I was on an airplane the other day coming home from a program in Las Vegas. I had upgraded to first class (something I always try to do, good contacts in my business fly first class) and was sitting next to a well dressed professional looking man. We started a conversation and I found out that he was the general manager of a Mid-level manufacturing company. I asked about his business and suggested that the improving economy must have been a boost to his business. He offered "I wish" and I asked him to tell me more. It wasn't long, however until the inevitable question came "...what do you do?".
The answer to this question is what I like to refer to as my "airplane speech" (now you understand the reference). You may have heard this called an "elevator speech" or "initial value statement". Your response is important and will determine whether or not a potential "prospect" will want to continue the conversation. Your answer needs to be well crafted and keyed to the value that you bring to your clients/customers but not so specific that you create objections or dis-interest.
We spend a lot of time with our clients "crafting" messages. Sometimes, people say too much or make statements that can be mis-construed or are received by the target (prospect) with a different "frame of reference" or definition. All too often messages get sent that are not appropriate and end up with a poor response. (Allow me to use my profession as an example)
I've learned in my business that when asked the question "what do you do?" responding with "sales training" leads to either misunderstanding or "objections" that will need to be overcome. Most people and companies do some type of "sales training" but it usually focuses on products or services offered and is really not "sales process training". That is a textbook example of creating misunderstanding. When pressed and asked to be specific they usually define product or service training. Now I have the job of convincing them that what I do is "different" and worse suggesting that what they do is really not sales training... telling a prospect they are confused or "wrong" is not a good plan!
I've learned to respond with something that is somewhat vague and non-specific but that does a good job of creating interest and starting a conversation. When asked "what do you do..." I usually respond with:
"It's a little difficult to explain but I guess the best description of what I do is I help companies make money".
Now, that response usually leads to another question;
"what do you mean (interest)"...
to which I can now say;
"we help companies make money by increasing revenue (prospecting, new account acquisition), increasing profitability (selling for higher prices by creating difference and value) and lowering cost of sales (selling with fewer selling resources, shortening the selling process).
These statements usually drive a questions like;
"well what do you mean?"
to which I can respond with "of those issues would be most important to you. Now, I've created interest and stared to get information that will help me control the conversation and maybe create an opportunity.
I've put in parenthesis the feature that the statement is keyed to. Crafting your message involves knowing your features or benefits and then communicating them in the form of questions that are difficult to say "no" to and also keep you from sounding like you are selling (helps to eliminate defensiveness). It is the beginning of what we refer to as the "discovery process" and will help you identify the most important issues that are less likely to be confusing or that could drive an objection.
Real professional sales people work hard at "crafting" the right messages that lead to more productive conversations. Have you done that in your business?
Action Step: Take your features and benefits and ask "what do people really get when they buy from us?". The answer to that question will form the basis of your "airplane speech".