When we meet someone new and they ask what we do, most of us take the easy option and respond with a label: “I’m an accountant”, “…writer”, “…graphic designer” and so on.
Labels can be very limiting. With so many new people to meet, it’s very easy for other networkers to get the wrong impression of us anyway, but we add to the problem if we use labels that don’t articulate the true nature or value of what we do.
When I first set up as a soloist, I proudly called myself a marketing consultant. A mate of mine rang with an opportunity for me. He knew someone who was opening a waxing salon and needed some ads written. Now this was someone who knew exactly what I did for a living, that I had a background in industrial marketing and specialised in writing proposals. Or so I thought. In fact all he’d absorbed was that I worked in marketing. To him that obviously meant ads for XXX Brazilians. Ouch.
Here’s another example. A graphic designer might specialise in consumer packaging or magazine design, focus only on websites, or do cheap and cheerful business cards and pizza flyers. What you think about what graphic designers do depends on your own experience of them. So when someone introduces themselves as one, you’ll immediately think of those you already know whose businesses may be very different.
To focus attention on the words we use when networking and to boost referrals, I came up with an introductory statement I call the 10-word teaser. It is your opening line when someone asks: “So what do you do?”
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Why 10 words? Because you have three seconds to make an impression and 10 words is the most anyone will remember when meeting you for the first time. There are two options:
1. Use your 10-word teaser to articulate your specialist positioning; or
2. Talk about the problems you solve or the results you create for your clients.
With two 10-word teasers up your sleeve, you can choose which one you use. My first option is to introduce myself as “a proposal strategist and writer”. That’s my specialist positioning and it’s usually enough to get the conversation rolling. Otherwise, I can talk about the problem I solve; “I help companies win hundreds of millions in new business”. It’s a more aggressive opening, but sometimes this is necessary to get attention.
A personal trainer might position herself as “a wellbeing coach” or as someone who “helps people change behaviours to become healthier”. A publicist “negotiates specialist media exposure” or “helps clients build brand awareness in niche markets”.
For more about specialist positioning, and why I think it’s essential for success as a soloist, take a look at my article Why specialist positioning matters.
To create the 10-word teaser about problems you solve or results you create, think about what triggers people to pick up the phone and call you. Many more people buy to solve a problem than to create an opportunity, so first try to find a problem-centred statement you can use.
Let’s say you’re a tax accountant. You start telling the people you meet through networking that you “specialise in solving tricky tax problems.” One of them is talking to a friend at a barbecue, who says he’s dreading a call from the tax man because he hasn’t filed a return in four years. Who is your networking contact going to remember? Chances are it will be you, so this can be a great way to boost referrals.
Like to share your 10-word teasers? Post a comment.