Book Review: Small Message, Big Impact


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I agreed to review this book for one reason only. It was the email from my favorite literary agent, Kevin Small. That was it. Before that I didn’t feel the compelling need to read another ‘How to create your value proposition message’ book. I’m not saying that I’ve got that nailed; just that it wasn’t the most urgent thing on my list.

But then Kevin sent me a very compelling email. I was intrigued, entertained, and wanted to know more. And then of course it was obvious: If Kevin was using what he learned from Small Message, Big Impact to structure and compose his email, then I wanted to did deeper.

And I’m glad I did.

Small Message, Big Impact is written by Terri L. Sjodin and is subtitled “How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech to Work for You”. It runs to just short of 200 pages and is packed full of good ideas. Terri has her own definition of an Elevator Speech and I particularly like the last sentence which reads:

Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.

(I added the bold emphasis here to highlight why I love this.)

  • Objective: Intrigue and inspire is of course much better than inform or sell
  • Call to Action: The only thing you want to achieve is for the listener to want to near more
  • Timeframe: As you know the value of all leads/prospects wane rapidly over time, and when your piqued someone’s interest it is important to act in the near future.

From recent experience, I know that it can be very difficult to develop an elevator speech that gets to the nub of the matter quickly without over-loading on detail. When we settled on ‘Sell Smarter. Manage Better.‘ as the descriptor for both the company and our Dealmaker product, it was indeed crafted to intrigue and inspire. We followed that with ‘According to the Aberdeen Group, customers of The TAS Group realize 21% greater quota achievement.’ to describe the benefit. The combination seems to work well on short and long elevator rides alike. (By the way, we used Twitter to test the messages, and Linkedin to survey the market before we finalized this.)

As an aside; I’m not the easiest audience on this topic. I wrote extensively on Creating Value Propositions in my Select Selling book in 2004, so at least I think that I know something about the subject matter. I’m either consciously competent, or unconsciously incompetent, and neither option provides a low threshold of satisfaction.

Small Message, Big Impact is a really enjoyable read, not hard to digest, or cumbersome in structure like some of the other books that tackle this area. Its readability can sometimes mask its depth and it was helpful to review the summary at the end of each chapter to make sure none of the key messages were missed.

Terri does a great job of providing a structure for the elevator speech. Occasionally for me it get a little formulaic, but that might suit others well. I would recommend reading the book to judge that for yourself. You will get many wonderful nuggets that you can apply immediately.

There is real value in Small Message, Big Impact. For me, there are a few messages that constantly come through as you make your way through the book. (These are my interpretations and my words, so any shortcomings here are probably mine not Terri’s.)

  1. Context is everything
  2. You can’t deliver an elevator speech (read value proposition) smoothly without lots of practice
  3. Every elevator speech is a sales call – you need to plan it, and be clear as to what you want to achieve.
  4. And did I say ‘Context is everything’?

This book is well worth the read.

Oh, and by the way … here is the email from Kevin that started it all.

Hi Donal,

I usually sit down and pour some serious time into my notes to you (especially when I have a new author I really care about). But right now I’m in Washington DC on a whirlwind book tour.

Its one of those book tour launches that is non-stop: appearances, special speaking gigs and interviews at all hours. So anyway I’m holed up in a quiet corner of the Renaissance Hotel with a great story to share with you.

I took on a new client Author, Terri Sjodin, who pitched me her new book; Small Message, Big Impact: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. She is the ULTIMATE elevator speech guru. Anyway – I picked up the manuscript and burned through it on the plane out here to the tour. This was the first book I’ve read in the past two years that I put into action immediately. I mean literally.

On the first day of the tour before the fireworks start I get a meeting with publisher of a major house. My purpose is straight forward. I think publishing is screwed. This whole system isn’t working and something has to change. I was there to pitch something totally new. I’m watching what Seth Godin has done with the Domino Project and I think it is all wrong. I’ve got my big idea and I’m racking my brain for how to get this guy to buy into my point of view.

Between the plane ride and my meeting – I took Terri Sjodin’s book Small Message, Big Impact and literally rewrote my Mr. Big Pants Publisher pitch in a cab from JFK. Terri convinced me I was pitching completely BACKWARD. Albeit a little on the nervous side to have a brand new elevator pitch – but with Terri’s help via the book – I completely nailed the meeting. I walked out of what was a 20 minute meeting a hour and a half later with an agreement to launch a new deal for authors (more on that in the future).

So my point in all this….? If you are looking to pitch someone – don’t wait until you’re on your way to the meeting like I did to read Terri’s new book Small Message, Big Impact. Oh – and if you want a free advance reader copy – shoot me a reply with where to send it and I will get you one of the 30 copies I have for my blogger friends.

Again, thanks for letting me bring you these little gems.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Donal Daly
Donal is Founder and CEO of The TAS Group the creators of the Dealmaker intelligent sales software application. Donal also founded Software Development Tools - acquired by Wall Data (NASDAQ: WALL), NewWorld Commerce, The Customer Respect Group and Select Strategies. Donal is author of five books including his recent #1 Amazon Bestseller Account Planning in Salesforce. He can be found on his blog at or on Twitter @donaldaly


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