Are You Blundering Your First Impression? You only have 8 seconds.
Are You Blundering Your First Impression?
Eight seconds. That is all the time you have in your conversations for someone to have a first impression of you. The human attention span has dropped recently from twelve seconds down to a whopping eight whole seconds. Sadly, a goldfish now has a longer attention span than humans at nine seconds. For accountants who are working furiously to grow a practice through networking, this presents several challenges.
Networking and building relationships are such a vital part of growing an accounting practice. Yet, I find so many individuals have never given a thought to their answer to one of the very first networking questions, “What do you do for a living?” So many times, I hear, “I’m a CPA.” Are you guilty of this answer? Don’t worry if you are because you aren’t alone. This is the typical answer at every networking event.
Now think about the eight-second attention span that I mentioned earlier. Do you think your precious eight seconds were used wisely? Did you say anything to pique the interest of the person you are speaking with by telling them that you are a CPA? Put yourself on the receiving end, would you be dying to hear more and engage in a conversation? The answer is no. By the time you have finished those three simple words, “I’m a CPA,” the person that you are speaking with has already lost interest.
Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important to have a powerful introduction and fine-tune your conversational skills. With limited interactions in the new business economy, you can’t afford to waste your first impression. To draw someone in and create an engaging answer to this question, “What is it that you do for a living?” you have to prepare a detailed, yet concise elevator pitch.
Elevator pitches can get a bad rap as a sales tool, but your elevator pitch is such a powerful tool to have in networking situations. The best elevator pitches are well thought out, practiced, condensed, and perfected so that it rolls right off of your tongue in conversation. The best elevator pitches contain these three sections:
- What do you do?
Let’s start with what you do. So many people confuse what they do with their titles. What you do is not “I’m a CPA.” That doesn’t tell the other person anything. Your answer should have a clear explanation of precisely what you do. Examples include:
“I provide outsourced CFO services.”
“I provide tax planning and consulting services.”
Can you see the difference? These responses give the other person a clear idea of the services you provide and get them thinking about how that relates to them or someone they know.
- For whom do you provide these services?
It’s not enough to just say what it is you do, but adding in who you provide these services allows the other person in the conversation to start connecting the dots. To elaborate on these examples, one could say:
“I provide outsourced CFO services to small businesses.”
“I provide tax planning and consulting services to high net-worth individuals.”
By giving them a detailed explanation of what you do and for whom, they know immediately if this is something that they should consider exploring further in conversation with you.
- What value do your services/you provide?
You should always wrap up by making sure that you clearly state the value your services provide. This is the key to connecting all of the dots and drawing someone into your elevator pitch. Building on the examples earlier, one could say:
“I provide outsourced CFO services to small businesses so that they can focus on the reason they went into business in the first place while knowing we have their finances and best interest in order.”
“I provide tax planning and consulting services to high net-worth individuals so that they can take advantage of all tax-saving opportunities to optimize their wealth.”
The value portion of your elevator pitch is the number one section to nail down while practicing your elevator pitch. This is truly what you want the other person to hear and remember from your conversation because this is where they put it all together and start thinking about whether your services are a good fit for them or someone they know.
This well-constructed elevator pitch is the key to making a great first impression and building meaningful relationships with your new contacts. Paint a picture of how you can impact their business or a business of someone they may know and use this as a conversation starter to dive deep into how you can create a genuine connection.
How will you best use your eight seconds? They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and I am a firm believer in this theory. Now, more than ever, with limited opportunities to network and connect with others, your first impression should be treated like gold. Each time you practice, whether in public or private, continue to tweak your introduction until you have it nailed down. Perfect your elevator pitch so that your next opportunity to make a first impression will be one that is memorable and bring you endless opportunities for your business.
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