We all know the most frequently asked question that is heard at networking events, business mixers, and seminars. In fact, we have probably asked it ourselves AND have had numerous others ask us: “What do you do?”
We’re so accustomed to the question that we hardly give a thought to how we answer it. It’s not enough simply to tell your contacts your job description: “I own and operate a sporting goods store.”
Remember, effective business networking is about building relationships. To deepen those relationships, you must talk about what you do in a way that, as author Lou Cassara says, “communicates the magic of your vision expressed through your words.”
You have to get specific when you talk about what you do.
To get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. They need to understand it in a way that helps them identify potential referrals for you when they are going about their daily lives, talking with other people that you don’t yet know.
Many new networkers make a common mistake of thinking that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. The opposite is true. In getting your message across, less is more. You want to be specific with the people you build relationships with.
Your message should be specific without using industry jargon. You want to state it in terms of benefits to the client, not features. Remember, customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features. The features are simply the facts – the elements or significant parts that make up the product or service. The benefits are its value to the potential customer – how it will solve their problems and make their life better. I know it may seem odd, but the more specific you are, the more receptive the listener will be and the better your results will be.
Keep this in mind as you create your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.
Let’s look at a way to go beyond the previously mentioned job description of “I own and operate a sporting goods store.”
One could say, “I deal in sporting goods, and I specialize in team sports. I have outfitted most of the high school football teams in the district, and I can order custom-fitted shoulder pads and helmets for all players at a substantial discount and have it delivered within five days. I also sponsor the local Youth Football teams.”
Now THAT is specific. It also passes what my friend, author and speaker Sam Horn, calls the “eyebrow test.” She says that when you give your USP to someone, listen to what they have to say and, most importantly, watch for the reaction they have. Sam says, “if their eyebrows don’t move, it means they’re unmoved.” If their eyebrows scrunch down and furrow together, you’ve confused them. However, if their eyebrows go up, Sam says your USP has succeeded. “They’re engaged, curious, and want to know more.”
Specific Gets Results
Too many business professionals and companies try to be all things to all people. Without being specific and telling ALL they that they do, their message is diluted and easily dismissed or ignored.
I recommend that you focus on the things you do well and document those things and your vision in a way that you can communicate to others. This will help teach your networking partners whom they can refer to you.
Ultimately, that is what effective business networking is all about – building trusted, mutually beneficial relationships that result in business opportunities for referral partners.
Have you found that being specific helps your networking results?