Recently my wife, Kelly and I had a great conversation about having the confidence to sell yourself when it comes to adding value to a project or a business (yes, we often talk about this stuff!). This is a familiar question that gets asked, to most of us. At first, I scoffed at the suggestion already confident in my abilities to express myself and kicked straight into talking myself up in a confident manner. Now, Kelly is as sharp as they come, heading up a commercial team will do that to you, although she’s naturally built this way.
After I had finished talking, I looked at her confidently, proud as punch with bright eyes and expecting a rousing ovation. Kelly looked at me blankly and said; “You realised what you just said was generic, fluffy nonsense!”. My eagerness quickly turned to bemusement, there’s nothing like a good dose of reality from your other half to bring you back down to earth. As a newlywed, I’m quickly learning that listening to your wife is extremely important and key to survival, my own that is!
I sat back and listened as Kelly accurately explained what I actually described as part of my response was far too loose when it came to really pinning down exactly what my skills are and how I can specifically add value. This would be in response to the other common question we will all face; “Why should I hire you?” It’s an uncomfortable question but a completely fair one. Kelly challenged my own thinking and offered me examples on how it can be done and I thought it worth sharing. The beauty of learning by obliterating our current preconceptions.
I’m not ashamed to say that one of my weaknesses is being able to articulately describe my skills in a confident, succinct manner (something I’ve struggled with for some time – it’s a WIP).
I believe as Business Analysts and Consultants the ability to present yourself in a confident manner is core skill or even a competency. If you think of other, well established Consultancy firms, when working with their customers their consultants are expected to be to the point, efficient and ‘targeted’. For clients time is money, especially in a commercial environment. At first glance this is obvious but how many of us can truly say that we are right on the money when it comes to confidently talking about our competency in front of complete strangers without the fear of reprisal?
I’d like to illustrate what I mean with a scene from one of my favourite Tarantino films; Pulp Fiction.
The scene is when the two gangsters (Vincent and Jules) have a messy accident and need to head to a nearby safe house to clean up and get back to business. It is suggested that they call on a guy called Winston the ‘Wolf’ Wolfe who was Harvey Keitel’s character. The fixer or mob consultant who had to help the gangster’s out of their predicament and was a model of confidence and efficiency under pressure.
I imagine the Wolf’s approach to solving the problem at hand as being exactly what a rock star consultant should be able to confidently do. Explain what they bring to the table, how things are going to be done (perhaps in a more considered fashion – seeing as we’re dealing with customers!). In the scene, the Wolf arrives, sees the problem and puts forward a solution barely breaking a sweat and is wholly confident in his ability to assess and act. That’s the kind of demeanour I like to aim for (even if I don’t get there).
Suggestions for practice
Quote by Ryan Holiday- “Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority. It’s a release valve.”
So some good suggestions that have come out of the conversations I’ve had on this issue:
Go through a mock scenario whereby you have to sell your skills to someone. The example we used was to imagine answering the question ‘What value will you bring to my business or project?’
Answer the question and get someone you trust (in my case it was Kelly, who is a commercial manager so there’s no room for fluff) to critique what you’re saying. In my experience it took a few attempts to really pin down the exact value statements which make up a true selling point in the context of what we are discussing.
Our Chief Knowledge Officer also put forward another way to practice. Pick a topic that you’re really confident talking about, a passion or an interest. Describe some key point that you think would pique someone’s interest and they have no prior knowledge in this area. The goal being to not bore the pants off your audience.
Now if you can manage it, record what you say so that you have a point of reference. Watch it back and pay attention to what you’re actually saying and how you’re saying it. Now repeat this against the first scenario and notice the difference between the two.
Make a note of how you can apply the way you communicate on a topic you feel comfortable talking about (Scenario 2) with the question posed in Scenario 1. Is there a way that you can get yourself to speak about your own skills in the same confident manner with relative ease?
I’m going to give it a go and post up the results here and try and have some fun with it (not too much fun though!)
One other key point that came from one of our consultants was to try and ensure that you express yourself in an authentic, genuine manner and try and avoid coming across as arrogant.
This is the trick; where only the very skilled and experienced have actually been able to master. If this is you and you’re feeling generous to share what you find has worked for you in getting there, then please share the wealth. As long as you’re not tooting your own trumpet too much while doing it!