A personal brand isn’t something everyone needs to think about. If you’re selling a product, your focus will be on the business brand and on making sure your product delivers on the quality, function and price perceptions you’ve promised through your branding and communications.
If you’re in a service based industry though, you are the brand and how you show up in the world is just as important as the service you offer. If you’re not a shining example of what you do, it’s a lot harder for prospective clients to believe you’re up to the challenge.
I’m regularly surprised when I’m networking to come across confidence coaches who’re unable to speak confidently about their business, stylists wearing faded jeans and/or t-shirts, and psychotherapists who seem tense and opinionated. Given networking events are designed to meet and inspire others to connect and eventually work with you I’m always left feeling confused. Would I refer clients to you? Only if I think they’ll be safe in your hands and that they’ll be getting the best possible service.
In today’s world, authenticity is currency. People are losing patience with big talk and small delivery, preferring instead to invest their precious time and hard-earned money with people who look, sound and behave as though they’re experts in their fields. I want you to be one of those people.
At the end of the day, we all want to work with people we can trust. Building that trust relies on you being able to communicate, with confidence, from the moment you meet someone, that you’re great at what you do.
Here are the 3 biggest mistakes I see clients – and small business owners – making, that erodes their confidence and keeps clients at bay.
1. Not realising your brand needs updating
When you meet someone and tell them what you do, do you see confusion or surprise flash across their face or do they seem relaxed and reassured? If you can’t answer that question, this is the first place to begin.
Start noticing the responses you get when you introduce yourself. Are people buying in to what you’re saying or checking out? Do they ask for more information or slowly move away? If you’re in the service business you need to know if there’s a disconnect between how you present yourself and what people are hearing.
Begin thinking of yourself as a billboard. If you were buying you, weighing up whether to invest in you, how would you expect yourself to look? You don’t have to wear expensive clothes or jewellery, what you’re looking for is alignment – a joining up of what they see on the outside and what you’re telling them. Is it seamless? Is it believable?
2. Not influencing first impressions
Although I’m the first to admit it, we all make instant impressions. There’s no need to feel bad about it – its human nature! In seconds flat (between 4 and 12 depending on which statistics you believe) we all create impressions that can stick. It’s a wonderful but sometimes damaging function of our mind that helps us to deal with the vast amounts of information that comes our way.
So be honest, how often do you meet someone and immediately find yourself forming an impression of them based on their body language, what they’re wearing, their facial expression or even the way they’re talking to you? Influence how people perceive you by…
- Breathing in deeply and smiling as you breathe out before you meet people. The deep breath in will help calm and relax you and the smile will soften your facial features and warm your tone of voice.
- Dress the part. Decide what promise you’re making with your work and decide what clothes, shoes and accessories will reinforce that. What impression do you want to create when people first see you – is it relaxed and calm or professional and polished? Think of two words that encapsulate how you want to be perceived, then steel yourself for a wardrobe detox while you decide which items help you inspire them.
3. Your talk doesn’t back up your walk
We’re savvy people – we know when what someone tells us isn’t lining up with what they’re trying to convey. Even if you’re dressed convincingly and look the part, the way you talk, the things you say and your body language can conspire to create doubt in the minds of others. Instead…
- Work enough time into your schedule to arrive at meetings feeling calm and centred, or strong and purposeful. However you want to show up – give yourself the physical and mental space to make it possible.
- Think about the behaviour your clients or contacts are likely to expect from you. If relationships or client connections are key (psychologists, therapists, coaches) use body language that’s open, words that engage and a tone that’s empathic, authoritative and engaging.
- Be clear, consistent and confident in your message. Clarity and consistency makes our business ‘promise’ easier to understand. Being confident in ourselves creates subtle changes in our body language and tone that helps inspire others to have confidence in us too.
The stronger the alignment, the easier the success
Creating a strong personal brand that’s aligned to your business goals isn’t just about how you look. It’s also about how you communicate what you do in a self-assured and convincing way. Working on how you look and how you interact with people is simply the easiest place to start so you can begin to see improvements. I know when I wear a dress and heels and ground myself before meetings, my posture shifts, I hold my head a little higher and I’m more ready to promote my business – and myself – with greater confidence.
We don’t always get it right though. Several months ago I met a new client who I knew would be arriving in jeans and in an effort to build rapport, I wore dark jeans, and an elegant top balanced with heels and a jacket. When I met her in reception, her surprise was almost palpable. After a great session, I brought her back to that moment to find out what her impression had been. She candidly shared how surprised she was by my ‘youthful, relaxed’ appearance which made her doubt I’d have the strength to continue the same strong results that had inspired her to work with me in her consultation session. The lesson? Dress in line with how you want to be perceived as delivering.
When you align your brand to your message, the result is a powerful, confident and grounded message that inspires others to join you.
So what results are you promising when someone chooses to work with you? How confident are you that you look, and sound, like someone who is capable of delivering it? And now that you know, what will you do differently?