Add value by sharing your life experience.
“Give value. Give value, Give value. And then ask for the business.” Gary Vaynerchuk
It doesn’t matter what your business is in the competitive world of professionals – Financial Advisor, Attorney, CPA, Benefits Consultant, etc. – you’re most likely initially perceived as a commodity by the people in your target market. I hate to break it to you, but your offering is probably 95% the same as the firm down the street. So how can you distinguish yourself from being just another vanilla provider?
I was having a conversation about this with a client of mine (thanks JMF!). We began to discuss ways to add value to our prospects and clients based on our life experience beyond our products and services. Here are some ways we came up with that can distinguish you from the pack:
Your professional network An obvious place to begin is to inquire about someone’s challenges in their business, or even anywhere in their life. You might ask, “What keeps you up at night?” The response could be anything from the need for a payroll administrator, to a tough-to-fill job opening at their firm, to even a flooded basement from recent heavy rains. If you can refer a solid provider of the needed service you’ll build an emotional bond of credibility and gratitude with this person. I’m a member of a networking group with over 100 non-competing business, so I can instantly give an introduction to someone who can deliver a solution, including a restoration service for that flood.
Reading/learning If you work with high achievers, most likely they are avid learners via either books, podcasts and/or seminars. By inquiring about their learning habits, you may be able to recommend a book/audio/seminar that you found enlightening. This is especially true if they mention they’re seeking to improve in a specific area and you know the right intel to share. I read 40+ business books a year, so I’m confident I know one that can address most any business issue.
Sports Anybody who knows me at all knows that I am an die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs (2016!), Da Bearz (’85) and Da Bullz (MJ). So it’s a piece of cake for me to schmooze with prospects about their favorite MLB, NFL and/or NBA team. The more you can get your prospects to share their player/team/game stories, the easier your conversations will be when you get down to discussing their business needs.
Music As with sports, I am a rock music aficionado, having attended literally hundreds of concerts over the years. I also happen to be a legendary (in my own mind) rhythm guitarist. So a good way for me to connect with my prospects is to get them to talk about their favorite performers/bands/concerts. For example: If you are a Bruce Springsteen fan and you find out some of your prospects are as well, you’ll be able to get them to rave for 20 minutes (or more!) about a mind-blowing Boss show they saw back during the Born in the USA tour, which creates The Ties That Bind.
Fitness If staying fit via exercise is part of your lifestyle, you’ll want to find out if your prospects are into working out as well. Ask what they do to stay in shape – swimming, tennis, golf, running, lifting, spin classes, basketball, biking, etc. Ideally you can share tips on what works for you to help them improve their routines/contests. Better yet – invite them to play a round or shoot the hoop with you.
Health Although it may not come up readily, you can be sincerely helpful to prospects who mention that they, or people they’re close with, are facing some kind of health challenge: Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, even a dreaded form of cancer. If you and/or people you know have overcome similar challenges, you may be able to provide valuable, even lifesaving information to help them through a tough situation. Whether or not they become clients, you’ll have done the right thing.
Dining If you’re a foodie, it pays to find out what your prospects’ tastes are. We all have our favorite restaurants that others might not yet know about. You can ask if they’ve been to the new joint in town that serves what they enjoy – you might even invite them to go there with you. This is an easy way to earn “brownie points” – pun intended.
Cooking My wife and I are vegetarians at home so we switch off nights to cook. I’ve become a pretty good vegetarian chef – I’ve found I can’t go wrong if I start by sautéing garlic in olive oil. If you get on the subject of cooking with your prospects you’ll want to find out what their specialty is, and also share recipes.
Pets If you spot a family picture with your prospects’ golden retriever in the mix, a natural conversation starter is to discuss their “unconditional love machine” if you happen to have a dog like I do. People love to talk about their canine’s quirks, from digging up the flower garden to chewing on a favorite slipper to playing fetch to the point of exhaustion. (Cats? Can’t help you, but I know there are cat lovers who feel the same about their felines.)
Spirituality If you sense your prospects are stressed-out (a common condition in this modern age), you might be able to offer an idea or two about how to enhance their peace of mind. I’ve been a daily meditator for over two decades, know the value it brings, so I often share this simple 5-step meditation video for beginners to help people get started with their own practice. I also married my yoga teacher, so I can discuss the benefits of the flexibility, toning and mental centering yoga brings.
Other interests There are countless realms your prospects might be into, business-related or not: Industry trends. Manufacturing processes. Cyber-innovation. Travel. Movies. Sailing. Art. Homebrewing. Photography. Horse racing. Antiques. Motorcycles. Kids (a subject unto itself, no?). If you can tap into their curiosity or passion and share your knowledge in an area they might want to learn more about, you’ll become a value-added resource.
Bottom line In his all-time classic book How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests you “take a genuine interest in other peoples’ interests.” I recommend you go beyond this notion and help people further their interests by offering your ideas to enhance their professional/personal experiences. By connecting with your prospects and clients in as many of these areas as possible you’ll eventually create an unbreakable bond. That’s how you go from being a commodity to a trusted confidant – the connection you build will insure they stick with you for years to come.