By Michel Neray
Picture this. You’re out having a coffee with a friend. An
acquaintance of your friend happens to walk in and sits down for a
few minutes to chat. After you finish talking about the weather and
last night’s sports scores, the inevitable question comes up: “So,
what do you do?” You’ve got 60 seconds. What do you say?
If the best you can muster is sales manager or consultant,
(or lawyer, or accountant, or whatever), then you’ve just blown a
golden opportunity to find your next client. After all, everyone in
the world is either a potential client for you or in a position to
refer a potential client to you.
A symptom of a fundamental sales & marketing problem: So does
that mean you have to be in ‘sales mode’ all the time? No,
especially if you think that being in sales mode means being pushy
But the reality is, if you can’t articulate in a compelling
manner who you are, what you’re especially good at, and why anyone
would want to do business with you, then the problem is worse than
just blowing an opportunity to get a new client when you go for
coffee. Entrepreneurs, consultants, emerging companies and indeed
most salespeople are between a rock and a hard place when it comes
to how you describe your business or introduce yourself at a
To start with, there’s no way you can sum up everything you
do in a neat little phrase. And to make things worse, once people
know what you do, they lump you in with a half million other people
who, on the face of it anyway, appear to do the same thing!
But if you can relate to those challenges, then you should
recognize it as a symptom of a fundamental and hugely critical sales
& marketing problem. Chances are, the same uninspiring ‘non-sales’
arguments permeate your entire business -- on your Website, in your
brochure, and in your advertising.
To prove it to yourself, take a look at your website as well
as the websites of some of your competitors. Do you see anything
that engages your audience and speaks to their interests? If you're
like most businesses, the answer is probably 'no'
Throw away the rulebook: The biggest reason why people have
so much trouble with positioning and articulating a compelling
message about their business is that they are working from somebody
No doubt you've heard very specific instructions on the
'correct' way to create a positioning line, or the 'correct' way to
write an elevator speech or infomercial. And of course, everyone
knows that you have to focus on high level benefits and avoid
negative statements, right? Well, aside from very few universal
principles of communication, it may be all wrong (for you).
What might have worked for someone else has no guarantee of
working for you. And besides, if you use the same rules as everyone
else, then you end up sounding like everyone else. And you're back
to square one. Instead of trying to apply someone else's rulebook,
wouldn't it be much more valuable for you to figure out the set of
rules that work for you? How? Once you throw away the rulebook, here
are three things you can do to help you find your way.
Go to lot of networking events: If you think that networking
events are for collecting business cards and finding new business,
you've just found another reason to throw away the rulebook. The
most valuable thing you can take away from a networking event is not
a bunch of business cards, but rather all the research you could be
accumulating on your Essential Message. Think of a networking event
as a giant focus group that you could use to discover what resonates
most with people about your business and what the true value is
about what you offer.
As you work the room, emphasize different aspects of your
business. Ask a lot of questions about the kind of service the
person you are speaking to would like to receive. And most
importantly, pay special attention to the reactions you get. If you
truly listen, you might be surprised by what people find most
interesting and appealing about your business.
Ask your best clients and customers: Clients aren't usually
shy about telling you why they like doing business with you and what
attracted them to you in the first place.
If you're shy about asking them, get over it – or hire
someone else to do it for you. Tell your client that you need their
help to understand your business better. Be clear that the purpose
of getting together isn't about asking for new business or
referrals, although new business and referrals often result from
these kinds of meetings.
And be prepared to probe. When they tell you that they like
the quality of your work, ask them what they mean by 'quality'. Keep
asking ‘why?’ ‘how come?’ and ‘what do you mean?’ to get the
specifics that weren’t obvious to either you or your client before.
That’s when you know you’ve surfaced the hidden value you provide.
Remember, what may seem as ‘no big deal’ to you may in fact be
extremely valuable to your clients.
Lighten up: A big part of getting your Essential Message is
allowing more of you to show up in everything you do. That simply
won't happen if you're too serious or overly concerned with
No matter what you do to improve your sales and marketing
messaging, however, it's important to keep working on it.
Unless you have your Essential Message right, it doesn't
matter how many salespeople you hire, how many ads you run or
brochures you send out, or how many people view your Web site. You
won't get the results you need to move your business forward
The bad news is
that it's not as simple as copying someone else's formula. The good
news is that it works.
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