Zimbabwe: Are You Communicating Your Company's Value?

You never know if the next person you meet today may become your most important customer, business partner or a lifetime friend.

Imagine stepping into an elevator and meeting Philip Chiyangwa, Nigel Chanakira or Strive Masiyiwa and they introduce themselves to you. You tell them your name and they ask, "So, what do you do?"

One young man who had just finished his law degree and had joined an up and coming law firm said this when asked what he did: "We are a law firm and we focus on commercial law, alternative dispute resolution, antitrust, bankruptcy, appellate litigation, complex litigation, debt financing, environmental law, corrupt practices, government relations, ice-cream patent and trademark, stray pets adoption... " Before he had finished, the elevator arrived at the third floor and the person he was talking with said "Goodbye," and walked out.

Another one, this time a small business consultant, said "Our solutions help small and mid-size companies succeed. Our unique blend of people, process and technology allows us to build and deliver value over-and-above our competitors. One unique thing about us is . . ."

We all meet a lot of people everyday. Some of them could be potential customers or people who could help us grow our businesses. However, when we tell them about our business, they usually just say "Okay" and move on. This means whatever we are saying is not impressing them. We lose windows of opportunity by failing to attract someone's attention as we speak.

Here are a few tips to help you communicate your value to people, be they potential customers, business partners or new contacts.

l Avoid clichés. A cliché is a trite or obvious statement. It is easy to copy commonly used expressions. Most people and companies claim to be "the best", "the fastest", "highest quality", "customer-focused", "unique" and so on. The problem with such words is that they are so overused that they have lost their original meaning and effect.

People have heard these expressions too many times that they are now boring or even irritating. Instead aim to be original. The aim of a successful conversation is to build rapport. Starting off a conversation with a cliché will hardly build rapport but would be off-putting to the other person.

l Offer a solution. We all have problems. I have lots of problems. My clients pay me to solve their problems. So when you meet me I am likely trying to solve a problem. If you happen to talk to me about an issue that is of concern to me I will be interested. You will communicate your real value by mentioning real problems that you solve for people. Talk about how you help people make money, save money, save time, remove pain or make their life more pleasant and they will begin to listen to you.

l Customise for the audience. When asked what they do, most people give a short answer and stop there. If you are speaking to someone who may be a good connection for you, you want to them to understand what you really do.

Resonate with the other person so that they will find you interesting and what you do intriguing. Find out things about the other person so that you can customise your response, so as to be relevant to that particular person. Work on creating a number of responses to fit the different types of people you are likely to meet. This way you will always be prepared.

l Make it a two-way conversation. Some people make the mistake of going on and on about their work. Instead, you need to briefly describe a bit about who you are, what you do and who you do it for, then ask the other person what they do.

When they answer, keep the conversation interesting by asking questions like "What things are you working on right now?", "How did you get started?" and "How has your industry changed in recent years?" Show that you are interested in hearing the other person's story and not just in telling your own story.

Until next week, keep on accelerating your growth.

l Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, chichonip@smebusinesslink.com. You can also visit: http://smebusinesslink.com.

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