No matter what your career objective is, experts can’t stress enough the importance of being able to sell. It’s an art, yes. And it’s one that you’re advised to master if you hope to have any measure of career success in today’s unpredictable economy and job market.
The key areas to work on are your elevator pitch, your conversation style, your email capabilities, etc.. A post on Inc.com makes the following suggestions regarding writing better elevator pitches:
1. Position Your Firm
This is a carefully crafted sentence (that’s just one sentence, folks) that describes who you are and what you do for your customers. It’s what you say to somebody who asks: “So, what do you do for a living?” Here are some examples:
• “Retail firms use our software and services to train their employees, resulting in an average 10 percent increase in sales.”
• “Within a year, our customers typically save 10 times more than they spent to install our employee tracking software.”
• “We help companies lower IT procurement costs—typically by 20 percent or more—by negotiating directly with major IT vendors.”
Note that all of these responses to “What do you do for a living?” state a quantifiable benefit to your customers that would be relevant to a prospective customer. Also note that all the responses are pithy enough to be socially acceptable.
When you position your company in this way, the person you’re talking with will express either disinterest or interest in what you just said. If it’s disinterest, the person is not a potential customer–so let the matter drop.
If the other person shows interest–maybe by saying something like, “how do you do that?”–then you proceed to Step 2.
2. Differentiate Your Firm
The person you’ve just met has shown some interest in your firm, based upon your one-sentence position statement. Your job is now to show why you and your firm are unique and different from your competition. Do this by revealing one or two facts that prove your uniqueness. Examples:
• “We have a unique methodology and supporting software based on some proprietary scientific research that we funded through MIT.”
• “We’ve been able to prove that some customers have gotten that ROI in less than six months.”
• “We’ve got extensive contacts that let us know the biggest discounts that the IT vendors have offered in the past, so we use those as the basis for negotiating your price.”
Note that the examples match the positioning statements in Step 1.
3. Open a Conversation
Assuming there are still signs of interest, ask an open-ended question to find out whether or not the person you’ve just met actually is a potential customer or just being polite. Examples:
• “Just out of curiosity, what priorities might you have in these areas?”
• “You seem intrigued. Of what I just said, what might be of interest?”
• “Hey, enough about me. How does your firm handle that kind of problem?”
No need to get fancy. Be sure the question is open-ended rather than something that can be answered with a simple yes-or-no answer.
4. Ask for a Meeting
If you’re following the steps, you’ve now spent about somewhere around 40 seconds on the conversation–about half of which consisted of the other person speaking, and you listening. If it makes sense to have the conversation continue, it’s now time to ask for a meeting to discuss the matter in more detail–so you can drop the business talk and go back to discussing, say, how lovely the bride looked.
Read more at Inc.