In a previous post, I introduced the verbal business card, a tool for briefly introducing yourself in a networking situation. Unlike the better-known “elevator speech,” the verbal business card is designed to be delivered in 10 seconds or less. The desired result is for the listener to respond with something like, “Really? How do you do that?” or simply, “Tell me more.”
For example, if you walked up to me at Business After Hours, the monthly networking event I attend, and asked what I do, I might say, “I help you make your expertise more profitable.” How would you respond to that? If you said, “How, exactly, do you do that?” then you would be giving me permission to say more about my coaching services.
Now here’s where Lesson #2 comes in: When the other party asks you that question, don’t answer it! At least, don’t answer it directly by shoveling more information their way. Instead, answer with a question of your own, intended to elicit information on how you can help the other party. The conversation might go like this:
“David, what do you do?”
“I help you make your expertise more profitable.”
“Really? How do you do that?”
“Well, Lyle, do you ever give presentations on your financial planning services in front of service clubs or other groups?”
“How often would you say you develop a new customer relationship with an audience member at one of your presentations?”
“Oh, maybe once in every two or three attempts.”
“If I could show you how to make the kind of connection with an audience that yields one or two new customer relationships every time you spoke, what effect do you think that would have on your bottom line?”
See how I’ve got Lyle intrigued by the results he can expect to obtain, without a word of description about my services? This is how you go from the hook of the verbal business card, straight into the tease of the promised result. Pay particular attention to what I haven’t said: “I coach people to be more effective in their business presentations.” What a yawner! Unless Lyle was just thinking to himself, “I wish I could find someone to coach me in my business presentations,” that introduction would be a complete waste of breath. Sell the result, not the service.
Do conversations like that really happen when you start with the verbal business card? Sure they do! Especially when you are in a networking situation, where every interaction carries with it an assumption of mutuality: “I’ll listen to you because I know in return you’ll listen to me.” The trick is to use the first few seconds of the interaction to capture the other person’s curiosity.
When I gave a brief presentation on this topic to a group called Collaborate recently, I was approached afterward by someone who wanted to know if the same techniques could work when she made cold calls. In that situation, there is no assumption of mutuality; instead, it’s a matter of, “You called me, so don’t waste any time letting me know why I should take the time to listen” (or “why I should put you through to my boss,” if you’ve reached the gatekeeper). But the principle of capturing the other party’s curiosity still applies. So I suggested that she shorten her introduction to something like this:
“This is Jane calling from the Home and Family Showcase, an event coming up in your city. If I could show you how you could make X-number of local families aware of your products/services in one day, would you (or your boss, if speaking to the gatekeeper) be interested in learning more?” Notice the focus on the result. Also notice the nature of the question: not “Would you want to buy a booth and an ad,” but in effect, “My I have your permission to tell you more?”
Did this approach work? I asked that question myself a couple of weeks later. Click the play button to hear the answer.
To recap: Lesson #1 is develop a verbal business card and practice using it to introduce what you do. When you use it well, it should elicit a question from the other party. When that happens, apply Lesson #2 by following that question with another question, with the objective of focusing on the desired result someone can get from working with you, before you ever describe a single product or service. It works! Please contact me and let me know how it works for you.
The two most valuable benefits of my membership in the Billings Chamber of Commerce are both in the category of networking opportunities. One is the group I’m in called Collaborate; there are about 40 of us who meet...
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