COFFEE CHALLENGE 3: Making an impact by getting the value across, fast!
When you do get the opportunity to describe your work, it’s important to make the most of these precious few minutes. I have found that if I am not clear ahead of time on the language that gets and holds people’s attention, I can lose people easily… and then I start to waffle on to compensate, knowing all the while that this is not helping my cause!
I find that presenting a diagram that explains my practice areas helps to make an intangible service more tangible; likewise, being able to provide some very clear next steps about how people might work with me is effective in moving a casual enquiry along. But placing a brochure on the table or opening up your laptop can feel clunky and ‘salesy’ over coffee! It is always tempting to leave the material tucked away in my bag.
I try to look for a natural opening to present this sort of information, but sometimes I find it more effective to just workshop through a problem with the new contact, particularly if they have a specific question seeking my advice. The important thing is to ensure that there is a moment to make a connection related to the work you do – you don’t have to tell them everything, but provide a starting point to potentially continue the conversation later.
Create impact through the tangible:
- A crystal-clear and succinct opening statement that explains the value you deliver
- A simple model or diagram that supports the explanation of how you go about delivering this value
- Specific examples of problems you help with and how
- Client stories of how this worked for them
In working with hundreds of people representing themselves and their companies, I have found that most people lack confidence in introductory conversations due to a lack of clarity on how they will guide that conversation. I believe there are ways to move conversations towards win-wins without it feeling contrived or salesy… but it takes some planning and some practice.
‘Why should I guide the conversation at all?’
If you are still not convinced that business coffee conversations need thoughtful planning and execution, consider:
- Most people suck at asking good questions or providing effective conversation openers
- People tend to be a little shy with new people, and they’ll either take a passive approach or they’ll compensate by steamrolling the conversation (talking non-stop about themselves or about banalities)
- The other person likely won’t have researched you deeply and won’t be prepared for the meeting
…so you’ll find most people are thrilled that you are guiding the conversation down a productive path!
To put it visually, there is an ideal middle ground between leaning back in your chair and leaning forward across the table. You shouldn’t treat a business coffee like a Friday afternoon at the pub, but you also shouldn’t zero in on your target and insist on giving them a sales pitch. Virtual coffee meetings in 2020 have forced us to find this middle ground between the casual and the formal. (You have done virtual coffee chats during #isolife, right?)
If you’d like me to share more of what I’ve learned about high-impact conversations and workshop through some scenarios specific to you or your team, do get in touch with me!
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