Talking to a Prospect as if to a Friend

How do you talk to your prospects – in person and on the phone? Do you use so much jargon or formality that your message becomes meaningless? Speak as if you were talking to a friend and you’ll win your prospects over.

While working with a new coaching client, I asked to hear her sound bite. Everyone needs a good sound bite. A sound bite, sometimes also called an “elevator speech,” is a 10- to 15-second commercial on what your company does, offers or stands for. Use it when you meet someone new in business, use it at networking meetings, and use it on the telephone as part of your introductory calling script.

Here is the sound bite from my client:

Client: We offer complete marketing solutions.
Wendy: (With eyes glazing over…) Huh?

The idea behind the sound bite or elevator speech is to communicate clearly, easily and effectively what you do and why someone else should be interested in what you do.

I asked my client, if a friend asked her to explain what she does, would the answer be “complete marketing solutions”? Probably not. And there’s your litmus test. If a phrase would make a friend think you’d suddenly lost your mind, don’t use it in a conversation with a prospect! Most likely, it sounds artificial and probably doesn’t actually mean anything. That same phrase may be fine in writing, for your brochure or web site, but it is not as effective in spoken language, because written language and spoken language are different.

These differences come into play when you are writing an introductory calling script. Write your script down the way that you speak. If your script is in written language, you will sound phony. Real people do not speak with capital letters at the start of sentences and periods at the end. People actually speak more in phrases or fragments, with pauses and the occasional “ah” or “um…” Write your introductory calling script with no punctuation and no capitalization. If there is a point that you particularly wish to emphasize, underline or highlight it. It is imperative that you sound real, so you may want to try talking into a tape recorder, then playing it back and writing down what you’ve said.

Try to stay “jargon-free.” Every industry has its own jargon, but you must know and use jargon appropriately. If your prospect does not understand your industry jargon, then she will not understand you when you use it! Instead, become conversant with your prospect’s industry jargon—then, she will see you as an expert who understands her industry and her issues and concerns.

When you are writing your script, keep in mind a particular individual to whom you will be speaking. Picture this person as a friend, as someone who is open and receptive to what you have to say. Speak to that person as you would to a friend, and not in formal business language taken from your company brochure.

I have seen perfectly reasonable, articulate human beings become stiff, formal and uncomfortable while trying to speak in a manner they believe to be “businesslike.” They use unwieldy phrases like “complete marketing solutions,” because someone told them it sounds more professional. It doesn’t. If no one understands what you are talking about, no one will buy your product or service. Be yourself, and speak as you would to a friend. Remember your litmus test: Do not include anything in your introductory calling script that would make a friend raise an eyebrow.

The very definition of an introductory call is that you are talking to a stranger. You are telling your story to someone who knows nothing about you, your company and your product or service. You must be clear. For the ultimate test, before you get on the telephone, try role-playing your script with an eight- or nine-year-old. If that kid does not understand what you are talking about—no one else will either.

© 2004 Wendy Weiss

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