By Cindy Childress, Regular Columnist.
Last October I was on a plane from Houston to Tampa after attending Copy Chief Live and pulled my laptop out to get some writing done for a client that I had put off during the conference. The middle-aged lady in a tracksuit beside me was having none of it.
“I only fly Southwest,” she told me.
“Oh, I like them, too,” I replied. “Especially for not having to pay extra for my suitcase. I can’t travel anywhere without at least 50 lbs.”
“Me, too, and…” she launched into a long story about how other airlines had mistreated her at different times in her life. I really wanted to get busy, but I didn’t want to be the reason she stops flying SWA. Finally, she took a breath.
“Do you mind if I write something I have to send back to a client today?” I asked.
“Oh, what kind of work do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a ghostwriter, and I help experts and coaches write bestsellers to get more speaking engagements and higher quality clients.”
For the next five minutes she asked me all the dream questions, like what kinds of projects am I working on now, who’s my ideal client, how do I work with authors, and what I charge. It turned out that she gave me TWO leads on book editing gigs, one of which turned out to be solid.
How The Power Sentence Works
In the above story, I did a few things really well. I listened to the lady and showed empathy even though I didn’t really want to be having a conversation. Then, when I managed to accidentally turn us to what I would love to talk about, which is my business, I did so in a benign way. I just dropped the breadcrumbs of information and let her ask me, “what else?” or “what about?”
Instead of talking about myself and my business in a self-serving way, I did so in an act of service by simply answering the next question because she asked it.
The seed that sprouted all that conversation is my power sentence: “I’m a ghostwriter, and I help experts and coaches build platforms to get more speaking engagements and higher quality clients.”
Whether you’re formally introducing yourself in a networking arena or doing so in line at Starbucks or on a flight, you need to be able to say what you do in a way that invites others to ask questions and give you the clues to know what to share that interests them. Mark Schaller, a leading social psychologist at the University of British Columbia, shows that we have seven seconds upon meeting someone to make an impression. I made my first impression when the lady beside me started the conversation. Often, your first impression is made before you speak, or with the first words you say, so choose them carefully, especially when speaking to a stranger.
Another thing to remember is that thirty minutes after your conversation, people are only going to remember one thing about you. This is your best tool, instead of a problem, when you speak strategically. I got this idea from Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Since the person’s probably only going to remember one thing, make it easy for them to remember the thing you want them to ask you about by just talking about that one thing. Let’s try it out.
Power Sentence Cheat Sheet
Fill in these blanks
I’m a __________(title/monicker) and help___________ (your ideal client avatar) with _____________(the outcome/results you achieve).
This simple formula helps people remember what your professional title is, who’s a good referral, and what your best clients want, that you deliver. It might take some practice to boil your avatar into 1-3 words, as well as your outcomes, but the more clearly you can communicate these ideas, the more memorable they will be.
Let’s think about people besides ghostwriters. Here’s one for a personal trainer: “I’m a personal trainer, and I help busy professionals feel younger and have more energy.”
The good thing about the above sentence is that if you lost weight, you would feel like that, and you’d also feel like that if you were stronger, improved your cardiovascular health, and overcame old injuries. You, the listener, can take that power sentence and ask the next question to direct the personal trainer to talk about what you want to hear about what she does.
And let’s try one more example for someone with a product, not a service. I have a friend with an organic makeup line, Hollywood Hippie, that’s designed for camera and long wear. She might say, “I’m a make-up artist and help people on camera feel good in their makeup and know it’s safe for their skin.”
This power sentence will prompt questions about why and how she got into organic cosmetics, the products, where to buy them, how to use them, if she still does makeup on shoots, etc. In other words, she’ll be prompted to talk about what you’re interested to know more about instead of throwing the kitchen sink of 20 years in the cosmetics industry at the person in the elevator.
So, what’s your power sentence? I’d love to check it out in the comments below. If you get stuck, ask me for help.
Cindy Childress, Ph. D. is a ghostwriter and publishing consultant for coaches and consultants with transformational stories who want to create a legacy in content. As a ghostwriter, three of her books hit Amazon best seller lists in the past two years. Find out more at: