There’s a paradox in positioning — that we are not what we do, yet we need to be able to answer the question “What do you do?” in a way that makes it memorable. As a card-carrying introvert, I find the prospect of commercial networking about as attractive as having root canal treatment. Still, I recognise that without customers, clients, and attendees at my events, my business would dry up quicker than a well in the outback.
For me, the pain was such that I searched for a way to take the effort out of the introduction process. A great positioning statement and self introduction needs to be well-designed and delivered with impact. It needs to be memorable. I came up with this practical model for creating powerful introductions.
The Powerful Positioning Matrix
This nine-step positioning process achieves two things: Firstly, it enables you to consistently answer the question, “What do you do?” with an appropriate level of detail. And secondly, it enables you to create a flexible positioning statement that can be creatively applied to any introduction situation.
It’s been said that we all need a good ‘elevator statement’, a succinct 30-second sales pitch or service positioner that creates awareness about what we do and how it is unique or valuable. And while I don’t remember a time when I successfully did business in an elevator, I do agree that we all need a way to efficiently answer the question, “What do you do?” so that we are positioned at the ‘top of mind’ should our customer ever face a situation where they need our products or services.
To approach the way we answer this question with a level of creativity, intelligence and purpose (sadly lacking in most introductions), we need to think about a number of different things. As I started to explore the way people introduced themselves, I noticed patterns emerging. The first pattern that became clear was the focus of the introduction. The three options for focus are; to focus on You, to focus on It, or to focus on Them.
A great positioning statement and self introduction needs to be well-designed and delivered with impact.
An introduction focused on You talks, unsurprisingly, about you. It’s all about who you are, what you have done, and what you are into. An It introduction, on the other hand, is all about the activity. You might go into examples of how the activity has worked for someone, what it is like, and maybe a few good stories about what it is that you do. Lastly, we have Them focused introductions. This is all about the outcomes that your customers and clients achieve. You may ask questions, identify the key challenges they face, or even get into solutions.
While there are no hard and fast rules, I find that the more intimate the situation the more appropriate it is to answer the question with a focus on You. When you’re unsure of whether you are in front of a prospect or not, you may focus on the activity that you perform, the It. If the person you are speaking to is a clear prospect, then you would focus on the outcome, the Them.
Here are some examples of how you might change the focus based on the environment:
Of course, it may work to your advantage to juxtapose the focus – when you are versed in the nine positioning channels you can pick and choose your way around the grid as the situation dictates.
The second pattern that emerges in introduction situations is the energetic intensity of the introduction. There are three energy levels: Low, Medium and High. Certain situations lend themselves to a more energetic and passionate introduction than others. Of course, some would argue that the higher the energy, the greater the impact on the other person – I don’t agree. The key is to respond at the appropriate intensity, and rise to the higher levels if the listener is receptive.
Take the person sitting next to you on an eight-hour flight; I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a ‘keen bean networking superstar’ in seat 24A wowing me with her high-energy elevator statement. In this situation, a Low energy introduction that grows in intensity as my interest grows may be more effective.
Combining the two patterns of focus and energy gives us nine different choices for introducing ourselves. Knowing these options or choices gives you planned spontaneity. It allows you to be prepared so you are not caught out and at the same time fluid enough to respond to the opportunity in front of you.
Example — Speakership
The three options for focus are; to focus on You, to focus on It, or to focus on Them.
The Nine Options
This is basically a verbal résumé outlining where you have been and what you have done. Be sure to edit out the irrelevant stuff. We learn to write résumés when we are young and before we’ve done anything. As a result we tend to pad them out, making as much as possible out of little. Now that you are older you can drop the stuff that you did years ago, or at least just sketch out the details. Only say that which is useful.
“I grew up in Newcastle, moved to Sydney to study, graduated in the late eighties and went to work in a prison. I then worked for the Australian Council for Health and Lend Lease, wrote a few books and ended up here on the corporate speaking circuit.”
This channel is intentionally lacking in creativity. This is a black-and-white answer to the question. I often use this one as a trial balloon to see how interested the person asking the question is. You would answer with a professional category.
“I am a chartered accountant in a boutique firm with six partners.”
“I am the senior tax partner for a multinational professional services firm.”
“I am a strategic communications consultant.”
“I run the IT department for a major bank.”
Most of the time, you won’t get a chance to speak about your obsession. Certainly not before carefully building up to that point. When the opportunity does present itself, however, you get the privilege of sharing your passion. It’s your chance to really express why you do what you do. This is the time to get fired up about what you believe, and expose the intensity of your inner drive.
“I know that CEOs should spend less time preparing speeches and more time running businesses. Too many great leaders fail to think before they speak. If they simply got their ideas down more effectively they would make a greater impact when they spoke.”
“We’re surrounded by so many productivity tools which we don’t use productively! I think organisations would be so much more effective if they implemented some basic IT training.”
Choose an appropriate client case study; an example of someone you have been working with recently. You’re aiming to demonstrate the nature of your activity and who it serves. You want to aim to make this example relevant to the person in front of you (to the best of your knowledge), and not one that may jeopardise your chances of working with their organisation. For example, if you were selling to a particular bank, you probably don’t want to use a case study from a competitor of theirs!
“One client we worked with recently had a problem getting their internal sales team to move from a product-based selling process into a relationship-based environment. Over six months we moved the incentive schemes and culture from having a focus on transactions to having a focus on relationships. They noticed a 40 per cent positive shift in client retention, and this looks like impacting the profit positively by another $250,000 this quarter alone.”
This channel is particularly useful if you sell an intangible service or a new category of product or service. You draw a comparison between an already established concept and what you do. This allows the listener to grasp the architecture of your idea based on their existing understanding of a familiar topic.
“We are like a sports management company for information experts.”
Here, you set yourself apart from others in your field. This is where you get to state your unique selling proposition and make a distinction between yourself and others. Whatever the masses are doing, position some part of what you do as contrary or opposed to this.
“While I am a lawyer, I am also a chartered accountant. This means we can handle all parts of the deal for you. We find this saves our clients time and money.”
This is similar to a case study or example, but here you actually state the benefits you create for others. It’s about being explicit in the commercial context. We find most thought leaders are not explicit enough in the offer to work together. You can’t wait for an invitation to the party. You have to show you want to work together. It’s often easy to ask a question that explains why you have created a certain solution.
“Do you find that you are spending too much time stuck in the day-to-day running of your business? We have created a personal effectiveness system that allows most people to get more done in less time. Our average client finds an extra three days’ productivity per month when using our systems.”
A problem is best described as the day-to-day internal dialogue your prospect has around what they do. When you start speaking about what’s already on their mind, they truly engage with your products and services. Their realisation that you know their problems, and that you know how to solve them, is a powerful tool for you.
“The biggest problems in any law firm are keeping good staff, and moving from a fee-for-service model to a value-based advice model. Our business addresses these problems and creates a future-proof environment for any mid-sized law firm to grow.”
This is where you express the client’s reason for being in a way that shows you are aligned. If you can summarise their goals while describing the way you will help them achieve them, your prospect will gain a lot of confidence in your understanding of their overall purpose.
“Here at ‘Cocktail Capers’ we realise that you should have as much fun at your own party as you would at someone else’s. That’s why we take care of everything from start to finish. You get to feel like you can just go to sleep at the end of the evening and know that when you wake up the next morning it’s as if the party was held somewhere else.”
Choose the introduction channels that best serve your purpose – to make you better known, and to create more business
To finish, let me leave you with a final word on flexibility. There’s no doubt that there are more ways that we could introduce ourselves, but these nine channels are an excellent starter’s guide to enable you to introduce yourself expertly in any situation. Nine things might sound like a lot to remember, yet by working in each of the three focus levels you can easily recall the three energy choices. All of a sudden you’ve got nine channels at your disposal. If you’re short on time, just take the three mid-level approaches for a use-anywhere introduction: Category + Analogy + Problems. Otherwise, use your awareness of the situation to choose the introduction channels that best serve your purpose – to make you better known, and to create more business.
Matt discusses Positioning with Gihan Perera