Sunday, September 22, 2013

Telling your story to win business

When someone asks you how are things, how do you answer?  So often we say busy, busy, busy.  But what does that tell them about you or your business?

Instead, at our recent breakfast meeting we explored ways to tell our story, and how to use a story that would showcase what we do and how well we do it.

We started by finding five adjectives that describe our special skill sets, and then the women had to come up with a story that accurately illustrated those skills or areas of expertise.  Sounds simple, but perhaps not.  Part of it is that as women we’ve been programmed not to toot our own horn.  Bragging is inappropriate.  Yet, it don’t share our talents, how will anyone know?

In her book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, author Peggy Klaus shares how to artfully communicate your talents and accomplishments without feeling or sounding like a walking billboard.   “But before you sell anything, she says, you’ve got to first sell yourself in a personal and memorable way.”

She encourages people to be their best, authentic self and to use meaningful and entertaining stories.  Klaus recommends keeping it short and simple and to talk to the person, not at them.

Much is written about describing the features and benefits of what you do and there is some confusion about which is which.  Most business owners tend to talk in features, while potential customers are listening for benefits. Features describe the actual services your product or program provides, whereas benefits are all about the benefits to the customer and how you will relieve their pain or stress.

But recently I heard of another way to approach the sales pitch, and it is one that makes sense to me.  Instead of listing benefits, take time think about the value you bring to your potential client.  For example, people are looking for ways to:

  • ·      Make money
  • ·      Save money
  • ·      Save time
  • ·      Ease and simplicity
  • ·      Live the dream

If you can package your pitch (story) to cover some of these values, then you are one step nearer to closing the deal.

Back to the story telling, one way we discussed to introduce stories at a networking meeting, was to bring a friend.  Brief her ahead of time, and let her share your success story. Somehow when it comes from someone else, it seems less salesy.

However, ask the other person about themselves first.  When you show interest in what they do, in turn, they will be more willing to learn more about you.

As management guru John Maxwell says “The key is to self promote by sharing your passion and vision with grace and dignity.”

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