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As the world opens, networking events and social gatherings are great opportunities to build business relationships and promote your company and the services you offer.
The scenario is familiar: a room full of people meeting and discussing business while trying to make connections. When a prospect comes up to you and asks, “What are you doing?” Your answer is crucial. This is your chance to put yourself in a position to make a sale, but you need to respond in a way that will grab their attention or the opportunity will pass and the person will move on. You may never get another chance.
The key is to make a great first impression and address the needs of your potential customers. But how does one do it? Is there a reliable way to grab attention with just a few words and avoid the glazed eyes of prospects?
You can get that attention and interest by knowing exactly what to say. It's like swinging at a baseball – either striking, striking a foul, or making a solid bond. Your answer to their question, what are you doing, when properly worded, will lead you to the first base.
The Marketing Ball Strategy is a model based on the diagram of a baseball diamond. It takes some of the mystery out of the marketing and sales process. Start at home plate, walk around the bases, and then make your way back home. Coming home means that you have “scored” by attracting a new customer. Before you can get a score, however, you need to get to the first base where you have your prospect's attention.
The first base is where any business needs to look before anything else – in a brochure, advertisement, website, or simple oral introduction. If you fail to reach the first base, you are out of the game. After you are on the first base it is easier to bypass the diamond. The second base is where a potential customer is ready to explore working with you. Third basis is when a customer is ready to buy from you. Homebase is when the sale actually takes place.
The first base is the most important and is deceptively simple. Just like a baseball game, it's the first hit of every sale. In networking situations, the hit comes when the conversation partner shows interest and wants to know more. You have four different ways to get to the first base. Some of them are more effective than others. In fact, the first two hardly make a hit, but people keep using them.
Related: 4 Strategies for a Strong Early Marketing Plan
The majority of business people use labels to attract attention. When asked what they do, they reply, "I'm an accountant (or management consultant, executive coach, or widget seller)." These terms may be correct, but they are certainly not very attention-grabbing.
People develop their own images of what these labels mean. What stereotypes can you think of for lawyers or used car salesmen? Are these images always correct? Of course not.
For example, let's look at accountants. People tend to think of accountants as boring. So when you answer the question what do you do with the label "I am an accountant", most people think in the back of their mind that you are boring. Not an attention-grabbing marketing impression, right?
So forget about labels. Never run with your label. It causes people to pigeonhole you, and it works against you almost every time.
Often times, when people stop using labels to introduce themselves, they start using a process to describe what they are doing. Think again about our intrepid accountant who got rejected every time he used the accountant label and is now telling people that he prepares taxes and closes.
That's a little better, but not by much. One process does not answer the question everyone is concerned with: "What is in it for me? You prepare taxes and prepare annual financial statements. So what? What is the benefit that helps my company?"
When you talk about what you do in relation to a process, you become a commodity. After all, every accountant prepares taxes and financial statements. There is nothing that sets you apart and again you don't get any attention.
Related: Traditional Marketing Is Dying. Is your brand ready for the next steps?
Undeterred, our stubborn accountant learns that he has to speak in terms that mean something to the prospect. Now he appears with the statement: "I help people in the hospitality industry to lower their taxes and increase their cash flow."
That is much better. Mr. Buchhalter has specifically addressed his market and clearly stated a desirable outcome or solution that he can achieve for his clients. A solution-oriented answer will put the accountant and you on the first footing more often. To generate interest, tell them who you are working with and what solution you are offering them.
Here are some examples:
"I work for high-tech companies to improve their technical managers' communication skills." "I help writers who want their first book out quickly." I provide hospital equipment that offers a six-month return on investment. "
Remember, speaking to the right person will likely get you all to base one. And most business people don't usually go that far.