Talking to People About Your Business: How Not to Sound “Salesy”

On 3/14, Tanya Smith and Tai Goodwin interviewed me on their BlogTalk Radio show, Your First 20 Clients for a segment, How to Talk to Strangers (and Friends) About Your New Business.

This blog post is the third in a series based on that show (I’m transcribing it one question at a time).

Today’s question is from 10:39 to 17:27 in the hour-long audio of the show.

Tanya: What are 3 things I can do be more natural and maybe sound less “salesy” when talking about my business?

Diane: Well, I think the number one thing that you can do is to talk to every person like they are the most important person in the world at that moment and that you do have all the time in the world at that moment.

The person you are talking with should feel like they are the most important person in the world.

Whether you like him or not, Bill Clinton made everybody feel special. You hear that over and over.  When people were leaving him, he would look back at them like he was sad he was leaving them.  He just made everyone feel that he was sincerely interested in them. So, I’d say that’s the number one thing.  If you can make people feel like they’re special, then you’re not focused on you and what you ‘re going to say, necessarily; you’re focused on them.

The number two thing I would say would be to NOT use an “elevator speech” when you’re talking to someone one-on-one. It just sounds canned.  When people have even a 30-second thing that they are going to say.  To me, it just sounds like it’s too much.

You want to be conversational and maybe have different, shorter versions of the answer to “What do you do?” or “Tell me about your business.” Have a “bumper-sticker” version—often that could be something very similar to your tag line.  Like I might say, “I help people chit chat their way to success,” and just leave it at that.  If they want more information, they’ll ask.  So, that’s what I would suggest there and maybe have a slightly longer version of what you do.

Have a “bumper-sticker” version of your elevator speech.

So, Tai, when someone asks you, “What do you do?” what do you say?

Tai: I make it easy for solopreneurs to promote their products and events online.

Diane: See that’s very short!  It’s not some one-minute or even 30-second elevator speech.  And, if someone wants more information, they might say, “Well, how do you do that?”  Right?  Is that often how a conversation goes?

Tai: Yeah.  Absolutely.  You’ve got a really good point with that, because when you get into the 30-second and the one-minute you can watch people’s eyes glaze over as they’re trying to follow what you say.

Diane: Right. So, if you just say a little bit you get them leaning forward and you’re making them chase you in a way.  You become the bait that they want to catch.

So, don’t overdo it with that elevator speech.  I’m not exactly sure how that got started and it’s probably fine for networking events where you’re expected to stand up and talk for 30 seconds to a minute.  But, one-on-one, I wouldn’t do it.

I would definitely have a plan for what to say when someone asks you, “Well, what do YOU do?” Don’t just say “I’m a marketer.”  Don’t just say a title.  Be more specific like you were, Tai, in telling about a benefit in something you do in a very short way of doing it.

And, Tanya, what do you say, when people ask you what you do?

Tanya: I usually say that I help women solopreneurs get clear, get known and get paid!

Tai: And they say, “How do you do that?”

Diane: You’ve got them leaning forward!  And, I think that’s much more effective than an elevator speech.

Finally, I would say . . . if you’re focused on the other person and you’re listening for what their pain is and how you can help them –if you give them that focused attention and listen for what they need—how you could help them, or someone in your network can help them.  It’s really hard to give focused attention.

Listen for their pain and how you can help.

All too often maybe you’ve found yourself doing this, I know I have . . . Someone’s talking and you’re thinking about what you’re going to say and you don’t really catch everything they say.  Some people, not everybody, will catch on that you’re not really keyed in because maybe you’re not making the eye contact of someone who’s totally engaged or you’re not being empathetic in response.

Focusing on the other person basically is the number one thing, I would say.

Tai: That’s a great tip and it’s not just for networking.  But if you’re married . . . (laughter)

Tanya: You might want to try that listening and not thinking about what to say while the other person’s talking. You might want to try that there, too.

Diane: Oh, it’s so much harder with your spouse, though.

Tai: I’m like, “You’re supposed to listen to me because you’re married to me . . .” (laughter)

Diane: Don’t do as I do, do as I say.

Tai: I love that concept of a bumper sticker version.  I really like that.  I’ve written that down.

Diane: You two both have that.

Tanya: But, it takes some time.  This is something I think I’ve worked on for . . . you know, getting to be more succinct.  Because everything out there, Diane, teaches you to have your elevator speech and to make sure you have these 5 key points when you answer the “what do you do?” question.

And so, I think it’s very refreshing to hear you say that it’s OK to be succinct.  I think that’s really the way that we are becoming more and more . . . We have attention span . . .

Tai: We have attention span deficit now.

Diane: You’ve got to be able to say it in 140 characters! (laughter)

Tai: I think another good point you made is the differentiation.  It’s OK when you’re at your BNI networking meeting and everyone is giving their commercial. But, when you’re meeting someone and you’re trying to be genuine and to have a relationship, that’s not time for the commercial.  That’s time for that natural listening, natural conversation and really, like you said, making that other person feel special.

Diane: Right. Now, I don’t have anything against writing out scripts and practicing them, but don’t say them like you’re memorizing them because you need to be able to change direction.  Because, not every conversation is going to go the same.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

2 Responses to Talking to People About Your Business: How Not to Sound “Salesy”

  1. All Day Long says:

    Superb blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on
    everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Many thanks!

    • Dwain–If you just want to develop content, free blogs work just as well as paid ones. You can do a little more with a paid site–I’ve done both. To encourage you, two of my books came almost straight out of blogs.

      Diane Windingland Public Relations Officer, District 6 Toastmasters Toastmasters International Where Leaders are Made 612-306-4214 business websites: Small Talk Big Results Virtual Speech Coach

      Latest post: Small Talk Big Results Newsletter: Answer Intelligently Small Talk Big Results Newsletter: Answer Intelligently Like · Comment · Share Small Talk, Big Results page on Facebook Like Get this email app! Want a signature like mine? Click here.

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