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  • Diana Schneidman

Our greatest interest is ourselves, right? (The marketing conversation)

This concept should shape all of our marketing as freelancers and consultants, especially elevator speeches, networking conversations and outbound marketing phone calls.

It’s delusional to think that others are so charmed by our scintillating, “juicy” self-descriptions that they immediately fork over gobs of money in thrall to the wonder of what we do.

Even more off-putting is the idea that “the more you tell, the more you sell.” Yes, it works for sales letters and certain types of web copy, but it can really kill a conversation to the point that the victim decides he desperately needs a coffee refill right now.

In an initial marketing conversation, you want to get the other person to talk about themselves, especially their business and their business problems. You are using their talking to learn what they are doing, to see if there is an interface between the problems they face and the problems you solve, and to hear the language they use to frame these problems.

How to do this


Ask people to talk about themselves.

When you phone a new contact name, you can start by telling what you do succinctly and asking them if they ever need such services. Have they considered using a freelancer to get more work done or to relieve them of tasks they dislike or to improve their results?

When you introduce yourself at a meeting in the elevator-speeches round, sum up what you do quickly and add that you love the subject and enjoy discussing solutions with others in the networking portion of the meeting.

Nothing is more annoying than listening to others recite testimonials word for word that they have received or pontificate on their success stories and case studies.

In a face-to-face conversation, talk about them. Show you care. Yes, it is appropriate to talk business. That’s why we are there. Personal chitchat is fine, but sometimes enough is enough.

Continuing the conversation

What if they just keep talking about themselves relentlessly?

This could be a good sign. Your input is of interest to them. They may be a real business prospect or they may be thinking of an acquaintance who can use your service.

Or it could be the sign of a real bore.

Today everyone with any marketing polish knows that networking conversations should be two sided. They are about giving each participant attention and helping each other.

So you’ll get your turn though it is often more beneficial to demonstrate your interest in the other person’s problem than to orate on how wonderful you are.

Are you giving away too much for free?

Be generous rather than disgustingly self-serving in helping with problems.

If you are giving the store away for free, something is wrong. Don’t get all Chatty Cathy. Talk in terms of concepts. No matter how compelling your advice, the other person may well need help in implementing.

Or provide a website, book title, or other resource that solves the problem. If you can solve the problem so easily, there’s really no paying opportunity here. Plus you can build good will.

Or maybe you don’t have enough of a service or product pyramid to take the prospect beyond the immediate resolution. It’s good to recognize this and then determine if you want to build out your business or change course significantly. (Or get a job.)

Or you may want to set up a longer free meeting. I have been gifted with valuable, free consulting sessions although I told the service provider I would not be buying soon. I have “paid” for the time with an unrequested testimonial on LinkedIn. I may use the services in the future and recommend them to others.

Most of all, don’t get huffy about their questions, especially if you initiated this conversation by asking them about their problems. In a casual, friendly tone, suggest setting up a consulting appointment or their buying your information product.

Originally posted 1-4-16

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