There are many similarities in ideal business presentations (see: eye contact and remembering people’s names), whether you are pitching for a Fortune 500 company or your local small business, but there are key differences as well, and those differences actually work to your benefit as a small business owner or manager. You have home field advantage, something in common with a potential client (location), and you have plenty of conversation starters as you both likely have some experiences in common.
Proximity and Common Ground
“What do you think about the new freeway off-ramp they are planning? That’s near your store, isn’t it?” “That local tax hike is going to hurt a bit – how will it affect you guys?” People naturally put more trust in those who have the same experiences, and when you are essentially neighbors in a smaller city, most business owners are often very cordial and welcoming to fellow small business owners in the area. There is no reason to burn bridges when you both use the same bridge to go to work. With a way in to a business pitch (often the most difficult aspect), the rest is up to you. You are not being flown into New York to pitch to pretentious executives in suits for 10 minutes, you are talking to a fellow local. You can be yourself, just have a conversation, and when it feels right to talk mutually-beneficial business, do it.
Keep it Simple and Always be Ready
Ironically, simplicity is not as simple as it sounds. Simplicity takes work and lots of practice. And, unlike a big business presentation, small business pitches can happen anywhere, anytime, so being prepared is paramount. Scenario: you meet the dad of another soccer player on your child’s team; you run a heating and cooling company just outside of town and he runs a dry cleaner downtown. Now, this situation could not be less formal; you are two small business owners meeting by chance and, after small talk, you get around to discussing your businesses. This is your opportunity to try and get him as an HVAC client, but if you begin a long, memorized pitch about the benefits of duct-cleaning, chances are he will want to run away immediately. Keep it simple. What are some persuasive things to say that take little time and sound fairly casual? This takes practice, which also means: knowing your brand.
Knowing Your Brand
Your brand is everything that your business is about: your values, practices, and reputation, all rolled into a single entity. If someone knows your company logo, chances are there is something that comes to mind: is it that your mom used your service and said how friendly and professional the employees were? If so, your brand is working for you, and you want to spread that brand as much as you can. Working to build your brand is hard enough, as I am sure you know; it takes consistently good service or product, a record of fairness and honesty, and even then it is a long time before the word spreads. Fortunately, spreading the word is something you can help accelerate by putting your brand on different mediums such as flyers, brochures, and other vehicles of brand-dissemination.
In this way, the next time you meet another soccer dad, you can offer him something tangible that perfectly conveys your brand, which leaves you the time to keep things simple and begin a bond as small business owners in the area.
In writing this column, it quickly became clear that the subject is worthy of much more discussion, and since acquiring new business is always critical, it is worth a second column. Check the blog in two weeks for another installment on small business presentations!
(above: some printing products we can create for you at PEFY.net, a fellow, local small business)
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