What's your Essential Message?

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 and aggressive.

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 networking event!

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 else's rulebook.

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 appearing 'professional'.

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.

Read other articles and learn more about Michel Neray.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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