I think everyone, newly promoted or not, struggles with this one at some point in their career. How do we talk about what we do and talk about it without boring ourselves and everyone around us to tears.
The default, of course, is to fall back on your title – I’m a banker, I’m an accountant, I’m a attorney, etc. One of the main problems with this approach is that we, as human beings, like to categorize things. It helps us make judgments. So if you tell me you’re a banker, I put you in my mental banker box with all of the other bankers. I have family members who are bankers, I know what they do, so of course I know what you do. This isn’t accurate of course, but it happens.
Being put in a “box” can have a very negative effect, based upon the listener’s experience. I have had financial advisors tell me that they have had people walk away from them at networking events, as soon as they heard who they work for – ouch!
Soon we are told we need a 30 second introduction, a talking logo, an elevator pitch, or (my favorite) a a One-Breath commercial. Whatever you call it, this usually takes the form of a mini-speech, where you provide more detail about what makes you “unique”.
While all of these tools, when used correctly, are useful, I think you will be better off when you can have a conversation (vs. a speech) about what you do.
Your ability to have a conversation will vary with each setting. Even in cases where you can’t have a conversation (when you are going around the room introducing yourselves), you can give your “speech” in a conversational tone.
You need to give people enough information to give people context. But that’s enough for now, just context. Your name, your company name, and your general field. You may need to leave out your company or field at this time if it would be detrimental (see financial advisor example above).
Once you have provide some context, be specific about who you help and the problems you solve. The more specific you can be, the better. Your listener want to know 1) am I that person and 2) do I know anyone like that?
Also, the more specific you are, the more likely they are to remember you two weeks from now when they do run into someone with a problem that your solve.
A lot has been written about 30 second commercials. Rather than re-hashing that info here, I’d like to spend some time discussing how to be more conversational with your commercial.
Questions, questions, questions
When having a one on one conversation, ask the other person to tell themselves about you first. Ask questions to get a clear picture of what they really do (remember, most people are not good at explaining this) and figure out how you can help them.
Another way to be more conversational is to start off your “commercial” with a question. Use a question to see if the person you are talking to identifies with the problems you solve:
“Do you know how there seems to be a lot of questions about health care reform, but not a lot of answers? I work with small business owners to show how the new rules impact them and what they can do about it.”
Another way to use a question to create a conversation is to follow up with “you don’t happen to know anyone who would be interested in that, would you?” More often than not, the person you ask will need to ask you some clarifying questions before they can answer you. This can be a great way to gauge how well your message is coming across.
Using “even if” can help emphasize a point or help people get over an early objection. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before:
“We can put you in a car, even if they have less than perfect credit.”
Use “even if” to help start a conversation by dispelling common misconceptions about your service or industry. For example, do most small businesses think they are to small to need your payroll services?
“We work with small businesses to take care of all of their payroll needs, even if they only have 1 employee.”
Maybe you provide sales training to accountants who think sales is just about making cold calls:
“I help accountants close more deals, even if they hate making cold calls.”
Paint a Picture
Using examples can be a great way to create a picture for those listening. Share (in general terms) a recent story about someone you worked with and how you helped them. Let’s pretend I’m an estate planning attorney
“ – for example, I worked with a couple last week who had a will and thought they had everything taken care of. However, if one of them died next week, they would have had a huge, unexpected burden because …”
Some people advocate having several different versions of your “30 second commercial”. I’m not a fan of that approach. If you feel you need to “vary your pitch” I would recommend doing so by using different examples of who and how you help.
I hope you find one or two things in this post that help you feel more comfortable talking about what you do.
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant