Effective Freelance Networking – The Opening Pitch

Jan
10
2010

Path to no where

I don’t know about you, but I have been to face to face networking events where it’s basically been like pulling teeth to get the people in the room to talk and discuss what they do and the benifits it has for me.   There is nothing wrong with the event itself, it’s just some of the attendees don’t know how to network.

Networking doesn’t come easy, you can’t just expect to turn up to an event and it happens, you have to work at it. You have to build the trust and connections with people.  You have to get people interested in you and vice-versa.

We are all Lazy

When you are talking to someone you have not met before you have about 10-20 seconds to make a good first impression, that will hopefully spark their interest. It’s the first visual and verbal impression that counts. This is why the elevator pitch is so important.

To often people in the web industry do this so wrong, I too have been guilty of this as well. To be really honest you need to kill any techo-babble.

Often people not in your industry just aren’t going to understand the jargon or the like.  No it doesn’t make you look smart. No one wants to have to translate what you have said into something they can understand.  We are all basically lazy and would rather just turn off and stop listening to you.

Specialist job titles are as a no no too. They are just going to be meaningless to the average joe. Basically they are  show stoppers that can and often do stop the conversation dead in the water.

The only exception is when you are networking within your own industry. You can then use your special industry job title, like say “user experience designer”,  but then you have to add on what makes you different from everyone else. What is your speciality, the unique selling point, more on this later.

Giving People What They Want

What you have to so is ensuring the people you are talking to are interested in you, and want to continue the conversation about you and how you can help them.    Sadly you maybe the most knowledgable talented person in the room, but unless you can maintain that interest you aren’t going to get anywhere networking.

The key to doing this is to give people what they want.

We are self centered. Sorry but it’s true. All I really want to hear is what you can do for me.  I just don’t care what you have done or can do unless it pertains to me.  Don’t assme that what you want to say to people is what they want to hear, because in reality  it isn’t!

Therefore it follows you need to make the opening statement count. It needs to focus on the benefits for the person you are talking with, and  in a language they going to understand and relate to.

Saying, “Hi I’m Joe, I design web sites”, isn’t going to get you anywhere, compared to the approach of “Hi I’m Joe, I design web sites that double the sales and productivity of the business, by providing their customers what really want”.

Now it may sound a little bit wanky, but you have instantly told them what you do and how you do it.   It’s now that the magical response occurs, “So how do you do that?”  Getting to this point is what you want.

As opposed to , “Oh, my 11 year old nephew makes websites.” Instantly, you have been placed in the bottom draw, forgotten.

Building Your Profile Pitch

Now we all know how we should be doing it. That’s the easy bit.  The hard bit is working out what people want.

There are a number of techniques you can use here to help you determine  what people want to hear.  My favourite is a little visualisation exercise – first imagine you are in a crowded room, and you can over hearing all the various conversations around you.  Now imagine that you cane here the perfect comments that would make you think, “humm that’s a perfect client, I could help them out”.

Once you have this, you have the basis of an your pitch.   You just have to turn around the context and apply your own information.

Now you just need a good opening statement  for the profile pitch, a statement to sell you. You need to build something succinct that is all about you and what you do. Ideally this should be only a small paragraph, a few sentences.  I find this is best said in your own words as it will flow into the conversation better that way.

Ideally a pitch should be made up of the following elements :

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Overview of your services – a really simple top level overview.
  3. Who uses your services – your target market, this would be your ideal client.
  4. Demonstrate the way you overcome critical issues – from their business view point.
  5. Key business benefits of  your services – what are the benefits to their business.
  6. Unique selling point – why pick you over your competitors.

I always find writing a pitch hard.   Generally I  just starting and brain dumping ideas into a word processor, this I find  helps. Then I rework it over and over , refining as I go. Don’t expect the pitch to come easily first time around.  The first few drafts will just be way to long, and possibility way to technical.   Just simplify, condense, calarify and above all present it from the potential clients view, you will get there. This is a bit like writing for a web site.

The final pitch should be such that anyone, yes anyone, even the general public can understand it.  Also when you have one, practice it, practice over and over, but ensure you deliver it in a casual tone.

The Gotacha

Now the issue is you are going to have to develop several layers of pitch.

One for general business, one for semi-business social events, and one for your own industry.   The pitch will vary in techinical detail and presentation dependant on the audience, but the core will still remain the same –  it’s not about you but it’s about them.

That’s my take, what’s your tips for developing a networking pitch?

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5 comments

  1. […] Gary Barber has put together a really strong, practical guide to how to do face-to-face networking if you’re a freelancer. […]

  2. Very good, Gary – very well thought out. I do hate sounding wanky, though. 😛

  3. You should also consider attending your local networking events such as the Chamber of Commerce meetings and all local investor meetings in order to hand the card and network with potential clients. The more you out there, the better chance you have to secure some large, long-term customers!

  4. Thanks Angie, yes as a separate issue, going to a many networking events as possible is a good idea.

  5. Hi Gary,

    I guess my tip would be to get involved. Throwing myself into committee work has made me that much more visible to a lot of people and so they are aware of what I can do that way. Some of the Society’s members are so used to me chatting via email that they feel it’s easy to strike up a conversation with me in person and work has come out of that. One person clicked through to my site and recommended me to a client I now work for and it was all based on making myself visible.

    I also went to a meeting the other day in my role as committee member and the person I was talking to asked the members present who designed/maintained the website for the Society. On finding out it was me (and already knowing that I am membership officer as well) she discussed the possibility of me doing something with her company’s website. To be fair though, I’d probably pass it onto you if it pans out. 😉

    In person, I find it easiest to talk to people about what interests them and what they are passionate about. They then feel the need to reciprocate with the attention and they ask me what I do at which point I just say “I’m a freelance editor and journalist” and so it continues from there. So I guess I am rather indirect about pitching. I’d probably be no good at speed networking.

    And since I have blathered on enough, I am going to stop talking now.

    Cheers, Marisa.

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