Our networking 101 series will cover every element of growing your database of business connections, from finding the right people to connect with, to working the room and building meaningful relationships. In previous editions we’ve covered getting the thinking right and building your connections. In part three we guide you through crafting an introduction that will make you shine.
People rarely articulate what they do in a clear, engaging or motivating way, and often come unstuck when they’re asked what they’re working on during that classic elevator moment with a company boss. So by spending some time crafting your pitch, you’ll automatically stand out from the crowd.
How you answer the question “So, what do you do?” will depend on your environment, whether you’re alone or in a group, who’s asking the question, how much time you have, and, of course, what it is you want to convey about yourself. But whether you’re using your pitch to tell someone internal to your organisation what you’re all about (your career pitch), or someone at an event why you’re a potential connection worth knowing (your client pitch), you’ll have only a short window of opportunity to pack a punch.
CREATING A CLIENT PITCH
Imagine you’re at a networking event and you’re getting to know someone who you’d love to start building a relationship with. Perhaps you’ve quickly identified that they’re a “connector” and could help open doors for you, that they work in an area of your industry you’re keen to learn more about, or they’re a potential new customer of your business. Why should they be interested in you and what you do? To answer that question, ask yourself:
- Who is your target customer?
- What is the customer need?
- What is the product name?
- What is the market category?
- What is the key benefit?
- Who or what is the competition?
- What is your key differentiator?
Now slot your answers into a version of the following statement that makes sense for your business.
I advise/consult/something else with (target customer), who has (customer need), (product name) is a (market category) that (one key benefit). Unlike (competition), the product is (unique differentiator).
I present webinars to women in business around the world who are members of the everywomanNetwork, an online portal of personal development tools. Unlike many other women’s networks we cross all sectors, entrepreneurs, and women in the workplace in over 100 countries, creating targeted advice that can help them progress up the career ladder in their chosen industry.
Don’t be tempted to add in your job title – instead, focus on benefits, case studies and the broader issues your company and role is challenged with solving.
Keep playing around with your elevator pitch until it sounds like something you’d be completely comfortable using. Practice saying it out loud until you sound natural and enthusiastic.
Once you’ve delivered your pitch, use your instinct to determine the best call to action to follow up with. If they seem interested, the best follow up might be a question – is your area of particular interest to them and if so why? If you sense they’re looking to meet lots of people, you could suggest that you swap business cards and connect via LinkedIn so that they can continue getting to know others around the room.
CREATING A CAREER PITCH
Whether you’re telling the director of your department what you’re working on right now, or explaining your role to a manager from another function, you should aim to pack three memorable ‘hooks’ into your pitch. To help you collate this material, answer the following:
- What problems are you currently in the process of solving?
- What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
- What’s your particular area of passion or interest?
- What are the most likable aspects of your character?
- What most interests those outside your department about the work your team does?
Now formulate your answers into this type of structure:
- One sentence about a key project you have on the go.
- One sentence that sums up how you feel about this project and how it relates to your background and passions.
- One sentence about the future with regards your project, aims or passions.
The big thing I’m working on at the moment is our website re-launch. I’ve been able to use my background in research to ensure that it’s truly customer-centric and I can’t wait to see what our members think of the new site they’ve helped shaped with all their feedback. We’re aiming to double the number of members we have within 18 months.
Create conversation and a call to action. Dial up your listening skills to get a sense of what really interests the other person and steer the conversation in that direction. Before you let them move on to meet other people, look for a way to introduce a potential follow up. You might offer them a demo of the new website before it goes live; you could arrange to meet up for a coffee to discuss their area of the business in more depth and how you might work together in future; you could agree to share details of an article or report you’ve discussed.
The more you practise your elevator pitch the more natural it will sound, and the more you consider what you’re looking for out of networking events, the better you can tweak your pitch to work in all sorts of different situations.
In the next part of Networking 101, we’ll look at the strategies successful business people use for making the most of a networking event.