Happy professional journey everyone! Have you made it out there in the world, or are you just starting out?
What’s your shtick, speciality or job role?
Job roles are used in business as a way to identify your purpose within a company and level of authority, but what do they actually mean and are they communication barriers when trying to build professional relationships or generate business?
To me, a job title/role should be a way of defining what you do in the organisation and provide you with clear tasks to follow, which will hopefully aid your professional success and add value to the company that employs you. Simple, but true.
Questions that I’ve asked myself in the past when I was just starting out in my career:
1) Why do I feel nervous when contacting a company director or owner? After all, they are people just like us.. right?
2) How do I encourage senior level people to return my call or email? Should I entice them with “an offer that they can’t refuse?”
3) What IS the right approach? Am I saying something wrong or not using proper etiquette?
My wish back then and sometimes even now is for an answer… a logical one…. one that would cure my curiosity so that I no longer need to ask why.
I’m a relationship building type of person and to me that means that everyone is a potential customer.
The top 3 things you should do:
Seek knowledge in your role to build confidence (always ask questions)
Prepare your own script to use when making phone calls (in your own words)
Research the company you’re calling (It shows that you care and are not a “drone”)
In general, businesses that grow organically are much more likely to succeed in the long run. This means they have received recommendations based on service, professionalism, integrity,trust, quality etc. (Many,many test runs) by people.. just people.
Of course we all understand that those in senior positions have a lot on their plate and delegate representatives from within their company to deal with certain calls, emails and queries however; communicating is always the best way forward. I would like to keep you motivated by providing a nice little list of young successful people who made it to the top-level of their game before they reached 20.
Personally, I have a lot of respect for MD’s, Directors and Owners of companies who answer their own phone on occasion and “get their hands dirty” so to speak. It simply means that they have not lost touch with their customers and their staff for that matter because without them , a title is simply Mr or Mrs.
Present yourself and your company in the best light and you’re likely to succeed.
When I was a child, I was confident because at that time, I had no fear of the “unknown.”
In most cases, when we are young we just go with it and enjoy play, light conversation and meeting new people (making new friends) etc. There are no rules on how to be… we just are who we are at that moment in our young lives and we are not being judged by anyone. Perhaps the biggest decisions we make as children are; which toy to play with or which one of our friends are free to play jump rope with. (well.. in my day anyway)
Let’s talk about fear.. I have a very early example of this. 1973 aged 7- I was a Brownie and due to take part in a Christmas concert with my troop.. there must have been over 100 people in the audience (mainly proud parents.) We were performing “The 12 days of Christmas” and my part was.. “and a partridge in a pear tree.”
One line, easy to remember however; the act of delivering this was frightening. I was in the spotlight, which for most people is where they get stuck. At that early stage in my life, I didn’t know about believing in myself or my abilities.. who would? So I forced myself to sing to cue and almost missed my line once, before my troop leader gently tapped my shoulder to encourage me. The performance ended and I was relieved after many happy and proud parents applauded all of us kids. phewww.. it was over.
Why was I so afraid? Why are people generally nervous and scared to be in the spotlight? Actor’s who we perceive to be extremely confident also claim to be nervous every time they perform. Let me skip ahead to my working years and share with you how I overcame shyness.
So, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” yes… really and this was the beginning of my confidence building because A) I was in the “spotlight” and B) I was “performing” in front of strangers.
My good performances resulted in rewards (tips) and when I was off kilter, not so much. 15 years in the hospitality industry overcoming public appearances face-to-face with happy people, grumpy people, celebrities and new event challenges, encouraged my ability to feel more confident and so, I started a new challenge.
I began working for a globally recognised company and brand, where my people skills were valued even more. I rose from service advisor to sales advisor/ team leader and then technical advisor in less than 2 years. I was the go-to person for both customers and new recruit training and loved interacting with and helping people. As my training mentor has always said, “I could sell ice to an Eskimo” and had positive persuasion skills. Positivity is a “state of mind” and so is confidence. So I soaked up all that I could in the 5 years that I was employed there before embarking on the adventure known as the next stage of my life. Hang in there, I’ll get to the point but if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I enjoy telling stories and taking you on a mental journey.
All aboard…. next stop North West, England. A different culture and a new beginning. How did I prove myself to yet more strangers? My husband is one of the most confident people I know. Not arrogant by any means, but genuine and very approachable. He makes friends wherever he goes and I was never like that. He uses the “icebreaker” technique, which is such a simple concept, but one that you need to follow up and not be afraid to continue being yourself. I used to be the type of person that went to a party and stuck like glue to one or two people I knew in order to be part of it all, I didn’t have self-belief at that time or confidence in being myself to just mingle with anyone. I was simply…ME. Me from the very beginning of this story. Happy to be a part of something but froze under pressure. I must admit, with age comes a new kind of confidence and so I conjured up all of my powers and promised myself I would break down my wall.
After learning that a fair amount of companies in the UK prefer presentations as a means to rate one’s confidence in an interview, I swallowed my fear and came up with a plan.
During my first presentation, I decided to wear a mask. You think I’m kidding don’t you? Well.. I wore my glasses, which provided a mask-like protection that physcologically helped my confidence, as I felt that I was not fully exposed. I performed pretty well and if it wasn’t for the lack of a driver’s licence, I would have gotten the job. Personally, I don’t believe in presentations as part of an interview because A) It’s not a natural environment and B) I believe in getting to know the person.
I’m a people person (as you’ve probably gathered) and generally have good feelings or intuitions. So, I played the game several times during my career, with no training just being me and spreading my passion about subjects, people and experiences. I’ve created events, chaired meetings, started focus groups in order to share ideas and working practices and find that focusing on liked-minded people, relationships and common goals is by far the best way to nurture your mind and confidence. My state of mind has grown and so will yours if you’re true to yourself.
Some of the examples I’ve used might help you. I’ll break them down briefly in 5 steps:
Believe in yourself and take baby steps to master your fear
Use a conversation “Icebreaker” and stick with the conversation
Be yourself-It is much easier
Wear or use something that comforts you or makes you feel more confident
Be honest and talk about or do things that you know how to do (pretending is nerveracking)
I’ve always been drawn to people, both in life and as part of my career. They interest me, intrigue me and yes, sometimes disappoint me. As an optimist, I am not here to focus on the negative, but I do want to raise the awareness of the “good stuff” for those who would benefit from a little self-awareness and improvement. I’m the observer and the people watcher, which has served me well over the years.
Let’s talk about the “good stuff”, respect and admiration for just a moment. Over the course of my career, I have encountered many types of people:
For me, I prefer working with the first 4 types. Don’t get me wrong…being competitive and driven can be great but there is a time and a place for it and you need not forget about the people you work with. Cut-throat is not my style and it drains my “good energy”.
I recently saw a post on LinkedIn, quoting the type of work practice and ethos I’m into, so I shared it.
It’s that simple and so true. Let’s use Sir Richard Branson ( inspirational leader) as the example… he’s an extremely successful and powerful entrepreneur who develops ideas into businesses that for the most part, have excelled. Did he do this alone? No. He sought advice, created his support team and ensured that everyone worked together for one common goal>SUCCESS. He motivates and rewards his teams too, which is why and how he has done so well. So the next time you hear a story or read a story about dear Richard, know that he picked and lead his teams well to get where he is today.
When you consider how much time we spend at work each day and week… our rituals and experiences need to be positive don’t they? Yes there are targets and yes there are objectives but for me, a business cannot and will not succeed if their people do not support one another. Would you like another benefit of working together? Okay… what about learning from one another? Each person that you encounter in your workplace has a different style, level of knowledge and expertise in a company or if they’ve been doing it a while, their sector. It’s not a competition, it’s a learning experience. I myself have learned from people 10 years my junior and 20 years my senior. Make someone feel good and ask how they would go about doing a task you’re about to do. You will probably learn something great, but you will also make your co-worker feel needed and trusted. Everyone started somewhere, everyone needs help and guidance no matter the level and people do genuinely need people.
They say the eyes are the windows to a person’s soul…. I truly believe this.
In fact, the realisation of this in my lifetime has proven itself time and time again both in my personal and professional relationships.
I ask each and every one of you who are closely attached to a significant other, whom you love and adore to test this out! Look deeply into his or her eyes and think about what you see. You might be thinking “what am I looking for?” Well… I’ll tell you what you should look for:
Infinity (where there is no end)
and most importantly, this person should be looking back at you and you should return the favour of the above.
Now if you apply this rule to business, obviously you’re not looking for love but rather a genuine, honest and non-threatening professional connection. I’ve listed a few traits to look for and a few to avoid. I like to end things on a positive note therefore; I’ll start with those you should avoid first:
Avoidance of eye contact
You’ll know how to recognise these traits when you experience them. Think about when you attend networking events… there may be some people who you meet and think to yourself later, nope.. didn’t connect with him/her so I don’t think I’ll contact them. TRUST your instincts.
Here’s what you should look for:
and of course, always pay attention to see if they are looking back and connecting with you. Genuine folk have no problem making eye contact with other people.
I do not profess to be a psychologist or an expert in this field, but I have lived, experienced and tested this in my life so why shouldn’t you?
I have recently been struggling to come up with a blog topic for several weeks and thankfully, a recent email from my brother prompted this article.
We both write blogs for personal and professional reasons and so the question and challenge is: How do you improve on your blog style to generate interest? (more readers)
As I tossed and turned last night, I started to think of the key elements that make ME want to read a blog and as you can probably guess, the alphabet has something to do with it. (one letter in particular) P… the beginning of many (P)owerful words.
What draws me to read a blog in it’s entirety and decide to share with others? The answer is simple and contains several key elements all beginning with the letter “P”:
Personality-you must let your personality shine through… almost as if you’re in the same room with your reader and telling them a story. (Be yourself, a blog is not a user manual)
Pictures and photos-people are attracted to visual things that help them imagine the story. Take an ordinary book for example, raise your hand if you have purchased a book that contains pictures or photos… do you wait until you reach the chapter that contains the images or do you find yourself skipping ahead to have a peek? Have I made my point?
People- You must include a human in your story… someone to relate to even if you’re only talking about yourself (Consider your audience)
Passion-without passion for your subject, your blog will only be words… express yourself in an animated way so that your readers can almost hear your voice. If you don’t have a subject to write about, wait until you do.
There are many blog writer’s out there that profess to be experts and some of them are actually quite good, but a blog is your story.. it’s personal and poetic, it can be popular and perky but most of all it’s powerful because it communicates and teaches others about you, your knowledge and many other subjects that can now be shared across the globe by a simple click of a button.
We have all experienced the act of selling and being sold to in our lives. The question is when do we like being sold to?
As consumers, we receive countless phone calls and marketing leaflets encouraging us to buy or rather “act now” because you don’t want to miss this deal. What some salespeople and companies don’t realise is that regardless of their targets or quotas, the customer has to need or want the product or service. Competition is tough, but not that tough where companies should feel the need to pressure their staff into selling something that a potential customer does not need or want. Even companies that we do business with sometimes miss the point of valuing their existing customers.
My husband and I recently received a letter from our bank, stating that they have tried to contact us on several occasions to no avail. The account manager did not even provide his full name, only his initials and as for trying to contact us.. they only had our mobile numbers, email addresses, home phone number and an on-line banking messaging facility to do this…. hmmmm this was obviously a ploy to get us to arrange an appointment to “review” our services hoping that we will buy more. This is sadly the standard way that a lot of companies are managing customers these days, but is it the right way and what are their competitors doing? Maybe we would have contacted them if their approach was more personal.
When I was a kid, the biggest running jokes were the encyclopedia salesman and of course the stereotypical used car salesman. In most cases, these salesmen were “groomed” to persuade the customer that they wanted what they were selling, without finding out what they actually needed or wanted. Countless families ended up with a set of bulky, dusty books that quickly became outdated. (my family were one of them) What do I remember from these antique paperweights? The pictures of course and being one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to carry the box of bulkiness when we moved to another home. As for the used car salesmen, well.. you only have watch the movie “Used Cars” to know what I’m talking about.
So without further ado, here are my 5 tips on how NOT to sell:
Do not treat selling as an art- (You may be a sales genius, but leave the art factor to Michelangelo please)
Do not hustle your customers- (I know this is quite a harsh statement, but customers will only remain loyal to you if you provide an honest service, quality products and good value for money)
Do not treat sales as a transaction- (Yes, it is a transaction however; if you are purely treating it as a transaction you are missing out on providing a good customer experience)
Do not treat selling as a science- (Okay, for some it may be considered to be a formula or experiment relating to the perfect way to seal the deal, but try thinking more about how you will continue to keep the customer coming back)
Do not guilt your customers into buying- (Informing your customers that you will win a holiday in the Caribbean for two if they buy your product or service is well…. wrong and I’m sure you’ll agree)
Now for those of you who know me, it’ll be quite clear that I’ll be finishing this blog off on a positive note…
Here is what selling means to me:
Selling is finding out the customers need and then filling it
Selling is all about relationship building
Selling is about trust
Selling is coming to a mutual agreement
By the way, I like being sold to if the salesperson has done their research and really cares about what I want or need. That’s not an Art..that’s a Skill.
Okay, have a good look at their expressions…. few look hopeful, but the majority are probably feeling helpless.
Why you ask? It’s their future they’re thinking about and these days it’s tough for young people. Some want what they cannot have, which is the dream of doing what they want to do in life and their career. Times have changed and for young people there are 3 options…
1) Apply to a university to gain a recognised degree and accept the fact that you’ll be in debt for up to £45,000 (bearing in mind that university fees have more than doubled in 10 years and parents who thought they were prepared have suddenly become unprepared)
2) Get a job and work hard in your chosen sector with the hope that you’ll get a promotion
3) Consider an Apprenticeship, where you get paid AND achieve recognised qualifications
You’re probably thinking…. HELLOOOO option 3 please, but surprisingly there is still a stigma attached to apprenticeships for some.
In the past, apprenticeships were known best for construction related jobs and those who were not able to achieve university grades. It’s not so any more. Apprenticeships have developed immensely over the past 5 years to cover areas of study such as; IT, Business Admin, Social Media and Healthcare (to name a few). Of course there is still high demand for construction related apprentices because the “hands-on” approach is quite necessary in that sector.
What you may not know is that in order to become an apprentice, you also need to achieve a certain educational standard in Math and English. Training providers or further education bodies assess students, to ensure that they are capable of embarking in a study programme. (by capable I mean determining the individuals learning level and/or enlisting additional support if needed.)
Now some school leaver’s may not have scored well in school for one reason or another, but I can tell you from personal experience that those who test outside of the school environment often do better. This is due to the potential reward gained from their results. (A paid work placement and hope for the future)
I’ll agree that there are careers that demand a degree, so I’ll leave them to it but there are so many positive reasons for choosing an apprenticeship option:
1) Earn while you learn
2) A foot in the door with a good company
3) Qualifications that are nationally recognised and transferable
4) No debt when you’ve achieved your level of qualification
5) It’s a great stepping stone for your future and it show’s other employers that you have commitment
For employers, it’s a great option to have a keen young person that you can not only mould to your company’s service standards, but it also increases morale for your other staff who take the apprentice under their wing.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve enjoyed this article, please feel free to share with others.