I have come to loathe the word “any” in elevator speeches and introductions. Such a simple, little word that has the power to completely sabotage a business owner’s attempt at standing out in the market place.
It should be banned.
For instance, at a networking event I asked a website designer what clients she typically works with. Her response: “Basically any small business that needs a website.”
What I heard: “Anyone with a pulse and money. I’m desperate.”
Mental head smack and internal eyeroll on my part.
When you use the word “any” you are missing out on opportunities to get in front of your ideal client, sending mixed signals about your areas of specialty in your work, and watering down your credibility. By removing “any” and getting specific you have a better chance at making stronger connections faster.
I can hear you right now, “I CAN work with anyone.” No. You can’t. And not everyone can or wants to work with you.
Try to be okay with this.
If you had a rare brain tumor that required surgery would you want a surgeon who operates on ANY sick person or would you want McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy, the world famous neurosurgeon who performs miracles? Okay, you would probably want McDreamy regardless of his surgical skills, but you get my drift.
So what would I do with this person who is desperately trying to make impact and connect with the small business owner who just may be looking for her services? I would help her get specific.
And I did.
The conversation continued like this:
Me: Any small business? There’s a lot of opportunity out there for you. What type of small businesses do you do most of your work with or most enjoy working with?
Website Wendy (not her real name, mind you): I actually have worked with a lot of the local non-profits. I like working with organizations with a cause.
Me: Really (Now we’re getting somewhere!)? Which ones?
WW: The local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and the Elks Club.
Me: Wow! You did those websites? I’ve seen your work. It’s quite good. Based on what I’ve seen it looks like you have a success formula for what works well for civic and community-focused organizations. As a matter of fact, I am on the board of an organization. At our last meeting we discussed revamping the website…
You can see where this is going. Turns out Website Wendy has a pretty specific target market and a proven track record to boot. Who would’ve thunk it? And now I can connect her in a way that puts her in front of her ideal client.
Sure is a far cry from “any” small business.
So, what’s the take away here? Avoid the “any” trap of trying to cast the widest net because people can’t help you or hire you if they have no idea who you work with or what you specialize in.
An easy way to avoid using “any” is to ask yourself the following questions:
1) Who have I worked with that I enjoyed or if you’re just starting out, who would I love to work with?
2) What are my areas of specialty?
3) What sets me apart from others in my field?
4) What do customers get from working with me?
Those four questions alone help the person you are speaking to understand how they can either work with you or connect you to someone looking for you. No longer are they walking away thinking you are just another fill-in-the-blank that they are not going to refer or hire.
If I were to give Website Wendy another chance, this would be my dream introduction for her:
Me: What do you do?
WW: I design websites for local civic and community nonprofit organizations. I specialize in creating easy to navigate websites that provide just the right balance of information about what the organization and the ability to drive membership and donations through the custom program I’ve developed. Perhaps you’ve seen my work?
See the difference? Eliminating that little, nasty word has Website Wendy differentiated, specific, credible, and well on her way to connecting with an ideal client.
Do your potential clients, referral partners, and yourself a favor. Drop the “any” from your vocabulary. Remember to be THE ONE, which is way cooler than ANYone.