PEMBROKE, Mass. — In a slow supermarket line the other day, I began chatting with a man in front of me.
At the end of the conversation, I asked what he did to “keep body and soul together”—my phrase for “How do you make a living?”
“I’m in the laundry business,” he answered.
“So, what aspect?” I asked.
“I own a couple of Laundromats.”
That was it. The clerk started to process his order and he focused on her, and our contact ended.
But I got to thinking about the encounter: What if I was a regular Laundromat customer? Or, if someone in town asked me about a nearby Laundromat and I had no answer to offer the individual?
Shouldn’t he at least have said, “I own Highland Laundry, one in town here and another in Hudson”?
That encounter is juxtaposed with someone I met a week later.
This woman is a paint conservator for historical organizations, and she went on and on about several jobs. She got so involved that I lost track of her gist. After a while, I was nodding repeatedly, mentally plotting how I could get away from this information overload.
Each conversation is extremes of a continuum.
Shouldn’t you be a salesman for your company? Shouldn’t you promote yourself? Shouldn’t you always be trying to win business?
I know you may be the type of entrepreneur who doesn’t want to call attention to himself/herself—”maintain a low-key presence” is the operative phrase—but these days, it is advantageous to be aggressive.
At the same time, you don’t want to be a bore, as in the second conversation.
You don’t want to overwhelm the listener with stuff he/she doesn’t understand.
If you don’t proselytize, you are missing opportunities.
You may miss converting a prospect, or miss being overheard by potential customers. You miss improving the business’ reputation by bragging about the company.
You lose the chance to boost your spirit through touting your success. Wouldn’t you want your enterprise to be wrapped in enthusiasm rather that shrouded in darkness?
Even a two- or three-sentence sales pitch can make you “cool.”
A BITE-SIZED SYNOPSIS
So, speak in a clear, loud voice. Articulate your message. Speak slowly.
Compose yourself into a confident, friendly fellow-resident: “I operate two Laundromats, one here and one in Hudson. We’re pretty much the only show in town. We offer pickup and drop-off laundry for busy folks.”
Just three sentences, not a long, detailed explanation of why and how you do such fabulous work. Rather, you put forth a bite-sized synopsis, ending with a hook. The hook here is the laundry service for busy folks.
The listener might ask, “What do you mean by that service?”
And then you go in for the clincher: “Some busy folks hire us to do their weekly laundry. By picking up and delivering cleaned and folded garments, we make life easy for them.”
The listener hears this, and might think, “Maybe I should use their service. It could be worth it in time saved. Wouldn’t this be a nice gift for my wife who does all that drudgery work?”
BINGO—a new account is won over.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR PITCH
Of course, customize your pitch to your listener.
If you meet a renter, you might say, “I operate the best Laundromat in town. I hope you clean your clothes there.” Which opens up a discussion that gives you the opportunity to sell your services.
If you meet someone in transition, you say, “You might not know about my Laundromat. It’s Highland Laundry on Central Street.” That plug might nudge them to patronize your shop.
To the divorced young man: “Ever do your clothes at Highland Laundry? I own it. Lots of attractive women clean their clothes there.” That gambit opens up another kind of conversation.
To the general public, you say, “I own the Laundromat uptown and the one in Hudson. Sooner or later, everybody patronizes me.”
Finally, if you are trying to build your wash-dry-fold pickup and delivery service, you use this same spiel.
JOLLY, FRIENDLY APPROACH
Tout your services with a jolly, friendly approach. Let your enthusiasm show, and boast without being offensive.
Sure, a few people will react rudely. To these few, offer a polite “Thank you for listening” and walk away.
Don’t take it personally. There is always a small percentage of the population who is unfriendly, hostile and looking for trouble.
Everyone knows that a salesman must have a tough hide. He/she knows that one prospect out of every five pitches will hit paydirt.
You must realize that it is a numbers game, and that keeps you going. That fuels your persevering spirit.
At the same time, try to learn something by asking a question or two.
Proper inquiries include:
- Do you ever use a Laundromat? When?
- If you are not a regular user, did you ever consider having your clothes laundered through a pickup and delivery service?
- What would make you opt for such an offering? What are your hesitations?
Don’t lob all the questions at once, but perhaps two or three and see where the conversation leads.
You might pick up an objection or an insight that will provide you with an idea or a way to fix it.
For example, if the listener says he doesn’t use your laundry because the shop isn’t open after 6 p.m., maybe you will consider staying open during the evening.
Finally, consider this: If you don’t brag, who will?