As an entrepreneur, one of the most important skills you can develop is networking.
It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s poorly understood by many people, especially those who are just starting out.
It’s often thought of as handing out as many business cards as possible whilst making idle chatter about things that you have in common (or pretend to have in common) at events.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
When you meet a new person for the first time, there’s a good chance they could be your next client.
But let’s face it. People are very busy. They have jobs, families, and hobbies. It takes something special to get somebody to give you their attention. Being remembered is even harder. Turning them into a new client? You better be prepared to pull out all the stops.
It’s one thing to convince somebody over a long period of time. But as we’ve already established, people are busy. The first time you meet somebody may well be the last time unless you give them a compelling reason to want to speak to you again.
You’re unlikely to have more than a couple of minutes to make such a great impression, so you have to make every word you say count.
Developing an elevator pitch is one of the single most important steps to becoming a master networker. With a concise and well-practiced elevator pitch you can explode your generation of solid leads just by going about your day and answering the question “So, what do you do?”
So how do you do it?
Outline Your Service
The opening of your elevator pitch is fairly simple. There are three parts to it.
Let’s imagine that you own a leaflet distribution business.
Your first task is to explain what your business does, but in a way that highlights what you can do for a client that will help them.
“Hi, I run a leaflet distribution business. We hand leaflets out to the public to promote other businesses.”
This does indeed explain what you do, but it doesn’t tell your client why they would really want to hire you. After all, they could hand a stack of leaflets out to any unemployed student and give them a bit of cash when they’ve handed them all out and it would have the same effect.
“Hi, I run a leaflet distribution business that companies use to grow their sales by engaging directly with their ideal customers. This makes marketing much less expensive by only targeting the kinds of people who are likely to respond positively.”
The second example also explains what you do, but it has two elements that make it far better.
- It identifies a problem (big marketing budgets that don’t have a good ROI)
- It explains how you solve that problem (only target people more likely to buy that brand’s products)
Identify Your Unique Selling Point (USP)
Once you’ve explained what you do, and how it provides value to your clients, you need to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Now there are a few ways to do just that.
For example, you may be the only business within your geographical region that does what you do – but that’s not something you’re likely to be able to count on for very long.
You might be the cheapest, but competing on price alone can lead to disaster if a larger competitor can destroy your business through attrition or use their higher profits to expand.
Instead, it’s better to make an aspect of your service fundamentally different in a way that means you have no competition doing exactly what you do.
Continuing with our leaflet distribution business:
“We use previous sales data to create a customer profile who is most likely to want to purchase a particular company’s products, unlike others who just hand leaflets out to everybody they see.
Our method takes longer to distribute the same amount of leaflets, but also generates much more business and increases the percentage of customers who become repeat buyers.”
This would be a fantastic way to demonstrate your USP without taking ages to explain the details of how it’s done – remember you may only have 60 seconds to execute your elevator pitch.
Use the Power of Social Proof
Social proof is one of the key underlying forces behind human behaviour. Instead of having to weigh-up the pros and cons about absolutely every decision, we simply look to the people around us for guidance. It’s a cognitive shortcut that usually pays off, and knowing how to manipulate it to your advantage is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.
Using social proof in an elevator pitch should look something like this.
“Because we deliver such a high ratio of leaflets-to-customers, all of our clients in the last nine months indicated they would recommend our services over other leaflet distributors.”
Social proof is something you can take advantage of more and more as you build your business. During the beginning, when you might have only had one client, instead of quoting a specific number, you could switch it up a little.
Social proof becomes more powerful when it involves people who are similar to each other. If you were pitching your leaflet distribution business to a new clothing store, you could try the following:
“Our last client, who started a new lingerie shop in Manchester, described our service as being far better than any other leaflet distributors she had tried.”
You could, as in the above example, also include regional information. If your new client was also based in Manchester, it would be wise to include this detail.
So you’ve gone through the trouble of explaining how you can meet the needs of your clients.
Even after all of this, your ideal client may not ask you to come around and start working with them.
They may not have even connected the dots in their head. So it’s time to help them.
All you have to do is ask one very simple question.
“How are you doing xyz currently?”
Whatever solution you’re offering, ask them what process they’re using at the moment to deal with the issue.
For our enterprising young leaflet distributor, it could look like this:
“What are you doing to maximise your business potential right now?”
In fact, that exact same phrasing could apply to any number of marketing businesses.
And that’s it.
Once you’ve asked your prospect your qualifying question to determine whether they can be turned into a client or not, you shut up and listen.
And really listen. You might arrange a meeting for the future, or you might go on to discuss a contract right then and there.
But if you don’t pay attention to what they are telling you, you’re going to throw away an opportunity. Even if you paid attention so far and developed an elevator pitch that’s irresistible to clients, what you do next matters too.
But don’t worry, we’ll be covering all of that (and more) in coming articles.