Networking events and social gatherings pose great opportunities to build business relationships and get the word out about your company and the services you provide.
The scenario is familiar: a room full of people mingling and discussing business, trying to make connections. When a potential client approaches you and asks the ultimate question, "What do you do?" your answer is crucial. This is your chance to put yourself in position to score a sale, but you must respond in a way that attracts their attention, or the opportunity will pass and the person will move on. You may never get another chance.
The key is to make a good first impression and appeal to your prospective clients' needs. But how do you do this? Is there a reliable way to get attention with just a few words and avoid the "glazed-over look" from prospects?
You can get this attention and interest by knowing exactly what to say. It's like swinging at a baseball - you either strike out, go foul, or make a solid connection. Your response to their question about what you do, when phrased properly, will get you solidly on first base. Here's how:
Play Marketing Ball
Marketing Ball is a model based on a diagram of a baseball diamond. It takes some of the mystery out of the marketing and sales process.
Start at home plate, go around the bases, and then back to home. Getting home means you've "scored" by winning a new client. But before you score, you need to get to first base – where you have your prospect's attention.
First base is where every business needs to get to before anything else – in a brochure, an advertisement, a web site, or a simple verbal introduction. If you don't get to first base, you're out of the game. After you're on first base, it's easier to get around the diamond. Second base is where a prospect is ready to explore working with you. Third base is when a client is ready to buy from you, and home base is when the sale is actually consummated.
First base is the most crucial and is deceptively simple. Just like in a baseball game, it is the initial hit of every sale. In networking situations, the hit comes when the person you're speaking to shows some interest and wants to know more. You have four different ways to get onto first base, and some are more effective than others. In fact, the first two hardly ever result in a hit, but people persist in using them.
The majority of business people use labels to get attention. When asked what they do, they respond with: "I'm an accountant (or a management consultant, an executive coach, or a widget salesperson)." Those labels may be accurate, but they sure aren't very attention-getting.
People develop their own pictures of what those labels mean. What stereotypes can you think of for lawyers or used car salespeople? Are these pictures always accurate? Of course not. Let's take accountants, for example. People tend to think accountants are boring. So when you reply to the question about what you do with the label, "I'm an accountant," in the back of most people's minds they think you're boring. Not much of an attention-getting marketing impression is it?
So forget labels. Don't ever lead with your label. It makes people pigeonhole you and it works against you almost every single time.
When people stop using labels to introduce themselves, they often start using a process to describe what they do. Again, consider our intrepid accountant who, rejected every time he used the accountant label, now tells people that he prepares taxes and does financial statements.
This is a little better, but not much. A process doesn't answer the question on everyone's mind: "What's in it for me? You prepare taxes and do financial statements. So what? What's the advantage, the thing that will help my business?" When you talk about what you do in terms of a process, you become a commodity. After all, every accountant prepares taxes and does financial statements. There's nothing to distinguish you and, once again, you fail to get attention.
Undeterred, our persistent accountant learns that he must speak in terms that mean something to the prospect. Now he emerges with the statement or "Audio Logo": "I help people in the restaurant business reduce their taxes and increase their cash flow."
This is a whole lot better. Mr. Accountant has targeted his market and clearly expressed a desirable result or solution he can accomplish for his clients. Using a solution-oriented response will get the accountant, and you, on first base more often. To spark interest, say who you work with and the solution you provide for them.
Here are some examples:
"I work for high tech companies to improve the communication skills of their technical managers."
"I help writers who want to get their first book published quickly."
"I offer training for leaders who want to beat the competition more often."
"I provide equipment for hospitals that gives a six month return on investment."
If you're speaking to the right person, all of these are likely to get you onto first base. And this is usually as far as most business people go.
However, solution-oriented Audio Logos don't always yield maximum interest. When you tell someone the solution or result you provide, it often sounds just too good to be true. The inward response goes something like, "Well, of course he's promising that, but can he really deliver?"
People are, by nature, skeptical, and it's easy to arouse skepticism with a solution-oriented Audio Logo. To a writer who's been trying to get a book published for years, the promise of getting it published quickly isn't even close to reality. So they can't hear what you're saying.
Let's go back to the accountant example. He's been getting some results with his solution-oriented Audio Logo, but not enough to satisfy him. So instead he tries a response based on a problem: "I help people in the restaurant business who are tired of paying too much taxes and having terrible cash flow."
When you use a problem-oriented Audio Logo you communicate to your prospect that you understand their suffering. You don't even have to tell them yet what you can do for them. They'll automatically understand:
"Yeah, I'm paying too much in taxes and my cash flow is terrible. I wonder what he has that can help me?" This invariably leads to a "that's for me" response. The accountant is immediately on first base. With a problem-oriented Audio Logo, you hit nerves that none of the other approaches can touch.
Create Your Own Problem-Oriented Audio Logo
What is the big difference between the solution-oriented and problem-oriented Audio Logo? The solution-oriented response is about what the accountant will do. The problem-oriented is about how the prospect is suffering. In the second, one hundred percent of the attention is on the prospect. The accountant is actually out of the picture. And what are people most interested in? Themselves.
To develop a problem-oriented Audio Logo, start with the problems, issues, and challenges your clients face, and express them in simple terms. Don't talk about how you do what you do or even how you can help them; talk about the pain they're going through. This approach may seem negative, but people will respond positively because your words will go to the heart of what's not working in their business. They will immediately want to know what you can do to make things better.
Here are the previous solution-oriented Audio Logos turned around into problem-oriented ones:
"I work for high tech companies whose technical managers are alienating their staffs."
"I help writers who are frustrated that it's taking so long to get that first book published."
"I offer training for leaders who are discouraged that they keep getting beat by the competition."
"I provide equipment for hospitals that are anxious about return on investment."
You may be amazed by the interested reaction you get from a problem-oriented Audio Logo. People will often respond by telling you in great detail what their problem is, which then gives you the opportunity to discuss your solutions and see if there is a fit.
Perfect Your Swing
Identify the struggle, frustration, discouragement, or anxiety your prospects experience, put it into an Audio Logo, and test it on several people to gauge their reaction. Fine-tune it until it clicks and you'll get a whole new level of attention and interest. You'll be on first base and ready to move towards second.
Keep practicing, but don't worry about getting a home run. Imagine using an Audio Logo and getting this response: "Wow, you help people with that problem? That's incredible! I've been looking for someone like you for years! We have a half million-dollar budget to solve this problem. Is that enough? Can you come over right away?"
Yes, that would be nice, but it's a fantasy. It's not going to happen. Instead, be satisfied with getting prospects onto first base and gradually working them around the bases until you bring them home.
Ultimately, you'll score more sales.