WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Today, I started watching “Ozark” on Netflix. It’s a pretty good show, thus far, and I’d recommend it to anybody looking to add another binge-worthy staple to their Netflix queue. But I’m here to talk specifically about one scene, the one referenced in the screenshot above.
To give you a little background, the scared dude sitting on the ground with the gun pointed at his heart is Marty Bird (Jason Bateman, playing as he usually does, the type of middle-class, WASPish, never-expects-the-predicaments-he-finds-himself-in, Eugene Levy-for-the-millennial-crowd roles he’s been playing since Arrested Development), an apparently small-time financial advisor who also just happens to be THE BEST MONEY LAUNDERER IN CHICAGO. The guy attached to the shiny .45 standing opposite him is Del, a no-nonsense sociopath, from whom Marty’s associates skimmed a cool $8 million over three years. Del comes to collect, they don’t have the money, four out of the five would-be thieves end up in barrels of hydrochloric acid, yada yada yada.
Now we come to the interesting part. Having seen these type of “wait, wait, I can fix this” scenes played out in more movies and tv shows than I can count, I was all ready to hear Marty beg for his life, promise to repay the money, and never ever go astray again. Instead, what does he say?
“More shoreline than California.”
Now, we know, from watching the episode that what’s he’s saying is a repetition of what one of his acid-washed buddies told him earlier in the episode regarding the tourist industry at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. But, the way Marty uses it here, it forms the perfect hook and launches the scene into a masterclass on how to create a rock-solid elevator pitch on the fly!
“More shoreline than California,” he repeats, causing Del to stop and stare questioningly as if he’s lost his mind. Marty goes on to explain that Lake of the Ozarks is a goldmine, a money-launderer’s paradise, with huge amounts of tourism, and cash washing in and out of the system every summer, all far away from the prying eyes of the various federal law enforcement agencies that have made the game in Chicago too hot to be profitable anymore. Del is intrigued, and in a series of following scenes, eventually gives Marty not only his life and his family’s life, but sets him on the path that forms the rest of the series.
Three Things You Can Learn About Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch
So, let’s get right down to the meat of this post: What can we learn from Marty’s pitch to Del in “Ozark”? Here’s three things you can implement that will instantly improve your elevator pitch.
1) Pay attention to your audience, and improvise if necessary
Clearly, in the scene, Del wasn’t going for the usual begging-and-pleading routine. That had been tried by every other character up to that point, with universally fatal results. So, Marty was forced to focus on a different angle: Proving that he was too valuable to kill.
Yeah, this whole post is an extreme example but it still bears the point: you have to identify what your target audience wants and needs, not what you think you can best provide. Marty knew his life was meaningless to Del, so he focused on ways he could be more valuable alive rather than dead.
In the same way, your elevator pitch needs to be able to be tailored on the fly to adapt to the needs of your target audience. You need to focus on two or three “big rock” principles and deeply understand those principles so that you can apply and connect them for your customers in ways that are tailored to their unique situations.
2) Under-promise, Over-deliver
Never give away your best stuff in your elevator pitch! Give your audience just enough to get them to start asking you questions. Like Marty, capture their attention with an unexpected lead-in that demonstrates your ability to take them and their business in a totally new direction. You have to create a totally new train of thought in their head that activates their curiosity and makes them need to know more.
3) Know When To Shut Up
If you watch the scene, pay attention to Marty’s timing. After he captures Del’s attention, and totally forces his mind to start moving in a new more curious direction, he shuts up and waits for buy-in. This is the key moment of the whole elevator pitch. If you’ve presented your pitch right, your customer will be dying to decide they want to know more. If not, no amount of cajoling or word-smithing will change their opinion now. At this point, you’ve missed your shot, on to the next target. But, if you time it right, and use the psychological resistance that all human beings have to avoid awkward silences, then you can expect your potential client to initiate the next phase of the conversation. Be ready for that next phase but let the client lead you there.
In the end, while hopefully none of you will ever be in the position Marty Bird found himself, I hope these three quick principles will help guide you to crafting and pacing the perfect elevator pitch for your audience and your business.
Originally published at noholdsbarredleadership.wordpress.com on September 10, 2017.