Last week I culled a connection from LinkedIn. Why? Because the only updates I saw from them were critical posts highlighting other people's grammatical mistakes. This individual was no doubt trying to show off their copywriting skills to potential clients. But I asked myself the question, would I ever work with someone who comes across as if they are sneering at others? The answer is no. In fact, I was actually dreading them reading my blog and spotting all the little mistakes. So I disconnected. The experience got me thinking about how we present ourselves. Do you let your strengths shine through? Or are you purely riding on the coat tails of someone else's weaknesses?
Show us your strengths, not the failings of others
A few months ago I did business with a company who spent our initial consultation slagging off the competition. It seemed impossible for them to sell the features and benefits of working with them. Only the disbenefits (in their opinion) of specific competitors. I wasn't impressed. Unfortunately they were the preferred supplier of someone I was already working with. It turns out they were the most difficult, least reliable of the multiple suppliers I used.
Help your contacts move "away from" common problems...
Don't get me wrong, I understand there are times when "away from" thinking and negative messages are valid. As a mentor, if you want to help someone dodge common pitfalls, you might say "I'd avoid shelling out for a serviced office space right now. I found it was an unnecessary overhead for a startup business". This could be hugely helpful. However an "away from" message alone isn't very...well inspiring. And it's a real turn off when your message crosses the line into being hyper-critical of a competitor or making an example of others.
...and move "towards" an inspiring solution
The corresponding positive "towards" message can help open up someone else's eyes to other options. It could be a simple suggestion like, "I'd look out for space you can use flexibly and where you'll meet potential clients or collaborators". If you can offer some free help (or freemium help if you have a vested interest!) then your social stock goes up even further. Perhaps you could invite them to visit a co-working space you're already a member of. This simple act will cost you little or nothing but demonstrates you appreciates give and take. You're presenting yourself as someone the other person could do business with in future, or even refer business your way.
Use your interview to move "towards" the job you want, not just "away from" the one you hate
This isn't just relevant to business owners. It's equally applicable to how you present yourself as an individual in the job market. At job interviews what's your typical answer to the question "Why do you want this job?". You might think you're flattering your prospective employer when saying "Because I feel my current organisation has lost its way. I want to work somewhere with strong leadership and I've heard great things about you". However you could do yourself more justice by selling your benefits and how you fit with the job you're moving towards: "I want the job because I share your core value of contribution. Your messages about the need for socially responsible corporations really resonated with me. That's why I launched a volunteer mentoring programme at my current employer with the local secondary school". You are showing genuine interest in the recruiter, relevant experience you might not already have mentioned, and forward thinking.
Do a 2 minute SWOT test
Ahead of your interview or meeting with a prospective client, take 2 minutes to consider:
YOUR Strengths - "I run a family-business specialising in providing high-quality, bespoke catering for family celebrations. I stand out in my market because of my attention to detail. I make sure the catering fits with the theme of the celebration and the preferences of the client; no one is left out because of their special dietary requirements; and the food looks as good as it tastes."
YOUR Weaknesses - "I'm feeling worried about the state of my business at the moment because I've just lost two bookings to another local catering firm because they were cheaper."
Opportunities in this situation - "This potential client was referred to me by another happy customer. She also mentioned she liked the photos of my previous work online."
Threats in this situation - "This potential client is getting quotes from other local suppliers so might go for the cheapest option."
What's your best strategy to succeed? Let your strengths shine through to make the most of the opportunities? Or hang onto other people's weaknesses in the hope that you'll avoid the threats?
You'll find more fantastic advice on using SWOT analysis for your business at the British Library's Business and IP centre.
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Book your free discovery call with me to find out more about Jailbreak Coaching.