As an IT consultant, you have a lot of potential opportunities out there for growing your business.
Whenever you meet someone new - whether through networking, at a local coffee shop, in the supermarket, or yes, even in an elevator… there’s a very good chance they use a computer in their daily work routine.
Which also means they probably experience frustration often enough when their computer doesn’t work properly. They may or may not currently have a solution in place for getting their computer problems fixed, but there’s always a good possibility that they would like to find someone just like you to keep their systems running and help them to be more productive.
So you need to be prepared, because you never know when someone asking “What do you do?” can turn into a new opportunity to land a new client.
Here are five tips on how to answer that question effectively and keep the conversation flowing.
1. Be Confident: I know lots of consultants. In a social environment, they're not always the most comfortable guys in the room. And when faced with the prospect of speaking with someone new, they tend to clam up, look at the floor and act as if they simply don't belong in the conversation.
But get these guys in a server room and start talking about the Exchange migration they're working on, and they'll make it a point to let you know that they're the smartest guy in the building when it comes to the work they do.
So, why be shy about speaking with someone in a social environment? You know your stuff. Your prospect respects and admires that, and will be very interested in what you have to say when they recognize how they can relate to the services you provide.
2. Ask Questions: The easiest way to converse is to speak about a topic the listener is interested in. So, how do you find out what interests your prospect most? Ask questions. Help your listener to uncover the problems or frustrations they might be facing and you'll be able to talk about the things you do in a much more focused, relevant and interesting way.
3. Be Specific: When a person asks what you do, replying, “I’m a computer consultant” is pretty vague.
Now, if the person you’re speaking with happens to have a server that crashes twice a week and a current consultant who doesn’t return phone calls, their eyes might light up because you happen to be just the person they are looking to speak to at this very moment.
But it's more likely that if this person has a need for your service, it will be somewhere down the road. So you simply want to move the conversation to the next step, which is getting them to want to know more about you.
Instead of giving a broad, abstract description of what you do, be specific about how you're a problem solver, in a way that will resonate with your listener. "My small business customers want to work remotely / protect their data better / move towards Cloud services and I help them by..."
By highlighting a specific problem or solution you provide, you open the door to a discussion that might be highly relevant to your listener (and the best way to hit on a relevant topic is to be a good listener yourself when you ask good questions!)
Don't try to cover all the bases by listing all the great things you do for your customers. You just want to keep the conversation moving forward, so if you hit on a topic that draws interest and gets your prospect wanting to know more, your pitch was a success.
4. Don't use "Tech-Speak": If your prospect starts asking more specific questions about the services you provide, it can be very easy for us tech-minded individuals to start speaking about features that will get our listener's eyes glazing over quickly.
Stay focused on benefits that your customers receive, rather than the details that help you achieve results.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice: Being a natural networker is actually very rarely natural for anyone. Delivering a pitch comfortably, without sounding rehearsed takes plenty of practice.
Don't try practicing your pitch in your head. Rather, practice out loud or in front of a video camera where you can play it back.
When you feel comfortable, try your pitch out on a friend or colleague, asking for opinions on what they remembered best or what points sounded most interesting.
But ultimately, your best practice will come in the real world. The more you speak with potential prospects, the more comfortable you will become. Don't worry about making mistakes. Just get out there, be yourself, be confident in who you are and what you do, and start meeting new people.
You never know who might become your next, most valued colleague.