Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Elevator Speech: How to Grab Your Prospects Attention!

It seems at every gathering I am asked the question: "So, what do you do?" For the longest time, I would answer something like this:

"I am the Head Honcho at The Washing Company and we wash dishes for restaurants."

Pretty exciting, eh? Heck of a conversation starter, isn't it? To be perfectly honest, you know what usually happened after I said this?

Frankly, not much. People said that's nice, only to start looking around for someone more interesting to talk to. This happened even when I was talking to restaurant owners. I suppose people just don't get us dish washers and what a valuable service we provide.

Result? Very low sales. The kids didn't get the new shoes, wife fed me rice water, and I felt like crap, a real looser. As I got tired of this, I had to find a better way, after finally realizing and accepting that at first no one really cares about who I am, my tile and what I do. What they do care about is their pain and to finding the solution to their pain. It's that simple.

So let me share with you my new elevator speech that really works miracles. Then I'll share with you the secret formula that you can use to develop your own elevator speech, for achieving greater sales success.

First, my new elevator speech:

"We work with restaurant owners who were sick and tired of loosing customers and loosing money because of dirty dishes, and in some case they were even on the verge of going out of business because of dirty dishes. By using our dish washing services, these same restaurant owners are now experiencing increases in sales by up to 250% because their customers really like our clean dishes. Customers are happy and these restaurant owners are making more money, by using our dish washing services."

Breaking this part, this elevator speech clearly conveys who we serve, what pain they are experiencing, and what value we deliver. So when I meet someone who is not in the restaurant business and isn't experiencing this pain, this doesn't connect with them, and that's OK for they are not my target market. But when they are and they are experiencing this very pain, I am in. The conversation moves forward and in more cases then not, we get a new client.

So, here's the secret formula for your use:

I work with _________(name of your target market)________who struggle with ____________(state their pain)________________and the negative impact on them as a result of the problem__________(name the negative impact)____________. Then go onto_____state the benefit they experience when they work with you____and the _______(positive impact they experience)_________.

When this gets attention, the prospect will often ask you something like: "Interesting, how do you do that". At this point, you can share a bit of how you do what you do. Better yet, you can ask them what caught their attention and then ask them to share with you the challenge they experiencing. People want to talk so by your ask asking questions and listening, your conversation will forward and result will be: more sales.

Try It, It Works.

PS While the story is true, the restaurant example is made up to protect the.......well, you know how that line goes. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Next Fifty Years

I frequently hear that due to technology advances, change is occurring faster and faster--implication being that technology is what is leading to change.

While there is certainly an element of truth in the statement, as I further reflect, I question if the cause of change has less to do with technology and instead related more directly to growth in population. I also wonder what this increasing rate of change will mean, globally speaking, to our industries, our businesses, and to various professions.

Please allow me to elaborate.

Everything we see and experience in our outer world, all that is touched by human beings, is a manifestation of individual and collective thoughts. Furthermore, these thoughts are not necessarily linear but rather they interact in various ways leading to change occurring at exponential rates.

If this holds true, I can't help but wonder what the next 50 years will bring as our total global population continues to grow. In fact, to get a sense of this, let's look at the population trends, year vs. total global population:





2015--7,000,000,000 (projected)

2050--10,000,000,000 (projected)

Between now and then next 50 years, even though the overall population growth rate is declining, we'll still add a signification number of beings to this planet, each with their unique thoughts, ideas, and creativity.

Assuming our planet can sustain this load, I wonder how these various additional thoughts will interact and what will manifest as a result. If say the last 50 years serve as an example of this, I can only assume that we're all in for heck of a ride ahead.

What are your thoughts on this? What do you see ahead?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Association Membership: An Introverts Best Friend

Are you a recent college graduate looking for your second job, when you no longer have access to your college job fairs?

How would you like to generate millions in profitable revenue for your business, in return for a very small annual financial investment of less then only few hundred dollars?

I have experienced both of these benefits through my association memberships. In this post, I want to speak more to the second benefit, sharing my membership journey, challenges and opportunities and why I so firmly believe that association membership is one's best friend, best investment, whether you're in a job or in business.

I have been an active member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) for over 15 years. Speaking from experience, in-terms of ROI alone, I challenge anyone to find a better investment then an association membership.

Many years ago, when we were just starting out in business, one of our clients suggested we join ASAE. I promptly filled out the application, mailed in the check, and eagerly awaited business to roll in. Yes, I was naive, thinking my joining alone will lead to lots of business.

Finally, one day I called up my client and told her that I had become a member, yet no business has come and that I was considering dropping the membership. She then explained that I needed to start showing showing up at various ASAE gatherings for I had to first gain visibility. Being an introvert, this did not come naturally to me. Still, what had to be done, had to be done. So mustering up the courage, I began to show up, where I didn't know anyone and at first it was frankly very uncomfortable. Here's some of what I experienced.

1. At the time, honestly, I was still fairly young and I used to be intimated by big titles. At these gatherings, everyone it seemed was a Director of... or Vice-President of....Executive Director of... Many had titles it seemed long enough to wrap around several New York city blocks. With such long titles, clearly they were very important and powerful people. And here I was, just the little guy trying to sell copying and printing.

2. With many of these people, when they found out I was on the supplier side, I suddenly felt a distance form, for I was a vendor, from the dark side as they called it, out for their business.

3. On top of it all, being an introvert, I was quiet and reserved. Lacking the gift of gab and an outgoing personality, specially under such circumstances where I didn't know anyone, I felt very uncomfortable, as if I was some unwanted intruder. Still, good thing in hindsight, I persevered, continued to show up, even though it was uncomfortable.

Well, at this point, you may be asking something like Vinay, on one hand you say association membership is an introverts best friend and yet you mention how difficult it was to get involved. Yes my friend, I understand the confusion. Please read on.

My turning point occurred when ASAE introduced their Listserves (electronic discussion boards). Unknowingly at the time, this was to play a huge role in my business and personal growth and me coming to where I am today in my life.

After I joined these groups, I began to read various discussions and quickly came to realize that even though many of these folks had big titles, they were facing similar challenges to ones we were facing in our business. As I began to understand and follow the discussions, I also then, starting off slowly, began to participate in the discussions, sharing my experiences, my learning, with the simple goal of sharing to help others succeed, as well as seeking advice and guidance for the challenges I was facing. And many of these people responded, providing me also with invaluable guidance and encouragement.

Without me being consciously aware of this at the time, these Listserves allowed me to leverage my love of writing and in a way that was comfortable given my nature, for I can spend hours all alone, happily writing on my laptop.

To my pleasant surprise, my postings were well received and that encouraged me to write even more. Overtime, I began to be recognized by name and when association folks and others involved in the community would see me at various gatherings, they would often thank me for my contributions to the Listserves. In the process, friendships began to develop and I began to feel more welcomed, and that too more on a peer-to-peer level rather then a vendor. It began to feel really nice, as if I had found my home.

Fast forward, overtime, some of my postings were (and still continue to be), turned into articles for publication in ASAE newsletters and the ASAE magazine, I was invited to speak at various forums, and serve on various councils and committees. All this contributed to my increased exposure, credibility, sense of belonging, and of course profitable business growth too. In addition to business growth, I have through my participation in ASAE, grown personally as well as have developed many many close friendships over the years.

So what does this mean for you?

You see, these days nearly every association has similar electronic discussion groups and they provide us introverts a very comfortable way to engage, to get involved, to develop visibility, networks, all of which also lead to to exposure, which is the first step to success.

Therefore, if you're an introvert and you're seeking career and/or business success, my advice to you is to right away join an association, one that will get you in front of your desired audience and one that represents your profession. For example, if you're say a human resources professional, join the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Don't even give this a second thought. Just do it. Success will follow if you join, engage, participate, and give back to the community helping others succeed. As I mentioned earlier, there is no single better investment of one's time and money then an association membership.

Join Today! Get Active!

PS Association membership is an extroverts best friend too, for associations provide many forums in which extroverts really shine. So there is a place for every one. You just have to take the first step, that is to join and then actively participate. You will grow professionally and personally. I guarantee it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Public Speaking for Introverts

Being quiet and reserved by nature, it's easy for us introverts to become invisible within organizations. This only further contributes to our being misunderstood, being undervalued, and even passed over.

For myself, being an introvert and somewhat of a perfectionist (mostly out of having fear of failing), public speaking didn't come naturally and getting started on this speaking path certainly wasn't a cake walk. Whenever I would be asked to speak, my first inclination used to be to say thanks, but no thanks. I would look for any excuse to get out of it.

Just the thought of speaking would make me nervous, my heart would race, and when the actual time came for me to speak, I would want to hide. Yet if I was going to be successful in the business world, this is something I had to learn. While I am not a professional speaker, I sure have come a long way and it has served me well. Was it easy? No. Doable? By all means, yes.

Today, when my colleagues find out I am an introvert, they don't believe me. While speaking still isn't natural for me, it's something I have become comfortable with and actually even look forward to it. Now I even actively seek out speaking engagements both because I enjoy speaking and it helps me in my work. In fact, I attribute much of my success to having developed public speaking ability.

Over the years, through trials and tribulation, successes and mistakes, I have learned some lessons that have helped me become more comfortable with public speaking. I like to share them with you, my introverted colleagues. My hope is they will help you and you too will reap the rewards that come from public speaking.

Here they are:

1. First, know you're not alone. Fear of public speaking is not limited to us introverts. For the longest time, I used to feel intimidated. This was only compounded by my own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. These feelings especially used to surface when I was around extroverts for they seemed to have it so together. I used to think that in no way am I in the same league as those extroverts. They are so much more accomplished, more smarter, more charming, more of a leader, more interesting...on and on the negative talk went. Only when I realized, and truly accepted, that even many of them fear public speaking did it become somewhat easier for me.

2. You must push yourself out of your comfort zone. Remember, you can't learn to swim on land. You have to dive into the water. As the Nike says, just do it. There simply is no short cut. Believe me, I have looked. Having said that, start with baby steps. Actively seek out speaking opportunities in venues where you would feel more comfortable and risk is low. Start off with say brown bag talks and other similar casual settings. They will help you to start feeling comfortable standing and speaking in front of people.

3. Prepare. For many of us introverts, it's hard to speak off the cuff. Once you push yourself out of your comfort zone and commit to speaking engagements, you must then prepare. The better prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel and with greater confidence you will show up. Speaking of preparation, practice speaking out loud. When I first started speaking, I used to run through my talks in my head. Thinking I have the talk down pat, then when I would go in front of the group, the words just wouldn't come out and I would stumble. I realized there is a huge difference between running through a talk in my mind and actually saying the words out loud. Practice speaking out loud.

4. On the day of your talk, arrive early. I still do this and it helps me immensely. I walk around the room, I stand in front of the room visualizing myself speaking, I sit in the audience seats, and I take lots of deep breaths. In essence I make the room familiar, as if it's my place and I begin to feel at ease in that setting. In addition, whenever possible, I get to know some of the people before the actual talk begins. Even have someone you know well sit in the front with whom you would feel comfortable making eye contact and giving the talk to. Furthermore, if it helps, have something with you that gives you comfort. For example, I tend to hold a pen laser light or a marker in my right hand as I present for it gives me comfort and sense of control. While logically it makes no sense, it works for me.

5. Realize you don't have to be perfect. You just have to show up. Remember that no one dies, including you, if a mistake gets made. And since only you know your talk, even if you slip, it's very possible no one will know but you. Now say you do slip and it get's noticed. For example, if you say blank out, then just admit it. Say something like "Ooops, I just blanked out. Has that ever happened to any of you? Anyways, can someone please tell me what I was saying"? Or if you don't have an answer to a question, it's OK to say you don't know. Then promise to follow-up. What a wonderful opportunity that actually becomes then for you to follow-up and further strengthen those connections. All this also makes you human, more authentic and that will help you connect with your audience.

6. Even when you begin to get more comfortable, continue to actively seek out speaking engagements. Practice makes perfect. Moreover, not only will this serve you well in your career, you may actually being to even enjoy speaking and I am confident that these speaking engagements will lead to many opportunities for you.

7. Most of all, just be yourself. For example, I am serious by nature so I don't tell jokes and I don't do rha rha cheerleading types of talks for I know I don't do those well. Believe me, I have tried and have totally fallen flat. My style tends to be more conversational, more professor like and therefore I stick to that. So far it has served me well.

Now it's time for you to jump into action. Take your first step. Commit to a speaking engagement, get it on your calendar and then begin your preparation. You can do it.

Make More Money by Selling Benefits Over Features

One of the fundamental principals in business is that customers pay for benefits, not features. A classic example often used is that people don't pay for drills, they pay for holes.

So say your drill bits are made of titanium. Then instead of talking about titanium itself, talk more about how those bits last longer then non-titanium bits, their ability to drill holes through strongest materials, and so on. That's what clients pay for.

I saw a great example of this the other day when I was at Costco with my wife. I felt like a kid in a candy store, noting how those products that were being promoted on benefits were priced so much higher then those other similar products being promoted on features.

Before Costco's "Picture Police" told me stop snapping pictures, I managed to get couple of photos in and I want to share those with you to convey how when benefits are promoted over features, one makes higher profits.

On the first photo above, there pictured are two stacks of onions. Of the two stacks, the stack on the right simply stated "Yellow Onions". To me, honestly, I have no clue what's so special about yellow onions. These yellow onions were selling for roughly 48 cents per pound.

Onions on the left stack were called "Oso Sweet: Like No Other Onions on Earth". Some of the benefits are already part of how they are referred. They then went onto clearly state additional benefits (picture below), which are listed as:

No tears. (For me this alone caught my attention).
Delicious cooked or raw
Great onion flavor
Very sweet & mild
Easy to Digest
Oh-So good for you

Price: $1.10 per pound. Over TWICE the price of yellow onions.

Don't know about you, but I personally hate tearing up whenever I chop onions. It hurts my eyes. Without blinking an eye, I paid the higher price, purchasing the Oso Sweet. And oh what a sweet experience it was, just to chop them alone.

Look ma, no tears!