Two weeks ago at the NAHCR conference I stopped by the exhibit hall to check out the participating companies. There were several exhibitors I had never heard of and I was interested in learning more about them. I approached the representatives of these companies and simply asked “what does your company do?”
Apparently, this is a tougher question to answer than one would think. Most of the reps answered the question with a fire hose of buzzwords. I remember standing there listening to each of them speak for quite sometime. However, at the end of almost every conversation I still wasn’t sure what their company did. In fact, I’m not sure some of them actually knew what they did. At first I thought maybe I just didn’t have enough coffee and wasn’t paying attention. So I sat back and watched these same reps give the same responses to others that approached. The puzzled looks on the prospects faces, as well as the quick exits from the engagements, told me I was NOT on my own private island of confusion.
When people approach you at a trade show most of them simply want to know what your
company does, preferably in less than 2 minutes. If the prospective
client or partner doesn’t even understand the basic premise of
your offerings, everything else you say will be lost on them. The responses from many of these companies were so consistently bad
I feel compelled to offer some suggestions on how to answer the
question “what does your company do?” at a trade show.
Most likely what you offer is not as revolutionary as you think. Odds are that the person you’re speaking with has heard of the product or service you offer or something similar. In fact, there are probably multiple companies at the show that offer the same or similar product or service. So please don’t start with how new and amazing you’re product is or how it’s “going to change healthcare.” Even if it is as new and amazing as you say it doesn’t mean the prospect is interested. It still has to fall within their budget, get prioritized within their other projects, and demonstrate real and immediate value to them. Therefore, tone down the “new and amazing” hype and focus on explaining what you do.
Only you think about your product or service everyday. In fact, most people don’t even know what it is – that’s why they asked you the question. If you start explaining “why” or “how” before you’ve answered “what” – your prospect is going to be lost.
Compare your service with one that is more commonly known. You’re not going to devalue your service by comparing it to another. If you’re really worried about it, compare your company to one that is completely unrelated. By making a comparison to a more popular company, even if the comparison is in a completely separate industry, you help people familiarize themselves with the concept in their own way.
When I first started ShiftWise very few hospitals understood the concept of healthcare vendor management. One of the quickest ways we could get them to understand it was to make a comparison to more well known company. We started every conversation with something similar to “…it’s kind of like Travelocity for nurses. Instead of picking up the phone and calling all of your healthcare staffing suppliers when you need additional staff, simply go online, place your order and select the best matching candidate for every assignment, based on the criteria most important to you – price, experience, skill set, etc.” Invariably, the prospect would understand the concept and we could begin having a conversation about how we could help them.
Please stop using buzzwords. Please. No one really believes your company is a “best in class thought leader enabling professionals to collaborate and optimize their daily transactions by leveraging state of the art technology for validating __________ and taking __________ to the next level.” I don’t even know what that means. Do you? (Yes, this is almost word for word how one company described its services to me).
Just keep it short and simple. If you can’t summarize what your company does in a way people can understand in less than 3 sentences I would suggest you keep working on it until you can.
In the world of information overload, the attention span of most people is very short these days. It’s in your interest to clearly and concisely describe your business with real words – not clichéd buzzwords. If your prospect doesn’t even understand the concept of your business it will be impossible for you to sell them on it.