Relationship Mastery

Confidence holding you back? You can fake it


Years ago I moved from Perth to Sydney to set up the Sydney branch of the company I ran. I knew no one in the market so on the first couple of days I spent flicking through some annual reports to work out who I would approach.

One of the key executives at a major investment company was a guy named Bill Brooks (name changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent). I knew Bill from years before so I rang him and confidently suggested that I come to his office for a coffee at 10.30 the next morning.

The next morning I was sitting in a plush reception and Bill came out to greet me – the only issue was that the Bill I knew was about 5ft 6in tall; this Bill was about 6ft 5in. We had a great conversation and later he became a significant client.

The great lesson for me was that if you approach someone with confidence, they are more likely to meet with you. In this case I had no doubt Bill would meet with me when I called because of our previous interaction.

In truth, I never did tell him of the mistaken identity and I still wonder to this day if  questions why this Perth bloke was so friendly and confident.

Networking questions – and answers


Yesterday I spent some time with some of the incredibly inspiring Deloitte business women of the year candidates – lots of energy and talent and very open to discuss areas of strength and development.
One of the topics we covered was networking. People over-complicate networking. Simply, it’s just like building a friendship; it’s about engaging in a conversation on a topic of mutual interest.

Here’s six (common) questions, and my thoughts on each, that were asked:

Q. How do I start talking to people if I don’t know them?
A. Simply go up to a small group and introduce yourself and importantly ask a question rather than starting on a dialogue about you. Everyone has been in your situation and will accommodate you and engage you as part of the group. And if they don’t? It’s not about you – it’s about them; so don’t get discouraged and move onto the next.

Q. What do I do talk about to someone new?
A. It is about finding a topic of mutual interest. I will ask someone new a question about their company or their role. The key is to get them talking about themselves. But it shouldn’t just be all questions. The key is to balance questions with an insight or a point of view; expanding on a point they have raised to turn it into a conversation.

Q. How do I move on to the next person when you have been talking to someone for a while?
A. Dont say I’m going to the toilet or going to get a drink. Be honest – simply say “it’s been nice meeting and I’m going to talk to a few others in the room”. Or, suggest that you both go over and join another group. Everyone is in the same situation and they will appreciate your honesty and openness.

Q. How do you continue on to build a relationship?
A. You don’t create a relationship on the first date! It’s about weight of interaction so it is incredibly important to follow-up quickly with someone you have met. Drop them an email commenting on something you have discussed and ideally include a small article of piece of though leadership that relates to the topic. That will give you the basis in the next week or two to follow-up and suggest a catch up or coffee. Then, set yourself the task of at least one interaction (email, article, coffee, meeting , lunch, event invite) every month for six months. Do that, and you will have a relationship.

Q. What is important to become a good networker?
A. Have a strong personal brand. There are probably 100,000 professional advisers (accountants, consultants, lawyers etc) in this country. What is it that will make you stand out and be remembered? Then realise that networking is about great conversations and weight of interaction.

Q. What is important in terms of style and approach?
A. The most important thing is to be yourself; people spot it if you aren’t authentic. You have spent 10,000 hours perfecting your technical competency, so it’s unlikely you are going to be an expert networker on day 1. Test and learn – you will recover if things don’t go well and there are always more people to catch up with.

I know it’s difficult for most people to believe it , but, networking can be enjoyable.
Get out there and give it a go

The script inside your head is stopping you selling


I often hear the comment “I didn’t come here to be a salesman”.

Generally, this is code for ‘I am not confident at selling and building relationships’. For most people the script running inside their head is saying:
• I won’t be good at this.
• My boss is the visionary. She can sell the ideas – not me.
• I don’t like talking about money.
• What if the client says no
• You can’t be a “trusted adviser” and a “sales person” at the same time.
• I don’t have the personality for it.
The key is to psych yourself in, not out, with these 4 facts:
1. What makes a good adviser makes a good sales person. Think about how you deliver your services to your clients – you ask questions; you provide opinions; you are accessible when the client needs you; you bring creative solutions to tough problems to the table and you deliver what you say you are going to deliver. This is exactly what you need to do to become successful in sales.
2. Your clients actually want you to sell to them. Clients and prospects want to solve problems they’re currently not solving, and they want to achieve success they’re currently not achieving. If you can show them how they can do that, and how you’re essential to getting them where they want to go, they’ll be grateful.
3. You’re most successful when you aren’t ‘salesy’. The best rainmakers don’t use cheap tricks to win deals and they don’t sound contrived when they ask questions or give advice. To be successful at sales you have to be yourself and be sincere.
4. Selling is rewarding. Bringing in a new client or extending the relationship with a client is a thrill and brings career success and rewards.
If you believe you can’t sell and won’t like it, you’re right. If you believe you can sell and might just like it, you’re also right.

Does influence or politics get you to the top?

A few years ago, Boss magazine published an article on the seven things a CEO should know. I can’t remember the first six but the seventh really stuck with me.

It was “you can have all the power in the world, but the minute you use it, you lose it”.
It is such a powerful statement.

Influence is key to being successful. It is about getting people to follow based on inspiration and motivation rather than through control or formal power.

So what does politics have to do with influence?

Most of us have a poor view of politics – we see it as negative. However anyone who works in a major organisation is involved in office politics.

The attached HBR article is interesting as it talks about politics not necessarily being negative. It’s premise is that politics is just influence by another name.

I agree that politics don’t have to be negative. What’s your view?


What’s important in a personal brand statement?

Creating a personal brand statement is something that a lot of people struggle with. They find it difficult to encapsulate in a brief sentence what they stand for and what makes them stand out.

To me a personal brand has to do 3 things:
1. Resonate – with the key audience you are trying to target
2. Differentiate – it has to show why you are different from anyone else in your field
3. Substantiate – provide evidence to back up your brand position.

Generally people want to put in too much in their statement; frightened to leave anything out. The world is cluttered, so the aim is not ‘to be famous’ (as you won’t in one statement) but ‘aim to be remembered’. Do that with a
clear and brief brand statement and you are well on your way to being famous.

5 Tips for Off-The-Cuff Speaking – HBR


In my role I often have to give impromptu talks. I have learnt the hard way (and still do occasionally) that impromptu talks are not always as good as you would like them to be. On HBR’s blog, John Coleman put a simple article with 5 tips to help (see link below).

  1. Define a structure – have a couple of structures that you fall back on. My standard ons are ‘Past, Present and Future’ and ‘Country, Company, Individual’.
  2. Put the punchline first – get the key message or theme out early. it helps structure and allows the audience to know where you are going
  3. Remember your audience – empathise and show you know what they are thinking about
  4. Memorise what to say – I have a few stories, anecdotes or insights that i fall back on. In particular, I have my Top 10 facts or insights that I can call on one or two in most conversations or presentations to provide evidence or colour
  5. Keep it short – it is impromptu. Focus on getting one or two key points over and make them memorable.

Above all – it does take practice. People expect to be fantastic first time up which in most things in life is unrealistic.


Six skills of great leaders – 20 years or now?


Author and futurist Rick Smith has written an interesting article in Forbes Magazine about leadership in 20 years and the six skills leaders will need.  it is a good article and i have attached the link below. His vision is that “Twenty years from now, great leaders will ask the right questions, let employees pull information and customers pull their desired products and services, organize for chaos, foster the behaviors of growth, and guide the entire interconnected system toward a positive purpose”.

My view is that great leaders and great organisations do that now. Here is my take on the six.

  1. Questions vs answers – ‘people value their own conclusions, far more than what you tell them’. So the skill of great leaders today is to help their staff and clients reach a conclusion, rather than telling them the answer
  2. Employee pull – empowerment of the individual is here now. Great customer service demands it; engaged employees create innovation and opportunity at the edge
  3. Customer pull – social media has given the customer the power; digital has already enabled personalisation to a market of one
  4. Chaos learning – disruption is here and ongoing. iTunes completely disrupted the music industry 12 years ago – music streaming (Spotify, Pandora) is on the way to completely disrupting iTunes for music
  5. Focus on growth – this is certainly not new; only organisations that are seeking to grow have survived since the industrial revolution (and probably before)
  6. Purpose – the millenials demand more than profit motive; they are all into purpose and social capital. One of the first questions that new graduates ask when being interviewed for a job at Deloitte is about our Foundation and social causes.

Not all leaders or organisations are great. but I believe if organisations do not have these skills over the next few years, let alone 10 or 20 years time, they will not survive.


Do It, Don’t Say It


Demonstrating that we can create value to a client in the sales process is the key to in winning.

Saying that we will, means little; if you can show the client by “doing it rather than saying it”, it will put you ahead of the competition.

Here are 4 steps that may help:

  1. Describe the value in this situation – the value doesn’t have to be unique, just genuine, distinctive and valuable to the client in this specific situation. Find case studies or ways to talk about the benefits in this situation not about benefits that have been created in general.
  2. Make the value tangible – the value a client eventually realizes may be better processes, revenue growth and a stronger business. Try to calculate a real dollar impact that our services will have. While there may be good reasons from a ‘risk’ perspective that we may not want to state this as a hard dollar figure in a proposal, it will help you start to work through with the client the realistic benefits that we will be jointly striving for and where they will be achieved.
  3. Make the process and outcomes tangible. Clients want to know what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and what outcomes they can expect. Give them sample outputs, maps of the process, documents that describe their role – and better still why not show them a video or simulation of the process you will use and outcomes. It doesn’t have to be movie quality, but even an enactment on a ‘flipcam’ can bring the steps to life.
  4. Share some real experiences of value. Why not do something with them from a business perspective – jointly write a white paper on a topic of interest, ask them to talk to your Deloitte team about what matters to them, jointly attend a seminar or workshop, introduce them to a client that is going through similar issues or send them a research article that is on the topic you are discussing. Don’t make these thinly disguised sales pitches – make sure they add real value.

Is 10 better than 500?


With tools such as Linked In and twitter, there can be some bragging rights in having a lot of contacts or followers. Having a broad base of contacts can certainly help build brand, which is important.  It’s also a good way to make sure that you are up to date with what your contacts are thinking and if they change roles etc.
But more important is the 10 to 20 contacts that really matter. These are the contacts that will sustain you with work opportunities and introductions; either directly or through referral. Focusing the majority of your relationship building effort on these 10 to 20 is the key to your future success.
The challenge is that most people do not clearly define their top 10 or 20 contacts and are not diligent in maintaining contact and following up. To build a strong network, consistency is key.