Actual self-advocacy steps to help you pitch and win business at your next networking event. AKA. How to sell your services without feeling awkward or pushy.
“I’m brilliant at… you should hire me because…”
“I’d be the perfect person to help you with that…”
“I’m great at solving problems like this — you should get me involved!”
Why, oh why, do we find promoting ourselves so hard?
Is it doubt in our own ability? Is it to avoid rejection, to avoid hearing ‘no’? Or is it fear of how we’re perceived? Fear that others might think us too braggy, or bossy, or aggressive, or arrogant?
It’s a common networking scenario; Go round the room and introduce yourself and your business.
Cue cold sweats.
The idea of standing up and proclaiming my brilliance to a room full of strangers used to make me feel physically sick. My hands would shake, my teeth would clench, I would instantly become a tsunami of sweat, and sometimes, all I could manage was “Hello, I’m Katy, and I can write your website for you”.
Hardly memorable. Hardly convincing. Hardly surprising that I didn’t win any new clients that day.
However, like any skill, ‘bigging oneself up’ just takes a bit of practice. Flexing those self-promo muscles on the reg feels unnatural at first and can be mentally draining as you start, but keep going, and it’ll soon start paying off.
We all have off-days, we all get intimidated, we all get that urge to make our excuses and get the hell out of that room (or not show up in the first place), but you deserve to make the best of those situations. Freelancing can be tough enough as it is, so do yourself a solid here, and get comfortable pitching for business.
I’ve pulled together a few tips, that I reckon will be super valuable in helping you tell everyone what a Grade-A smasher you are.
1. State your intentions
Next time, that ‘round-the-room’ scenario crops up, try starting by saying “Hi, I’m going to introduce myself, then share a short pitch with you”. Now everyone is listening and waiting for those two beats. You’ve managed everyone’s expectations, and have given yourself permission to *gasp* pitch your services. (Plus, no offence, but you’ll look like a bit silly if you chicken out of your pitch now, just saying.)
2. Keep it specific and relevant
Make your pitch as specific as you possibly can, whilst keeping it clear, and simple to understand. Don’t overwhelm people with irrelevant details, the goal is to lead on to a 1:1 conversation, not close the deal. Keep in mind where you are, who you’re talking to, and what’s their concern right now. For example: “I write professional-grade marketing copy for business-owners in Toronto. If you want more of your customers to take action on your website, I’m really good at making that happen.”
3. Share an irresistible offer
It helps people remember you in a room AND gives them a tangible reason to come over and say hi afterwards. What about “Today I’m offering a fully-tailored website homepage critique for just $49 for the first entrepreneur here who takes me up on this offer.” If you’re not getting mobbed right away, listen to the questions people ask you, and try to shape an offer around one of those.
4. Ask for the business
It’s so tempting to avoid this, but taking a deep breath and closing the deal is vital to the health of your business. If you’re uncomfortable, try thinking about it as ‘giving the help’ rather than ‘asking for the business’. How about closing up your interaction with “Right, I’d love to help you solve this problem, when shall we book your consultation for?”
5. Reference your testimonials
If saying how brilliant you are out loud still makes you squirm, then how about repeating what a customer said about you instead? Next time you’re quizzed on your expertise, why not try something like “This morning, I got an email from one of my clients saying that her newsletter sign-ups had doubled since we rewrote her website copy. She’s over the moon.”
6. No more humble brag. Just brag.
Ok, enough beating round the bush. Just sock it to ’em and tell them why you f*cking rock, ok? I like using phrases like “I wrote a brilliant bio for a client recently that…” or “I’d be just the person to help you out with that, because…” to get me started.
Hope that’s valuable for you, folks. What are your top tips for self-promoting in a room full of strangers? Share what works for you in the comments below.