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Imagine yourself in a business meeting. You’re sitting with a group of people at one of several tables in the room, and the speaker or presenter asks for each person to stand and briefly introduce themselves to the rest of the group.

As each person takes their turn, you hear something like, “My name is Barry Lewis, and I work for Blackstone Chevrolet.” Then he takes his seat and the next person stands and says, “My name is Cheryl Wallace, and I’m an agent for State Farm Insurance.” And so it goes from person to person, and from table to table. You even find yourself doing the same thing.

Wasted Opportunities

What you’ve just witnessed is one of the most common and wasted opportunities in business. It’s common, because nearly everyone does and says practically the same thing. And it’s wasted, because the person who is introducing themselves has just passed up a perfect opportunity to let others in the room know how they can help them solve their problems. What’s worse, is that it’s compounded by the fact that it takes place in a group setting, in front of a number of people. And that’s not the time or place to blow such an opportunity.

Now, picture yourself meeting someone for the first time. As you hand the person your business card, you mention your name and explain what you do. Now stop and think for a minute. Did what you say in that situation differ from what you said in the business meeting? Did you state your name and mention your occupation? If you did, you may have passed up a great chance to tell the person about yourself and the benefits you may be able to provide the person you’re talking with.

So what’s wrong with that format anyway? Plenty, that’s what. You see, people don’t care so much about who you are or what you do. It may sound cold and callous, but it’s absolutely true. They don’t care what your occupation is, who your company is, how big they are, what they sell, how many locations or employees they have, or what your prices are. But what they do care about is how you can help them. What kind of value you can bring to the relationship. Now granted, some people are “people” people. They just like other people and may be interested in developing relationships. That’s okay. But we’re not talking about that here. We’re talking about business situations. And in those situations, people are interested in how they can benefit from a relationship with you. That’s an important concept to understand. And it’s critical that you become crystal clear about it.

What’s In It For Them?

So, how do you know what the people you want to do business with, need? Better yet, how do you know what those prospects want? It’s not enough to guess or to try and figure it out on your own. The old saying, “If you want to sell John Smith what John Smith buys, you first have to see through John Smith’s eyes,” really applies here. You’ve got to get into your customer’s heads. You’ve got to walk in their shoes. You’ve got to understand where they’re coming from, what their goals, dreams and desires are, and perhaps more importantly, you’ve got to understand where they are hurting or lacking.

You see, people really only buy for two reasons: to solve a problem, or to gain pleasure. That’s pretty much it. Every time someone buys something, it’s because they have a problem they’re trying to work out or find a solution to, or they want to experience pleasure of some sort.

Second, people will buy faster, and will spend more money, to satisfy wants rather than needs. Understand these two points, and you’re nearly half way there.

The next step is to determine how you can fit in to their picture. Think about it… how do you fit in? How can what you do, what you sell, or the service you provide for others, help them either solve a problem or gain the pleasure they’re seeking? Do you even know, really know what their wants are? The best way to find out what a person wants, is to ask them. Get specific. Get involved. Probe deeply. Put yourself in their places. Develop a deep empathy for their situations. Only by seeing things from their eyes can you gain the understanding you need to serve them in the most effective way. Once you’ve identified what your prospect’s wants are, prioritize the items in order of importance to your prospect. Then, identify those you can help them solve or satisfy.

Now you’re ready to develop your solution. How can what you do help them? Can you take away a certain pain? Can you provide financial relief? How about mental or emotional relief? What about physical comfort? Can you help them obtain a certain pleasure or avoid unpleasantness or loss? Specifically and precisely, how can you or what you sell, offer or provide help your prospect solve his or her problems or satisfy their wants?

Once you’ve gotten this far, you can begin to formulate your articulation statement. In other words, what are you going to say to your prospect that lets them know you can help them? And how are you going to say it in such a way that when they hear you say it, they have no choice but to say, “Really? How do you do that? I want to know more!”

Develop Your Strategy

Here’s a template to help you get a more clear picture of the process and to help you develop your own strategy to stand out in 15 seconds:

  1. Determine your prospect’s problem, hurt, need or want from the prospect’s point of view.
  2. Get your prospect’s agreement that this is, indeed, a problem for them.
  3. Let your prospect know you understand their situation.
  4. Articulate how you can help your prospect solve, satisfy or eliminate that problem by talking in terms of benefits to them and offer proof that you’ve helped others in similar situations.

What matters is not how long it takes; it’s not even what you say that’s important. What is important is that you capture your prospect’s attention quickly – in the first 15 seconds. And you can do this by identifying and relating to their problems. Whatever you say after that should serve to demonstrate how you can help them — how you can solve their problems for them. After hearing that kind of introduction, who wouldn’t want to know more? Remember, the whole idea is to evoke a “Really? How do you do that? I want to know more!” response from them.

This same format and process can be used with any type of business. And it can be used effectively in group situations or in one-on-one situations. Whatever you do, take the time to formulate your own personalized 15-second introduction. It will be well worth the time you spend, and will reward you with a steady stream of prospects just begging to do business with you!