I once had a position that involved cold calling people —without a script or template— and selling a product. I had no previous sales experience, and as you can imagine it was a complete disaster. The experience helped me realize that selling was a powerful art-form that I had seriously underestimated. It also gave me some good insight for when it came to finding ways to ‘sell’ myself to people I want to connect with.

Whether you are an entrepreneur making connections, job hunting, or trying to win over co-workers, you need to know how to sell yourself. Many of us have no problem delivering a killer elevator pitch, or eloquently presenting our ideas. The problem comes when we have to convince everyone; why us?

While being prepared is crucial, you may not always have the luxury of preparing. When put on the spot it’s easy to revert to a one size fits all prepared speech. To help with this I’ve come up with an acronym to ensure you can adapt on the spot. You need to think FAST. It’s not a template for a monologue but rather a few things to bear in mind in your conversation.

tumblr_neuh9voXE61qcjdp7o1_500Fit

Getting the right ‘fit’ is about reading your audience, and deciding what skills or achievements would be relevant in that context. Yes, you are a #MotherlandMogul and you have LOTS of accomplishments, but is it necessary to list them all? Think from their perspective, and only include things that will help your pitch.

Also mention things that you are working on doing, and not only past accomplishments. The Harvard Business Review points to a study which found that your potential could be as persuasive as your accomplishments. They note, “people are much more impressed, whether they realize it or not, by your potential than by your track record.”

The study asserts that “when people seek to impress others, they often do so by highlighting individual achievements. Despite the intuitive appeal of this strategy, we demonstrate that people often prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others.” Keep it truthful and do not sell dreams, but don’t be afraid to use your on-going/future projects as well.

Add value

Essentially, you want them to realize they need you or at the very least your relationship can be valuable.

Are there areas that you can collaborate with them in? Problems that you can solve? Demonstrate that you have grasped their needs, and paint a picture of just how you are positioned to solve them.

If on the spot you have no prior knowledge, just ask what the needs are. What you want to avoid is going on about things that may not be relevant to them.

Separate

Unless you have a totally original idea or skill set, you must give compelling reasons as to why yours is different. Separate yourself from competition by mentioning the unique qualities/experiences that enhance your value.

Salespeople would refer to this as a Unique Selling Proposition. Entrepreneur.com’s Small Business Encyclopedia illustrates this with some examples, “Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, always used to say he sold hope, not makeup. Some airlines sell friendly service, while others sell on-time service.”

Whatever your personal USP is, make sure it actually adds value. Real estate coach Kevin Ward reminds us, “The goal is not just to be different. The goal is to add value to people in a different way.”

(*For a humorous visual reminder of why different isn’t always useful, take a look at the Twitter account @WeWantPlates.)

Tie it up

do-not-waste-your-time-oprahSo now you have won them over and you have buy-in. Remember, the goal of ‘selling’ is to make a sale.Wrap up your conversation by setting clear ways to follow through.

Ending a conversation with:“We’ll chat more later” won’t cut it. Make sure you collect! Set dates, get signatures, do what you came to do. Don’t let a good sales pitch go to waste!

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