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The Elevator Pitch, Part 2: Keep It Simple

By Thomas Coyle September 16, 2016

In this two-part series we explore how financial advisors can make the most of opportunities that can arise whenever they get a chance to tell people what it is, exactly, they do. Read Part 1 here.

For financial advisors, explaining what they do can be a challenge. Though vital to their business development efforts, an accurate “elevator pitch” can come off as technical and elitist — especially if it’s too convoluted or jargony, say experts.

Faced with this dilemma, Thomas Balcom opts for simplicity. The Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla.-based advisor tells people he’s “a financial lifeguard.”

In this role, he says, he prevents “folks from drowning financially before they have had the opportunity to enjoy their retirement.”

With his lifeguard analogy, Balcom — whose firm 1650 Wealth Management runs about $65 million — is trying to highlight his core mission as an FA.

“Most people are short-sighted and live for the ‘now’ without planning for the future,” he says. “I aim to help clients ensure that they can reach the ‘then’ by preventing them from taking too much or too little risk with their portfolios.”

Norman Boone

Norman Boone likes the clarity of water-based images as well. The head of Mosaic Financial Partners in San Francisco says he and his colleagues “help people navigate their lives and make good decisions about their money.”

This “simple statement most often leads to other questions and a listing of their concerns, which obviously leads to more detailed discussion,” adds Boone, whose firm manages about $550 million.

Darin Shebesta of Jackson Roskelley Wealth Advisors — a planning-only firm in Scottsdale, Ariz. — uses an even simpler pitch.

“I work with people to make better financial choices,” he tells those who ask. Or he might just say, “I work with people to preserve their lifestyles.”

For ISBDC, a business-service provider to small businesses of all kinds, a strong elevator pitch is one that takes account of its audience.

For this reason, it can be good to sound out who’s asking before launching into a canned recitation of one’s value proposition.

After all, how you tell a banker what you do might not fly with a physician, and vice versa.

In this vein, it also helps to be specific about the kinds of clients you serve.

A financial advisor who works with “everyone” is likely to get lumped in with other, similarly unfocused, planners, says ISBDC.

Above all, says ISBDC, “don’t be too salesy” in your elevator pitch.

“The goal of a business elevator pitch is to get your audience to understand what your business is about and what it can do for them (or someone they know),” the consulting firm says in a report. “It’s not to close a deal.”

Or, like Cindy Richey, president of Prosperity Planning in Kansas City, Mo., you can dispense with the idea of making a formal pitch altogether when someone asks how you make a living.

“I don’t like cute elevator speeches,” says Richey, whose firm manages about $140 million. “So I try to answer in a way that someone can easily understand.”

Richey leads with a reference to a coveted professional designation and follows up with a simple and fairly general statement about what she does.

“I’m a CFP professional, and basically I help people make good financial decisions,” she says. “Usually that’s investing but it also includes tax planning, estate planning and lots of other things.”