This article first appeared in GSABusiness.
Not a week goes by when I don’t witness a calm, confident business person lose their composure, begin to sweat, and start mumbling an incoherent answer to the common but dreaded question “So, what’s your business?”
What’s going on here? I find it hard to believe that most people don’t know what they do for a living. If they sell printers or paint, then surely they know that. If they aren’t sure then it would be a great idea to have that printed on their business card, so they could quickly reference it during the conversation.
“So, what do you do?” Pause. Pull out business card. Read aloud “Well…. If this is my card and not someone else’s, I must be an account rep for a local printer. I guess I sell ink on paper. Wanna buy some?”
That would be a better (and more memorable) answer than most of the answers I hear. What causes perfectly competent people to forget why they came to this networking place to begin with? Who know? I just want to fix it. These people have great businesses and sorry pitches. What they need is a business sound bite that tells and sells their business in a way that is comfortable for them to say and memorable for their listeners to hear.
Here are few pitches that tell and sell with humour:
“1 million animals are killed in this country every day. Those that happen to be prime beef, we age, cut into filets and steaks, and ship as gifts to your best customers.”
“We’re grease for the political machine. If you want to do business with the federal government, we make the introductions and help you build the relationships you need to be successful without ending up in the news beside Haliburton.”
Or how about…
“I make movies. I turn business executives into movie stars with corporate videos that make them look great in front of their prospects, employees or industry analysts.”
These are all great sound bites. They’re easy to say, and they engage the listener with humor or interest.
How do you build memorable sound bites? It’s easy! It’s like eating at a Chinese restaurant -- be funny, memorable, friendly, and clever, pick any two (or more.) Assemble these components in whatever order works for you, but be sure to build a sound bite that makes you smile. Even better, build one that makes your prospect smile. Best of all would be to build a sound bite that is so charming that other people will be repeating it for you.
“Bill sells copiers. Did you know that they have a one hour response guarantee? They always arrive with the right parts or a loaner as well as a cup of hot chamomile tea. They fix your copier and calm your nerves! What a great idea!”
Once you have your sound bite’s message, edit it ruthlessly. Like the samurai’s wakizashi, the best sound bites are compact and razor sharp. Aim for 25 words or less that will knock them dead and have them ask for more. Like this… “Writing complicated computer software requires a special kind of person. We’re nerds for hire.” Or how about “Selling your home can be frustrating; we use cutting edge Internet marketing to sell houses three weeks faster than market average.” How about the direct marketer who offers “do you know where your lunch is?” “Here’s a coupon for Mel's Diner. Every month we deliver 60,000 reasons for people to eat at Mel's.”
You can even include a bit of back and forth dialogue… “Have you written your best clients a thank you note lately? No? Take this pen with my name on it and write them a note when you get a chance. By the way, if you would like to send them something nicer than a cheesy card, I customize beautiful pens to give as gifts.”
One warning, if you are going to go long, make sure the payoff is GREAT! Personally, I have found it much more effective to be short, fun, and memorable. (At 5’6” I might make this my life’s motto.)
So ditch the boring old sound bite you have been using -- “We sell high-quality widgets to small businesses like yours.” Blech! Take the time to craft a sound bite that teases your prospect with just enough information to get them curious and make them ask for more. Remember, unless you happen to be stunningly good looking, they are probably not all that interested in you. They asked you about yourself either out of politeness or as an opportunity to take a sip from their coffee. So while their mouth is full take the opportunity to ambush them with something spectacular. Give them a sound bite that makes laugh so hard they dribble their coffee on themselves. Give them a sound bite they’ll remember.