Talk is Expensive

Most of the small business owners I speak with describe themselves poorly. When I go to a local Chamber of Commerce meeting I hear people say things like; “I’m a Plumber” or “I’m a Realtor.” That’s troubling.

Your not The Godfather trying to hide what it is you actually do. If you’re a gangster then saying, “I’m in the Olive Oil business,” is probably not a bad idea. You need to be expansive in your product description and interesting, not understated and boring.

The reasons are (1) people buy benefits and value, (2) small introductions discourages further conversation and, (3) as a result, you will miss sales opportunities and that can be expensive.

First, let’s cover the issue of people buying benefits and value. If you said, “I’ve been very blessed. Since 1990 my company has been part of building more new homes in (fill in the city) than any other contractor in the area.”  That description is more descriptive, not as dull as I’m a Builder, I’m a Plumber or I’m a Framer and, most importantly, encourages further conversation. Note, you still have not told the other person exactly what it is you do.

Instead, you framed your company in broad terms while, at the same time, let them know that you’ve been successful, been in business a long time and, by extension, are reputable. Aren’t those really important points? Doesn’t that make you an important resource for information and local knowledge?

Had you said, “I’m a Plumber,” those important points probably would not have come up, your position would have been diminished and the next question may have died in silence. With a more robust description the next question will probably be some form of, “What exactly do you do?”

That is an opening for you to further explain that you do custom bathroom renovations as well, if that’s what you do. Do you see how this progresses?

I can assure you that successful people never make the mistake of under-describing their unique value proposition, their important customer benefits, and every successful person I’ve met is an excellent conversationalists.

If you are truly interested in helping someone, which means you don’t just want other people’s money for money’s sake, you need to be a master at encouraging conversations. Conversations that afford other people the opportunity to get to know the best of you and you of them.

Here’s a second example, you’re at a Chamber meeting and someone says, “I’m a Realtor.” That, in itself, can be a conversation killer. When I hear, “I’m a Realtor,” my first impulse is to look for the door. Sad but true.

It’s not personal.  There are just too many Realtors and, frankly, they all sound the same. They all seem to want to either sell my home or sell me some real estate. I read the books too. I get it. Stay focused, be hungry, push, push, push… That’s crap! I don’t like to be pushed and I don’t know anyone who does. How about a gentler approach? How about an approach that preserves everyone’s dignity? How about not looking at me the way a dog looks at a bone?

When the time comes to say what it is you do, the smart Realtor might say, “I specialize in waterfront property on Lake Tahoe (pick you favorite lake).” This second approach is gentler, far more engaging, and really leverages the power of a few keywords to communicate your value and unique qualities. I’d still know you’re a Realtor but you sure wouldn’t sound like one and I wouldn’t want to escape you.

Here’s why. Most people I know would love to live on a lake? Most people are curious about the price of lakefront property. Aren’t you? So your natural reaction is ask a few questions? “What do lakefront lots start at these days?” is one question that comes to mind.

The key here is to do the hard work upfront to understand your client benefits, your unique value and then be able to describe those attributes in interesting and conversation-promoting ways.

There’s an old cliché, “Talk is cheap.” Well, in my view “Talk” can be expensive too.

  2 comments for “Talk is Expensive

  1. February 17, 2010 at 9:07 am

    As somebody who’s spending a lot of time on SEO these days, I smiled when I saw you mention keyword use in conversations, Steve. But it makes sense.

  2. May 27, 2010 at 1:38 am

    One of the many advantages of these open ended conversations which I find most interesting is

    client will come back to you whenever he is in need of any service relating to your area of expertise.

    This is not about client coming back but it is about relationship that you have built with them (small memory imprints), which will be more profitable.

    Thanks Steve for sharing these productive communication tricks.

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