When you are trying to convey your business proposition to a potential customer or referrer, it often helps not to tell them what you do or how you do it. Instead focus on what differentiates you – what your brand is all about. Even if you are a micro-business, you should have invested both intellectual and emotional energy in establishing what that is, and it is this that any prospect needs to know in order to distinguish between you and the competition.
Sy Oliver and, subsequently, Bananarama, used to say it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. It’s a useful way of remembering the difference between task focus and process focus. When I worked in consultancy we used to use this as an important distinction between ourselves and the competitors. There were two firms in particular that we often used to find ourselves pitching alongside. They both emphasised their technical credentials – one was a Professor and made much of his long list of publications and another was a hands-on engineer who emphasised his wide range of practical experience. Yet, we would often find ourselves engaged to support the management team and asked to ‘oversee’ the work that these guys were doing on the ‘shopfloor’. They really didn’t understand this and would often throw their toys out of the pram before we could get started leaving us with the whole assignment after all. The point we made when presenting (for which we usually used practical exercises rather than Powerpoint), was that unless the people at all levels had emotional buy-in then the project was doomed, so we focused on the emotional stuff. Our ‘brand’ was about emotion and we tried to draw on it in all we did..
The other day I was at a networking event and watched two guys give their ‘elevator’ pitch. They were in the same industry, doing roughly (as far as I could tell) the same thing and yet one commanded LOTS of attention and the other didn’t. One spent his time trying to tell us what it was he did and why it worked. The other devoted his time to telling us what was going on in their industry, how exciting this was, and how it was changing the way in which the internet worked, and in turn how it was affecting our businesses – even those with the most basic of internet presences. He spoke clearly and a little animatedly, but with enthusiasm rather than anger, and I was certainly left with the impression that it didn’t matter that I knew nothing of what he actually did for his customers, but that he was going to be someone who would know what to do to help me and that he would continue to do so even in the face of change. His brand is his enthusiasm and his depth of knowledge of the future of his industry – that’s someone I want around!
He left me with a few nuggets of how I could improve my own internet presence and I hope to start work on these later today, but above all he left me wondering how I present my own pitch and how I should change the emphasis myself. I have the elevator statement, “I get a real kick out of helping people achieve things they never dreamt they could.” But I need to rethink how I follow that up, and instead of listing the ways in which I do so, spend more time focusing on my passion for it and why it is so important to them.