Current Issue
Material Handling Wholesaler Cover
October 2018
Eileen Schmidt discusses how Material Handling is a fast paced, rewarding profession for women.

Industry News

View Material Handling Wholesaler's profile on LinkedIn

Elevator selling. New heights in networking.
Jeffrey Gitomer
Jeffrey Gitomer

Going up? More than 10 floors? I challenge you to try to get a business card or lead on your next elevator trip.

Thousands of people take the elevators every day. Usually in dead silence. Company presidents and salespeople in the same elevator and no one is speaking. That's no fun. I have taken a new approach to elevator riding – trying to meet someone and get a card or a lead every time I go up or down and there's someone else in the car.

Here's how it works:

  1. I watch who enters or see who is on when I enter. I try to select the best prospect from among the passengers. If there's only one other passenger the choice becomes infinitely more clear.
  2. I immediately engage him or her with a statement or question – usually humorous.
  3. If they laugh or smile, I say "What do you do?" What do you do is the operative line in this process. In four words you have struck the target in the bullseye. It's quick, exactly to the point and non-threatening.
  4. They will immediately tell you what they do. (People love to talk about the subject that interests them the most – themselves.)
  5. If they seem to be a prospect, you close with "Give me your card and I'll send you some information I think you can use."
  6. He or she gives you the card before the door opens and you win the game.
  7. Give him or her your card. Shake hands firmly.
  8. You follow up within 24 hours.

Your opening line on the follow up call is easy. "I'm the guy in the elevator, I finally got off and thought I'd give you a call," and both of you will laugh.

Personal experience: On my way up the elevator to the Business Journal last week I engaged a clean cut, good looking young man and learned he had just started selling life insurance. A great prospect. We exchanged cards. That night HE CALLS ME to be sure I sent him the information I promised, and to try to sell me insurance. He didn't, but he became a customer of ours yesterday. I guess it works both ways. But it works!

And remember, every CEO and bigwig in this city gets on an elevator. Want a chance to meet him or her? Just start talking. Any time you're in any elevator it will work.

Here are some additional guidelines for successful elevator networking:

  • You ain't got much time. Start talking immediately upon entering the elevator. Try to say the line "What do you do," before the elevator begins to move.
  • Have your cards in your shirt or jacket pocket so you can get to them in a second.
  • Don't press. If the person chooses not to talk, let it be.
  • Men will be more receptive than women.
  • If it's a hot one, get off the elevator on the prospect's floor if you haven't completed the deal.
  • Men – don't follow women off the elevator – these days you're likely to get a kick in the groin or a face full of mace, if she feels you have the wrong intentions.
  • If you didn't get all the info, watch which way they turn, and follow up with a cold call.
  • It's awkward the first few times. Practice until you can get the person to smile and respond to your opening remark before the elevator door closes.

Try this approach: Get on the elevator at the top floor, tell the person you have a deal for them and you can get them in on the ground floor – in fact, we'll be on the ground floor in 30 seconds! If they laugh, you've got 'em.

It's fun, you get to build communication skills, you become a bit bolder, you meet new people, and you'll make a few sales. Try it.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of twelve best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His real-world ideas and content are also available as online courses at For information about training and seminars visit or email Jeffrey at