I do not have an elevator pitch written down. I’m having a hard time answering that because I don’t know who’s in front of me.
- 20:00 Sean: You should still have a generic one, because you’re not always going to know who’s in front of you.
- 20:07 Ben: I have a couple of different things going on. If I’m focusing on the thing that is really my long term plan, then yes, I do have an elevator pitch.
- 20:17 Sean: Emily says, “How can someone who hasn’t niched down yet have an elevator pitch that doesn’t make them sound spread too thin?” Exactly. At this point, I start chuckling to myself. You’re starting to see the tip of the iceberg of why, when you don’t niche down, you run into problems. Her follow-up question was, “Do you just tailor it to the listener?” Then you’re wondering, “Which of my personas do I deliver to you?” You don’t have a thing that you’re about. It’s difficult.
- 21:02 Ben: I put a picture of a business card in the chat earlier today that said, “I do a lot of stuff: writing, tutoring, computer help, business consulting, yard work, odd jobs.” He has his website and his wife’s Mary Kay website. It’s a real thing.
If your target audience is everyone, your actual audience will be no one.
- 21:43 Sean: Justin commented, “A good elevator pitch makes them want to get off the elevator with you.” What’s really important is the last two words, because otherwise it reads, “A good elevator pitch makes them want to get off the elevator.” That’s a very important distinction.
What is the Ideal Length of an Elevator Pitch?
- 22:36 This is my favorite method, and it’s actually how I came up with my pitch. You should have a one sentence pitch, a 30 second pitch, and a 90 second pitch. Create different versions. I don’t have notes for my pitch; I’m trying to make it real, authentic, and in the moment. Someone might say, “What do you do?” and I can tell that I don’t have half a minute but I need to say what I do. I used to really struggle with this. I would say, “I’m a designer, but I’m really doing more lettering stuff…” It starts to fall apart. I’m trying to explain everything about my complicated situation, and I’m too close to it emotionally to give someone a message of clarity. This just made me sound like a bumbling idiot.
- 23:32 The revised version was probably something like this: “I help people grow their business.” That’s very simplified, and everyone who knows me knows that there’s so much more than that. I know, but that’s the simplified version. The slightly longer version is, “My background is in design and business. I ran a web design firm and I taught myself hand lettering, so I spent thousands of hours learning hand lettering, and I got to the point where I was working with clients charging five-figure rates, selling my own physical products every day. Things were going well, except I realized everyone in my audience wanted to learn to do what I did. So, I took off of client work for six months and launched this course. It made six figures in three days, and that got everyone wondering how I did that. Ever since then, I’ve just been sharing everything I know.”
- 24:21 That’s the longer version. I can expand as needed if I have more time, go into more depth based on the person listening, tailor it to them. Let me tell you how you can get this clarity. Find someone who’s kind enough to sit down with you and listen to you tell your whole unabridged story, some poor unsuspecting soul. Sit them down, strap them to a chair, and have them listen to your whole story. It’s going to take you 20 minutes or half an hour or so. I did this at a meetup; I found a kind person who would listen to my story, and then I said, “You know what, if I got up from this chair and I went to go get a drink, and someone else came and sat next to you and asked, ‘I saw you talking to that Sean guy. What’s he all about?’ what would you say?”
How to Find Your Unique Selling Point
- 26:01 The next words out of his mouth were gold, and they will be for you as well. Find someone who will listen to your story, tell them the story, and then tell them like I just said, “If someone else came and sat down next to you right now while I went to go get a drink and said, ‘What is that Cory guy all about?’ what would you tell them?” Phrase it like that, not, “What did you just hear me say?” Don’t say that. Phrase it just that say, and what will come out of their mouth will be the most incredible, amazingly clear version of your story you’ve ever heard. That’s because they’re not emotionally attached to it. They aren’t so close to it that they can’t distill it down to the nuggets. The guy said to me, “It sounds like you’ve had success in client work, products, and teaching, and now you want to help other people do the same.”
- 26:53 How did he do that? It took me 20 minutes to say that. Write down verbatim that phrase that someone feeds back to you. You can’t get that kind of clarity by yourself—you’re too close to your own story. Get someone else to listen to your story. Here’s the three steps of this:
- Listen to someone else tell your story back to you, but don’t just ask them to repeat it. Phrase it as, “How would you now explain to someone else what I do?”
- Take what they say and you use that exact language.
- Anything else you want to add to that pitch, make sure it supports that phrase.
- 28:04 Ben: Sean is familiar with what I do. He has the benefit of already knowing that story; or do I actually have to tell it?
- 28:21 Sean: It will help if you tell the story, because then you can hear the distilled version back that you want. You could go up to a friend cold and say, “What do I do?” It’s probably going to be less close than you want.
- 28:39 Ben: I have something pretty specific in mind already.
- 28:54 Sean: For Ben, someone can come to him for branding and also possibly video and content marketing for their business.
- 29:11 Ben: That is actually my day job. What I’m really doing is the In the Boat With Ben stuff. That’s what I want my elevator pitch to be about. I help parent entrepreneurs find balance between work and family life and build healthy family relationships.
- 29:47 Sean: I like that. If I were to tell someone about your show, I can totally do that. I didn’t know that was what you were all about.
- 30:12 Ben: I’m projecting these other things that I’m doing because it’s my day job, the thing I’m using to overlap. The work I’m doing with In the Boat With Ben, especially as it relates to the Community that we have and the people who are a part of this Community and resonate with the things we’re talking about and sharing, that’s where my focus wants to be. This other stuff is fun and I enjoy doing it. I’m an artistic person, and I’m always going to find some outlet, but what I’m really excited about is what we’re building with In the Boat With Ben.
- 30:54 Sean: Ben, do you want other people to be excited about it? Would you be interested in feedback on enhancing that?
- 31:01 Ben: Absolutely.
- 31:10 Sean: This is going to be hard. We’re going to be talking about saying no to things so you can say yes to things. Ben is great on Periscope. I think that would be an excellent medium to use to further enhance the message you have with In the Boat, but it would also mean curating. You’re doing storytelling streams, and I think it would be stronger if you curated the parent-entrepreneur balancing creative life with family, if you talked, streamed, and wrote about that. I think that would really explode it. I’m just saying what would make it do well, and eliminating story time is a byproduct of what you would have to say no to.
- 32:20 Ben: I do enjoy doing a lot of those things, but I fear that, right now, it’s a surprise to people hearing about the In the Boat With Ben stuff and how I feel about that because of what I’ve been projecting. That’s telling. It means that Sean is right; I’m not curating that message enough.
Elevator Pitch & Personality
- 32:52 Cory: You have this big story, and you talk to someone and they can help you distill that down. That’s a really good way to do that. What would you say to someone for whom it’s very easy to give a short one-sentence pitch but they don’t know how to do that 90 second version? I always give something super short, and the other person says, “That’s it?” They want that 90 second version. I don’t have it.
- 33:25 Sean: You want to answer questions. I asked Cory earlier, “Hey, so you did a shoot this past weekend?” He goes, “I did indeed.” I said, “That’s what I get for asking an INTJ a yes or no question.” That’s totally how we are. We’ll answer your question efficiently. You could tell he was trying to stretch it, thinking, “If I just say yes then I’ll sound like a jerk, so I’ll say ‘I did indeed.'” We do that because we’re trying to be efficient. It doesn’t compute that that’s not really what you want to know. We wonder, “Why don’t you just say what you want to know?” You have to dig deeper.
If the person you’re pitching to isn’t asking questions, you need to preemptively ask the questions they’re really asking or don’t know to ask.
- 34:19 I’ll come up with some for you. Who is your target audience? How are you reaching them? If you reach them successfully, and they consume your content or your product, how is their life made better? What compels you to do this kind of work every day? What have you done to be able to do it? Imagine these questions and answer them. Say, “Hey, my name’s Cory. I’m a videographer, I’m a filmmaker, and all my life I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do. I know it’s something creative, and I realize that I want to tell stories through film. These are all the things I’ve done to support that. This is what I’m working on right now; it’s a film about this that does that for these people, who, if they watch it, my hope for them is that they will…” Fill in the blank.
- 35:55 Ben: Some people naturally over-explain. Use that to your advantage. Don’t see it as a weakness. I feel self-conscious about this sometimes. I’m sitting here, in the middle of talking, and at the same time I’m thinking to myself, “This is not the question they asked. This isn’t the answer they’re looking for, but I’m still talking.”
- 36:16 Sean: You get to the end of your spiel, and you’re thinking, “Oh man, what was their question? How can I bring this back around?” You say, “Now, I know you’re thinking, what does this have to do with what you asked? I’ve got you covered.”
Adapt Your Pitch
- 36:42 Sarah, asks, “What do you do when the other person does not understand what you do? For instance, they don’t know what a ‘lettering artist’ is?” Know your context and adapt. In some circles, your pitch may simply be explaining what a lettering artist is. That might actually be the most memorable moment for someone of the entire event. “Someone actually draws letters?” All letters are to them is a font someone picks on a computer, so learning that someone actually draws them might make no sense at first. It could be fascinating to them. In other contexts, such as a design conference, everyone is going to know what a lettering artist is, and they probably just talked to one. What makes you different? In that case, you don’t have to explain what a lettering artist is, so you say, “Lettering is exploding right now. Now everyone’s doing it, but this is what sets me apart, the area I’m focusing on and the person I’m trying to serve.”
- 37:58 Ben: Could you also focus on the unique value that what you do provides? For example, if I’m a lettering artist, they may not understand what a lettering artist is, but I could focus on the authenticity and the human element lettering creates. If I’m a lettering artist making a pitch: “I help companies to create a connection with their audience through a medium that feels very human and authentic.” Focus on that rather than trying to explain what lettering is. They don’t care as much about what lettering is as they do about what lettering can do for them.
Help People Care About Who You Are
- 38:46 Sean: How do you think that ties in to Emily’s question? “Are people more interested in what I do, who I am, or both? Should an elevator pitch be a mix, or one over the other?”
- 39:01 Ben: Focus on whichever one is going to leave that other person the most interested in continuing the conversation. Some people really are focused on the results, and some people are more focused on the person.
- 39:16 Sean: I go back to my What → Why → Whats concept. You’re in the middle here on this why, and you really want people to care about the why, the reason you do it, who you are. People have to come into that through an initial what. What are you about? This is where curation comes in. Make it clear and simple for people. We’re all complex; we all have tons of interests and no one only likes one thing. We’re trying to simplify it for people to make the entrance point clear, so they can come in through the entrance point and think, “Yeah, I get you. You’re the photography guy, the icon guy, the branding guy, the developing guy, the Node.js guy.” Really niche down so they feel like they get you.
- 40:07 There’s so much more to you, but people can’t process all of that. We’ve talked about the complexities of every individual and how no one can process all of it. They’re going to put you in a box. They’re going to say, “What are you? Are you an artist, developer, parent?” They’re trying to process you and figure out what box to put you in.
We can’t control that people are going to put you in a box.
We can control the box they put you in.
- 40:36 You can define that box. The problem is, since you’re going to go into a box anyway for people, if you don’t make yourself clearly definable then you go in the miscellaneous bin, the junk drawer. People only go in there to rummage through; they never go to that when they hope to find something very important to them. If you want to be processed, you have to simplify that what. The what brings them in. When it comes to a pitch, the what is of the most prominent importance in the beginning. You can say, “I’m an awesome person, I care about changing the world,” and that’s great, but I know a lot of people who are awesome and want to change the world.
- 41:30 What are you doing? What is your thing? What have you done and how can I buy into you? The why is intangible—it’s a mist you can’t grasp. You can see that why embodied in something real: “This is something I made. Here’s a case study of what I did, who it helped, and what the impact was.” Then that person gets it, gets what you’re about, and is on board with you and your why, wanting to know what else you do with that. That might be a bit much for a pitch, but hopefully it gets people thinking.
- 42:11 Ben: Most of the time, that’s the case, but occasionally there are people who naturally look more for who the person is.
- 42:30 Sean: People are not what they do, but can you really know who a person is by what they say and never see what they do? That’s is not their identity, but that’s something real that people can relate to, to take them in deeper.
- 42:58 Ben: A case where someone is more interested in who a person is is rare. Most of the time, they have no other context. You’re meeting them for the first time and getting to know them for the first time, so there’s no way to validate who you are. If there’s a person of high value with a certain personality type, it might seem like whatever they do will be high quality and committed to the process. You might get that sense from the time you spend with them. A person might not be looking for something specific, but is looking for a person. I get that sense from Sean when he’s hiring; he doesn’t hire for a specific job, he hires people.
- 44:07 Sean: I hire people when I believe in what they do, I believe in them, I believe in their values, goals, and aspirations, but it’s also as it’s embodied in something I can see that they’ve done. That brings me in to who they are. I’ve met a ton of people who have really great whys: “I believe in helping the homeless,” or “I believe in helping people grow their business,” or “I believe in this cool technology I want to build or this app idea I have.” I can’t give you any examples because I’ve already forgotten about them. They haven’t done something that’s enough of a real thing to hold onto to get who they are. It’s this mist. It’s a great mist, but I can’t bottle it, save it, or hold onto it.
- 45:12 Ben: I’m glad that we continue to hash this out. There are a lot of people who are convinced of how powerful their why is, but it really takes a lot of focus on a what in order for your why to really make an impact. I’ve personally experienced this, where my what has been a moving target, so my why never gets a chance to grow legs and get some real momentum. People can’t get behind it. I can do a lot of good on my own, but not nearly as much as I could if I focused on a what so people could get on board, get behind me, and help me push that further down the road. The why is there, but it’s not powerful enough by itself.
- 46:19 Sean: It’s just not tangible. We’re humans; we need something tangible to be able to grasp concepts. That’s why analogies, stories, and allegories are so powerful.
You can talk about concepts and principles all day long, but what drives a message home is when you give a story.
- 46:32 Even if it’s a silly fictional story with made up characters, that’s what people remember. That’s what they bring home with them. Even an imperfect tangible what is better than an intangible why. If you have this perfect idea for something but zero execution, it doesn’t exist. It’s better to have a rudimentary version of it that people can see and touch, because it can improve. In 2013, the Community looked nothing like it does now. In 2014, it looked nothing like it does now, but it was enough for people to start getting that it was real. It brought people together. Like we say, this is where the magic happens. Now, people understand that vision and that why because there’s these imperfect whats out there. That’s what allows you to bring people on to your team to see that vision through in a number of different other myriad of ways.
- 48:01 Ben: It’s scary, too. There are people who love their ideas so much and how perfect they are in their mind that they can’t to see it in a version that’s not as perfect as they imagine it.
- 48:19 Sean: We like to keep ideas in our minds because they’re safe there. They can be perfect there and they can’t fail there.
When we protect them by keeping them in our minds, our ideas can’t succeed.
Share Your Value Objectively
- 48:38 Steph asks, “I always have issues writing about myself and what I do because I don’t want to brag or sound pretentious or arrogant.” That makes sense to me. If you’re not accustomed to talking about yourself, you may have an association with bragging.
- 49:01 Ben: I have a hard time with that struggle, because I feel like I’m a very humble person. It sounds funny to say that, but I know that about myself, so I also know that when I’m talking about the work that I do or its quality, I don’t feel the need to over-sell it but I can just be honest about it without feeling like I’m bragging about myself. I’ve also seen how trying to express humility ends up having the opposite effect. If you say, “I’m okay,” it can come across as false humility, and that’s also unattractive. It’s difficult for me to answer that question because I don’t struggle with that as much when it comes to talking about what I do. I struggle with answering that question, because I don’t have the same issue.
- 50:27 Maybe this is a version of it that I still have. After a show, somebody comes up and says, “Hey that was really good. I really enjoyed it.” I used to do this thing where I would say, “It was okay,” and I would put on that false humility. A friend of mine who is a musician said, “The best thing you can do is just to say thank you.” That’s it. I started to do that and see that it’s not my job to try and temper their idea or perception of what I do. If they witnessed it, they experienced it, and that’s their impression of it, who am I to try and further shape that for them? Out of your own perception of how good your work is, you don’t want to attempt to shape that other person’s idea of how good your work is before they’ve even had a chance to experience it.
When you communicate your work as objectively as possible, you’ve done as much as you should do in shaping how others see the value and quality of your work.
- 52:00 Sean: I like to just be objective about it. That way, I don’t feel like I’m bragging or being overly humble with false humility. Just state the facts. I’m not even saying what I think of them. There are people who launched their e-book and made $16,000. I might think, “Okay, that’s cool.” My goals are such that I’m shooting for six-figure launches. That’s fine; I’m in a different place. Other people who hear that might think, “Wow, that’s incredible. What a success! I’m so proud of you. You just made $16,000, and that would take me months at my job to make.” Some people could assume that someone saying, “I made $16,000,” is bragging. To me, it’s objective.
- 53:17 If I say, “I launched Learn Lettering 2.0 and made $177,000, and here’s exactly how I did it,” or, “I spent 9,000 hours getting good at a skill. I started five years ago, just showed up every day, then I decided to help people, and now there have been 8,500 students that have signed up for Learn Lettering,” I’m just sharing the results. For me, I don’t ever feel like I’ve arrived. I do try to pause and spend a moment to express gratitude.
- 53:57 Look at the place we’re at right now. Look at the place we were at a few years ago. We’ve accomplished a lot. I take inventory of that so I don’t take it for granted, but at the same time, I don’t feel like we’ve really arrived or that this is it. Success is being able to wake up every day, do whatever fulfills you, and not have to worry about money. If that’s my definition of success, I believe myself to be successful. It’s not because I’ve done six-figure launches or because of how many employees I have, how many products I’ve sold, what rates I’ve charged clients, or how many times I’ve spoken in the past year. None of that matters. My definition of success is much simpler. Do I wake up and do the thing that fulfills me and have it also support me? In that case, I’m successful.
Let other people think whatever they want to think about what you’ve done and tell them the objective results.
- 55:06 If anything keeps me grounded, it’s when people do come up and pay me a compliment. They say, “Hey Ben, you did a great show. I really enjoyed it,” or, “Thanks so much Sean for doing your podcast. I’ve gotten a lot out of it.” Center yourself around gratitude. Be fully genuine in that gratitude and present in the moment. Every time I say thank you to someone, I truly mean it. “Thank you for your comment. Thank you for saying in the chat that we did a great show today.” When I say, “Thanks for tuning in guys,” to the Community members here, I really mean that. Thank you for sharing a couple hours or moments out of your day with us. Thank you for your kind words. Express gratitude and be genuine in that. Maybe you make some money, get some results, sign-ups, or sales from the work that you do, but ultimately, it comes down to people and the real lives that you’re affecting. Has Learn Lettering allowed people to charge better rates and actually make this a sustainable career for them? Yes, it has. That to me is what makes something successful.
- 56:27 Ben: I like this phrase: “I feel honored.” It’s an honor to be able to do this. That’s not a way of saying that I’m not qualified to do this but I get to do it anyway—I’m not saying that. We’re offering value here, and people show up and listen to that. People sign up for the Community and they get to experience even more value. It’s an honor to get to do this. If you think that way about your work, if you think that it’s an honor that you get to design stuff that helps businesses have more impact with their customers, it makes it a lot easier to speak objectively about the things you do and the results you provide.
- 57:30 Sean: Tying this around full circle to Steph’s question, she’s saying that she doesn’t want to sound like she’s bragging or being pretentious. If you don’t sell yourself enough to where someone thinks you’re a trustworthy source or someone they should care about or listen to, you’re doing them a disservice. If you really believe in what you’re doing and you believe it’s something of quality and value that people should experience, they’re only going to experience that if you get past yourself to talk about yourself. If you have so much inhibition that you don’t want to talk about yourself because you feel like it’s bragging, it’s going to have the opposite effect, which is not making people care at all and not giving them the thing that will make their lives better.
- 58:29 By not talking about yourself, by not explaining what you’ve done and what has made you who you are up to this point and why the other person should care, then you don’t care about what you’re doing. You don’t care about your products or your services because you don’t care enough to present yourself with enough confidence to make the other person care. Maybe that helps someone out there. You have to dig deep. Ask yourself, “Do I care about this? Do I want to help people?”
Caring about what you do and the people you do it for requires that you put a confident foot forward.
- 59:03 Ben: Being self-deprecating or not talking about yourself is really a more self-centered thing to do than being objective and talking about what you do.
- 59:17 Sean: I like this question from Isabelle. She says, “‘Silly question’—Why does the elevator pitch always feel like I’m trying to sell a terrible used car to some poor old women? When in fact it’s not at all a con. Must be because we are conditioned to thinking sales people are sleazy.” It comes back to whether you believe in what you’re selling. Maybe it’s not a product. Like we said, you’re not trying to close the deal. What you’re selling is you, your story, what you do, and why the other person should care. You need to come back to your why to source from that. This is why I can be confident in pitching to this person, because I really believe that it’s going to enrich their lives (Related: episode 124 How to Market Your Products or Services Without Feeling Awkward & episode 186 How to Self Promote Without Feeling Like a Loser).
- 1:00:24 Ben: You have to know where some of that is coming from. Sometimes we attribute that to our own motivations instead of attributing it where it belongs with the poor examples we’ve seen in culture. You have these poor examples bouncing around in your head. There’s a cultural stigma that goes along with the sleazy sales person, and you don’t want to be put in that camp. You’ve got these things, but you’re attributing them to your own motivations. It’s important to recognize that that doesn’t come from you; that’s not who you are.
- 1:01:27 Sean: You have a complicated situation, especially if you’re working for yourself. Acknowledge that. Tell the full long story to some kind soul, have them tell it back, listen to them tell it back, capture the essence of that, look for the key phrase they distill it down to, and then support that key phrase with elements of your story. Cut out anything that doesn’t enhance that message. You actually do have to practice this, so the last step is to practice, practice, practice. Sit down, distill it down, write it out, say it, record yourself, and listen back. It’s a whole cycle of refining that message. The more intimately you know it, the more you can adapt it to the person you’re talking to and not actually say it word for word.
- 1:02:29 Ben: Amber said, “I used to do sales, and it was me talking to large groups of people. I was the top seller in the US, so then I had to do inspirational talks to other sales people, and I found that I had to be almost an actor of myself.” There’s some encouragement in there. Sometimes we feel like if something doesn’t come out naturally, that means it’s not authentic, but that’s not true. It just means that you haven’t practiced it very much. For some of us who never speak in front of people and never have to deliver something like an elevator pitch, it may feel completely unnatural, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not authentic. That’s where the practice really comes in.