You need to be ready. Because, regardless of what your business is, sooner or later you will be invited to attend a “networking” event.
On the surface, it seems like a great idea. It is a chance to meet new people and potential clients. You have an opportunity to spread the word about your business and promote your brand.
But deeper down, for bookkeepers and accountants alike, it can be challenging if you haven’t prepared your own elevator “pitch” or speech.
And what exactly is an “elevator pitch”.
It is defined by Wikipedia as a “succinct and persuasive sales pitch” and it refers to how well you can promote yourself in the two minutes or less it takes an elevator to get from the ground floor to one of the upper floors. By the time you emerge, you could have delivered it to your trapped colleagues.
And why do you need an elevator pitch? That’s because your encounters with potential clients can often be of the brief kind.
Networker #1 approaches you with a genial smile and outstretched hand and says: “Hi, I’m Bob. I run a small tech firm where we are working on an app that will be used as a primary monitoring tool to identify where the invasive Giant Hogwart is spreading and allow conservation groups to destroy it before it really hurts people. What do you do?”
You respond: “I’m a bookkeeper.”
You see the query in his eyes but you are fresh out of material. On a good day you might muster up the redundant: “I keep books for small businesses.”
The encounter is short because save-the-world Bob moves on to someone he finds more interesting. After all, he’s trying to save the world in his own way, as are half the people here. What makes them different from the average bookkeeper?
Nothing. Their work isn’t any more interesting or vital or useful or important than the work of a professional bookkeeper. But they have all taken the time to prepare better elevator speeches.
So the question is, how do bookkeepers create great elevator speeches about themselves so they can shine at networking events? How can you hone this essential marketing tool and use it on all occasions to spark interest in your business and secure new clients?
The crux of a good elevator speech
The key to intriguing other people (read prospective clients) in your short elevator speech is to ensure that you not only say who you are and what kind of business you run, but you explain why you do it so that it suddenly becomes relevant to others.
Before you can write and practice a great elevator speech for your bookkeeping business, you need to understand the goal of the speech.
It isn’t to sell something, and it isn’t an advertisement for your business.
What it does do is open the door to further discussions about your business. It is designed to continue the conversation past “what do you do?” It should be crafted to intrigue the listener sufficiently that they want to talk to you more about what you do.
It should be short, punchy and effective.
By short, we mean 60 seconds tops. Some advisors originally suggested it was a two-minute remark, but in the increasingly short attention spans of the digital age, you are pushing it to go right to the full minute.
In fact, I recommend having a 30-second punch line, with a second line in abeyance if you determine that it is warranted.
Think about the listener, not yourself, when crafting your remark
Next, think about how what you say will impact your listener. Remember that if anything is too plain, too vague and too uninformative, we quickly lose interest in it. But if it is intriguing or relevant to our lives in any way, we can easily follow it up with more questions and get a conversation going.
So in this case, if you say merely “I work with numbers,” or “I am a bookkeeper,” you leave your listener with very little yarn to spin out the conversation. They are more apt to drop the thread and run off.
How do you make it sound more interesting?
A good way to start is to think about how you help your clients. Who does your bookkeeping practice benefit? How does it make their lives easier? What challenges or pain points do you solve? What do you do that is different from others in your field? What could you say that could make the other person remember you and perhaps refer you?
Create your message in end user terms
Going back to Bob at the start of this post, Bob didn’t say he was an app builder and leave it at that. He talked about a project he was working on that impacted a broader audience.
Admittedly, because so much of the nature of bookkeeping is confidential, you can’t start talking about your clients.
But if you live in a community that is known for its successful small businesses, for example, you could say something like:
“Sunny Village is known as the small business capital of Canada. My company, LC Bookkeeping, contributes to their success by freeing many of those entrepreneurs to focus on growing their firm while I do their daily bookkeeping. That’s how I see my business and I guess that’s why I love it so much.”
See what a difference that makes from “I’m a bookkeeper.”
Or if you are different from other bookkeepers because of the technology you embrace, you could say something like:
“I am a bookkeeper, but unlike what you might imagine, I don’t sit there imputing data from the small business down the street. I work exclusively in the Cloud, serving clients from 27 different municipalities across the region. By adopting high tech I have been able to reach out and help grow my business beyond my geography. You’ve got to love this digital age, don’t you?”
Now you’ve really upped the stakes. You gave them a story worth telling, and left a question mark they need to address to continue the conversation.
If they grab it and ask you more about your business, be polite and respond. Then, as quickly as possible, turn their attention back to talking about their business so you have a chance to see if there is a place where your services might fit.
Networking events aren’t places to make hard sales pitches, but there’s nothing wrong with hinting that you could help, and following up the next business day by requesting a meeting if you see potential.
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